Lost in the Lanes

Friday night, early, and the first day of really decent weather, I head into town to meet a friend for an early dinner. If I’m honest six is the usual time I eat at home and I am told a far healthier way to dine.

Destination Lost In The Lanes, a place I have visited for food in the day time and enjoyed, so much so that I have puzzled over why it hasn’t been open for dinner. Then a month back they included a few evening openings at the end of the week. Well I was in.

The place looks great, a clean lined interior is spacious, tables are well spaced, music is good, not too loud and the service, well the service is delightful. We are shown to a corner table with banquet seating so we can sit at right angles with a clear view of what is going on.

I like that arrangement for several reasons, yes, being nosey of course, but also so I can see the dishes coming from the open kitchen and ask the servers what they are. The menu is refreshingly short and the main influences probably lean towards Greece, with a definite slant towards sourcing fresh and seasonal local produce. Now pedants out there will always take issue with that as a concept, querying where the Sussex lemon groves and coffee plantations are, so to clarify, the local thing is a slant and not a rule, and thank heaven for that when our dishes start to arrive.

The other thing to consider here is the small plate concept. Now how many of us have been greeted by a small plate menu where small plate means tiny portions, sometimes tiny portions served on large plates. Do not let this put you off as here the small plates buck that somewhat abused and often cynical trend, these are very generous plates to be sure.

First of course we were offered the drinks menu. I am not drinking much of late, the effects of alcohol and walking with a stick are not a sensible choice. Ms C is made of sturdier stuff and had a smokey margarita and loved it, chilli flake rim and all. I took a sip and it reminded me of what I am missing. I chose a mocktail, sweet with lychee and sharp with ginger, softened with rose and it hit the spot. When you cut back on booze the alternatives can be so sweet and childish and disappointing,this was sophisticated and well balanced.

Next the food, and despite the short menu way to many temptations. There were two specials on the blackboard, a tomato salad  or asparagus with hollandaise. I love asparagus when it comes into season and this was going to be my first of the year. I also love a properly made hollandaise. I recently had an abysmal egg florentine monstrosity in a Brighton cafe, stone cold eggs and spinach on a toasted bun, also cold, the whole rather parsimoniously draped in what they claimed was hollandaise. It was not! I complained and was grudgingly not charged for the coffee.I will not be back.

At Lost In The Lanes the hollandaise was a perfectly constructed confection of rich egg yolks and butter with a gentle tang from the vinegar and pepper, and quite rightly so as the asparagus was simply the best I have tasted in many years, thick tender stems, expertly prepared, gently cooked and utterly moorish. Joy!

The next dish was equally exciting, slowly braised ox cheek, shredded and piled on a remarkably precise rectangular potato rosti and then sprinkled with salty pecorino cheese and finely chopped chives. The meat was soft and succulent, the rosti crisp outside and creamy inside and the whole just delightful. It was generous too, plenty for two people to share and enjoy without any fear of being the greedy one hogging a tiny portion.

We moved on to a large bowl of clams cooked with nduja and chickpeas and topped with samphire. This was one of the larger dishes on the menu and so very good, the only mistake being ours, we should have ordered bread to mop up the glorious shimmering juices.

We chose a second large plate, this time the slow cooked lamb shoulder with lemons, potatoes, seared greens and a caper spiked tzatziki. This also required bread, not to fill us up but to mop up, but cleverly I had managed to find a spoon by this point. The seared greens had that wonderful crunch and bitter and slightly metallic edge, the lamb simply fell apart at the slightest touch and the tiny potatoes beneath were infused with the sharp and bitter perfume of lemon.

In the interests of health, haha, we ordered a green salad that had both Ms C’s gardening knowledge and my culinary experience tested. A large portion of lightly dressed leaves contained some familiar stuff and some that we simply didn’t know, and on top really good hazelnuts.

After a short pause we were confronted with a short dessert selection, cheese, ice-cream, pavlova or pannacotta. Ms C jumped on the pavlova which came topped with rhubarb, far from traditional but a very good idea and she loved it. I of course had to have the panacotta. Now in strict terms a panacotta should have a delicate wobble, the slightest breeze generating a wibble rather than a full on wobble.This was a chocolate version and rather more solid than I expected but here I pause, because it was simply delicious, closer perhaps to a petit pot au chocolat – but in no way petit. It was divine and so too was the oat crumb which was not a crumb but a fine biscuit that remarkably managed  to combine the best qualities of a flapjack and a ginger snap. A delicate sprinkle of salt flakes brought the whole thing to life.

Coffee was great and piping hot, although I nearly came to grief as my latte was served in a beaker without a handle.

All in all this place is superb, brilliant cooking, fine ingredients, sensible prices and generous portions in a world obsessed with delivering tiny morsels on giant plates. I will be back and very soon!
Lost in the Lanes
10 Nile Street
Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1HW

01273 525444

Every day
9am – 5pm (kitchen closes at 3pm

Thursday – Saturday
6pm – 11pm (Kitchen closes at 10pm)

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