The Set, Brighton

We’d planned to go to The Set on a date night to try the Veganuary menu. A little way of warding off the January blues and celebrating surviving the first week back at school, work, life, post-Xmas.

We didn’t manage to find a babysitter but I’ve been itching to go so decided that as they had 5.30pm tables it would be fine to take the children.

I didn’t bother to check any reviews or Tripadviser. I booked it and stuck it in the diary.

On our way to dinner, googling the address I suddenly had a creeping sense of dread. Tripadviser was clearly showing a great big X next to “child-friendly”. Oh God. We are NOT going to be welcome. All this on top of a freshly read Giles Coren review of Fatto A Mano: Brighton’s perfectly family-friendly, great place to go with under 8s. Ours our under 5, The Set was not on Giles Coren’s list of places to take kids in Brighton. Suddenly I felt like a fool: too ambitious, selfish even. Why hadn’t we saved The Set and opted for pizza? Why!

The Restaurant

I haven’t been to Regent’s Square since 2008 when we were at a party in the Pelirocco. “We” were dating, care-free, sozzled and slinging back cocktail after cocktail with wild abandon.

The Set, just around the Square from the Peliroco, looks like somewhere I should’ve been on my way to in 2008, not gingerly standing outside of, clutching 2 small, warm woollen wrapped hands whilst issuing road safety directions.

We went up the stairs and peeped in, grateful that they were actually open and that we weren’t instantly barred because of our two little ones.

Once inside, it’s the epitome of Brighton cool. God I miss Brighton. Exposed brick, neon lights, industrial chic to 11.

We were met by a very friendly member of staff (and actually our whole evening was a dream because of the very friendly staff) and taken to our table, tucked at the back of the restaurant – thank god.

It’s small, cosy, warm and deliciously informal. It’s a less pretentious, friendlier Shoreditch House: this is Brighton personified.

We could see the kitchen from our table, which is always fun and adds a certain buzz. Not so great, was our view of the dishwasher which was diligently loaded and unloaded throughout our meal. Saying that, I just felt grateful that it wasn’t me loading and unloading for a change. And extremely grateful that we were in a nice quiet corner, tucked away from other diners who understandably wouldn’t want to share their Saturday night with under-5s.

A note for parents

There isn’t a children’s menu and definitely no crayons and colouring in. This isn’t the sort of place to bring children unless they’re easily bribed with “grown-ups pudding” or occupied with a tablet. If you do decide to come with children, I’d advise booking in early when it’s quiet. Lunch would probably be better.

The Menu

The first thing to note is how much local produce is used here. There’s a map of Sussex on the back of the menu showing where some of the ingredients come from. I love this so much. The Set really is showcasing the best of Sussex.

And there are so many gorgeous choices on the menu from dishes blending the best of Sussex with Japanese vegetables to vegan sticky toffee pudding and a “by request” cheese board – lots of choice for vegans, vegetarians, meat eaters – and that’s before you get to the extensive drinks menu of cocktails, wine and bubbles.

What we ate

3 starters plus extra bread and butter:

Heritage carrots with cracker wheat, saffron and home-made yoghurt

Mackerel cured in beetroot and spices and cooked with fried onion sauce

Duck liver pâté with crushed pistachios and marmalade

3 mains

2 Saddlescomb lamb, bacon gratin, mushroom ketchup

Cod poached in brown butter, local seaweed velouté, crispy squid and turnip

4 puddings

3 sticky toffee puddings, malt ice cream, raisin and cola jellies

1 chocolate parfait, burnt orange sorbet

The verdict

The 5-year-old managed to raise a rue smile from the waitress who overheard a not-so-discrete comment that “Mummy’s chocolate pudding is MUCH nicer than this” (sticky toffee pudding being gingerly pushed around the plate).

The grown-ups loved every morsel on every plate. It really was an outstanding meal. The girls tried everything and liked a lot more than I imagined. They really loved the lamb, the bacon gratin, the fresh bread and my chocolate pudding, which they devoured with wild abandon.

Will we return?

In short: yes.

We’ll be back, but next time, just the two of us. We loved sharing a new fine dining experience with our girls and they’ll be sure to tell all of their friends about the “fancy grown-up restaurant” they went to when they go back to school on Monday (sorry in advance!) But really, this is a grown-ups place for grown-up people and I’d like to have my cake and eat it next time.

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