Tuesday, February 25

Dines Out: Circo skills

- April 2, 2018

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Over the years I have made it my policy not to review restaurant launch parties. On the whole they entail canapés and drinks but are for readers no real indication of a restaurant experience. Sad I know when I get to go to some real humdingers like the recent re-launch of The Ginger Pig, and I hope to bring more of that very soon.

Last week though I did attend a press event to mark the relaunch and re-branding of a venue at Preston Circus. Senor Buddha was a fusion of Spanish and Asian ideas, and it was very good. So good in fact that very soon a second will open, with a new name, but very much built on this strong foundation. The original is now branded Circo, and to celebrate that a group of us had been invited for a sit down dinner, yes not canapés and booze, but the full monty.

I say that but in truth we did start with canapés, or as they rightly call them pintos – and very good cava. Stunning brandade in fragile tuilles, divine creamed almonds with truffle and pomelo and cubes of tuna with wasabi. It was a good indication of what was to come.

Once seated I was in for a treat, not only the food but the excellent company of Toby from Enotria wine who had created our drinking menu and very good that was too, and Eshé, better known as Foodie Eshe. I love chatting food with Eshé and it certainly made my evening a feast of fun and fine food.

So to the food itself, and our first dish of tenderstem broccoli with pickled mushrooms, hazelnuts and coconut certainly set they bar high, really exceptional. As was the second dish of pumpkin with a Thai aioli, pack Choi and candied cashews, mmmmmmm clever stuff.

Chef John Reed has found the exact balance of ingredients

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Fish next, and a very finely cooked crispy squid dish on a squid ink Romesco sauce. Now I think squid ink can be good and it can be horrid but the chef, John Reed, had here found the exact balance of ingredients so the dramatic colour did not mask the full Romesco characteristics and the whole was a triumph. Octopus next in a tapioca crisp with cross dear aioli, fennel and sobrassada, a spicy sausage from the Balearics. I could eat this over and over again, octopus might sound scary but I simply love it.

With the fish dishes we drank a great fino sherry, not the stuff your auntie gives you on Christmas morning but a dry and nutty delight that was the perfect match to the squid and octopus. Embrace sherry in all its forms, even the sweet stuff auntie liked!

On then to the meats. First Iberico pork, a meat that scarily for some is best served rare, but is of course completely safe in that state, and all the better for it. Iberico pork is full flavoured and succulent, not as gamey as wild boar but fuller in flavour than your average piggy. Serving it with a prawn crumb and seaweed was inspired, and a more traditional romesco this time added just the right sweet notes to this intensely savoury combo. Eshé was as impressed as I was too, taking more of her excellent pictures for her blog.

And as if pork was not enough of a meaty interlude, the chef then presented us with some impressive lamb rump topped with lamb bacon, yes you read that right, chard, fennel and a plum sake chutney. Oh how I loved this dish, the juicy meat topped with crisp shards of bacon with the full flavour of the crystalline fat you find on a well cooked lamb chop, and the Monastrel we had been poured was a comforting addition to the whole. As was the plum sake which had already arrived. Sweet sake, which is a beer rather than a wine, was good, very good and I had to hold back from draining the glass before dessert arrived.

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Already pretty full, I now had to devour the pud solo as Eshé had left to get the last bus home. Well who am I to refuse? I love a good lemon drizzle but chef’s almond and lemon cake with mascarpone and basil sherbet was a fizzingly good treat, a full punch of vibrant citrus and a powdered herbal sherbet that danced on the tongue together, a foodie tarantella no less.

I left feeling blessed and excited to see this place going from strength to strength, but also excited to find out more about their new venture in the heart of the city.

Circo, 9 Preston Rd, Brighton BN1 4QE 01273 567832 circo-brighton.co.uk


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