A rare night off
It’s rare for us to have a night off from the girls. So, when we do, we make the effort to go somewhere really nice for dinner. The girls had a sleepover at the Grandparents on Saturday; with the freedom to do as we pleased we decided to try out Isaac At. And boy am I glad we did. What a sensational dining experience.
Isaac At is a little restaurant tucked away on Gloucester Street near The North Laine Pub. It’s small, simple and very stylish. It’s strange to see somewhere so grown-up and nice in a road that I’ve only ever used as a cut through. I love that Isaac At have chosen the North Laine to put down roots. I love what they’ve done with the space they’ve found. It’s a really smart addition to my favourite part of Brighton.
Once inside, the restaurant is a joy with it’s non-fussy, laid back decor in cool greys, whites and natural finishes. You can watch your food being made on TV screens in the dining room, which is a really fun touch. Just like watching your favourite cookery show but getting to eat all of the delicious food as it comes out.
They offer a £55 / head tasting menu on Friday and Saturday nights, which is made up of 8 courses. If you fancy throwing a cheese course into the mix, you can, it’s an extra £9 / head. And there are loads of drinks options. You can have a wine or juice flight with drinks carefully paired to each dish on the menu, or you can choose what you fancy as you go along. We opted for the juice flight, which was an impressive array of home-made kombuchas, local juices, tonics and infusions. I’ll be the first in line if they ever decide to bottle their rhubarb kombucha for the masses.
The food is stunning. We ate our way around Sussex. Fantastic, local produce is at the centre of every dish on the menu. The thought behind every creation and the attention to detail is just wow.
Each dish is delicate, beautifully plated, delicious. The flavours are simple but the carefully selected ingredients are showcased to the max. The flavours sing out. Everything is cooked to perfection. It’s meticulous; intelligent. And when you see the size of the kitchen and how many covers are coming out, it’s mind blowing.
So, what did we eat. I mean, what didn’t we eat!
Ancient grain bread roll. South Downs butter for me and rapeseed oil for the other half
Celeriac with egg yolk, apple and nasturtium leaves
Hake, with radishes, cauliflower stalk and cauliflower purée (at least, I think it was hake, I didn’t take a photo of the menu or bring one home – apologies to the team if this is a mistake)
Flat iron steak, caramelised shallot purée with sprout petals
Apple and chervil sorbet
Pear, golden butter and cobnut (they made a beautiful dairy-free almond cream and candied cob nut version for the other half)
I rarely indulge in a cheese board but decided to go all out. The husband didn’t, for obvious reasons. He said he’d enjoy watching me eat cheese (I’m pretty primal when it comes to cheese). It was good cheese. Brighton blue, Sussex camembert and local goats’ cheese with a selection of crackers and pear chutney. I should have cheese more often. A good cheese board is a thing of gastronomic beauty.
We loved not having to choose; especially when every course was perfectly curated. We relaxed and enjoyed.
Savour the flavour
We took our time to really savour the dishes. I’ve never taken the time to eat a nasturtium leaf on it’s own before to take in the delicious bitter, peppery flavour. The mushroom broth tasted like the most deliciously mushroomy thing you’ve ever tried, the fish was cooked perfectly and the beef was incredible. I love a creamy pudding. The textures and flavours of pear, butter, cream, cobnut and lemon thyme made for a delightful mouthful.
Decent dairy-free desert
The other half rarely gets a decent dairy-free pudding (it’s always sorbet for him). He loved the set almond cream. It was unctuous and delicious and not at all a crappy substitute. The soft and crispy almond cake dipped in carrot syrup with coffee was the perfect end to a perfect meal.
The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the apple and chervil sorbet. However, the husband loved its clean, refreshing flavour. And all of the diners on the tables either side of us seemed to enjoy it as much as my husband. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just wasn’t completely sure about the taste (although I managed to eat it all up…) But 1 out of 9 for mild dislike is really very impressive. I’m drooling now just thinking back over all of the delicious dishes we devoured.
I remember watching a Micheal Roux Jnr programme years ago which featured Fred Sirieix (you know, Fred from C4s First Dates). He talked about the “magic touch” in front of house hospitality. Isaac At are magic touch all over.
The staff are beyond knowledgable, super friendly and very efficient. It’s a master class in hospitality. We felt looked after but not in an intrusive way. The other half’s dairy allergy simply wasn’t a problem; they understood (this is rare). The passion for what’s being served beats at the heart of the restaurant. You get the impression that everyone really cares, really enjoys their job and is super proud to be part of the team. There’s no stuffiness, pretentiousness; it’s comes across as fresh and effortless.
And at the end of the meal? George the Head Chef came over to our table with the card machine to take our payment and to personally check that everything was ok. We had a really lovely chat about loads of the dishes, techniques used to make certain things, and the trials and tribulations of cooking flat iron steak. Considering how hard he’d worked all evening, he was full of energy and passion. Like I said, a master class in hospitality.
We had the best time. This is a fantastic place to go for date nights and special occasions. It’s a complete experience from beginning to end. The food was incredible; the restaurant slick but super friendly.
We chatted about dinner over breakfast on Sunday morning. I’m struggling to put my finger on what it was exactly that made for such an incredible dining experience. The food without question was exquisite. Every mouthful from every plate a delight. The atmosphere the perfect blend of professional and homely; we could have been in a smart 5*L hotel in Europe or a friend’s house. Perhaps like the dishes, every element in the restaurant is perfection too. Authentic, home-grown, honest.
One tiny chip
Was there ANYTHING negative? No. Well, not really. Ok, one tiny thing. One of our plates was chipped. And that’s it.
So a mild dislike of one dish from me and a small chip in a plate. Isaac At…total kudos.
Over the past 20 years I’ve had the pleasure of eating in some really amazing restaurants around the world. I must say that this was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. To have Isaac At a short drive down the road is bloody marvellous. We’ve got some significant celebrations coming up over the next few years and scores of date nights.
Will we be back. Errrrmmmmmm? Do Sussex sheep crap on the Downs?
Isaac At. See you soon, chaps. And thanks for a splendid Saturday night out. It was truly magnificent.