- April 19, 2016
Yer actual French As Kenneth Williams might say…
The trouble with spending a few days in France is that I come back with a craving for classic French cooking. Not the fancy, oooh la la stuff aspiring to those much coveted stars, which of course I also like. No, the classic bistro food that I grew to love when I was a student in Paris, and back then the food that I could just about afford.
So I was delighted when my old friends H & G invited me to join them for dinner at their New Steine Hotel Bistro. I’ve been many times before and it became one of my mum and dads’ favourite places to eat in the city, as much for the warm welcome as the delicious food.
So with classics in mind I headed to town for what I hoped was going to be a delicious dinner, and I was not to be disappointed. Much as I love modern cuisine, I sometimes crave the comfort of a decent plate of hearty nosh, dishes that have a familiarity. But that familiarity can, as they say, breed contempt. Not here, the young chef delivers the kind of food that puts a smile on your face and a glow in your belly.
H & G asked him to prepare for me a selection of appetisers, a nice idea that gave me a broader picture of his talents. I really enjoyed his fish cakes with good freshly made tartare sauce and an excellent salmon tartare. The foie gras was good but he had been a touch heavy handed with the salt, a mistake easily remedied and one that I doubt he will make again. But it was the crab ravioli in clear fish bouillon that really impressed.
For my main course I chose the pig’s cheeks, cooked to falling apart perfection in a rich red wine sauce and served with mash. I love pig’s cheeks, or Bath chaps as I know them, and these were good and also served to show H’s dedication to using where possible the very best Sussex produce. H had the fish, and that too looked great, but I watched G devour his duck confit and lentils with greedy envy. It’s a favourite of mine and it looked oh so good. Next time…
For dessert I could not resist a creme brulée, it’s a firm favourite and when done in the classic form, not messed with, it can be perfection. This was just that, perfect, just set custard topped with a wafer thin crust of caramelised sugar, tortoiseshell mottled and as crisp as glass. I like it served in a shallow gratin dish too, as you get so much more of that crisp burnt sugar.
We drank excellent French red wine from a small but well thought out wine list, probably more than is sensible on a school night and I finished with a double espresso that was piping hot, a rare thing I find.
New Steine Hotel Bistro is delightfully traditional, friendly and sensibly priced, you can eat three courses for the same price as a main course in some restaurants. If you choose the special menu and a la carte, it is not much more expensive. Look out also for their art exhibitions and Fringe Festival events this year. Hats off to them and vive la France!
New Steine Hotel Bistro, 10-11 New Steine, Brighton, BN2 1PB, 01273 681546