The Salt Room, Brighton
I didn’t know how to start this review because there’s something I need to get off my chest about The Salt Room.
Years ago I had time management training at work with the memorable (and very dodgy sounding) Do The Nasty First. I hated this turn of phrase. It sounds like something Tim Westwood would have said circa 1999 rather than something your Line Manager chirps about task prioritisation. But it’s stuck with me and has, annoyingly, served me pretty well.
So, let’s DTNF and just get it out there. When I’ve spoken to other people about the The Salt Room it’s always mixed. And always about the service.
It’s probably why we haven’t been back since a birthday afternoon tea a few years ago. Lots of friends and family have been since; only one has had something really nice to say. It’s not a cheap place to eat. Plus when you’ve got the added cost of feeding children, the last thing you want to contend with is crap service. So it hasn’t felt like somewhere we could risk as a family. We’ve got lots of trusted date night spots, and bad service is the last thing you want on a precious date night, so I guess we’ve overlooked The Salt Room on both accounts.
But as under 7s eat free and because the girls have been asking to eat octopus and squid for a while, we went back as a family for Sunday lunch last week. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
And I’m glad we did because our experience was nothing short of excellent. Notably the service. So based on last week’s experience we’re firmly in the Lovin’ It Camp for now.
As soon as you enter, The Salt Room feels special. Glass doors, cool artwork, a big and well stocked bar, great industrial style lights. And once through into the dining room: exposed brick, dark wooden chairs, marble table tops, teal banquettes, pale grey walls, huge blue prints of the West Pier, framed chalk boards detailing Specials and several little waiters’ stations. It’s smart but in a relaxed and trendy kinda way.
I love the restaurant’s interiors. I’d love to transform my kitchen to look like this. But then I’m a sucker for exposed brick and pale grey. It reminds me of my beloved loft apartment in Brighton where we lived in the heyday of our youth (yes, you did just hear a small sob).
If you’re lucky enough to get a window seat, the sea views are divine. We didn’t this time but I’ll definitely request one next time. I’d recommend you do the same.
It’s all about laid back fine dining here. It’s super chilled. No one batted an eyelid at the girls being with us. There were lots of groups of all different ages.
Although our children were welcomed, we weren’t offered any colouring or distractions. So if you have little diners who need distractions, you’ll need to bring your own. My Big One bought her travel chess set. She’s so well trained 😉.
The Food and Drink
We started with mocktails. I love that they’ve got a list of decent non-alcoholic drinks, reasonably priced at £3.50 each. Perfect for under 18s who want to feel grown-up and for non drinkers like me. Our mocktails were pretty and not overly sweet; there’s a range of nice, unusual flavours. If you’re after a drink-drink, they have a vast wine list and all the spirits and cocktails you could possibly want.
The Big One chose octopus. It was served with lentils, bacon, red wine and seaweed gremolata. This sounded risky to me. But she was keen. And ate 2/3rds. #Proud. The little one ordered off menu, asking if she could try squid. They bought her a bowl of lightly tempura’d squid with garlic mayo drizzled with basil oil. She didn’t like the mayo (the Husband loved it). But she demolished the squid.
I had burrata with fig and the husband had the crab salad. My starter was huge: a big old hunk of creamy burrata with fig, hazelnuts, crispy croutons, a smattering of lettuce and coriander dressing. I wouldn’t have thought of pairing burrata with fig but it was perfection. The husband said that his crab salad was very good, although on the small side. And it really was small compared to all of our starters. He was definitely short changed.
The girls had Mac & Cheese from the kids’ menu but were so full of seafood that they didn’t have much room left and only managed a few forkfuls. I loved that their mains were served with a mound of green beans. It was a good Mac and Cheese too.
I had lemon sole cooked on the bone with potted shrimp butter, capers and seaweed potatoes. Our waiter expertly filleted the fish, it was a joy to watch. I loved the dish, which had bags of flavour. I couldn’t finish it due to the hefty starter. But it was incredibly tasty.
The Husband had cod served with leek, nori and miso. Ordinarily they pop a crispy oyster on top but took it off because it had some dairy in it. Our waiter was brilliant at helping the Husband navigate non dairy options. His dish was beautifully presented and very much enjoyed.
We had a side of roast potatoes for the table. We saw some impressive sharing roasts going past and who can resist a crisp roasty on a Sunday? Apart from needing a big old shake of salt, they were delicious.
I side stepped pudding, defeated by the starter and main but had the obligatory end-of-meal coffee. It was a standard, strong white Americano. I quite like a petit four with a coffee but as I didn’t look at the desert menu, I missed the macarons and chocolates. Next time.
The girls had mini donuts with chocolate sauce as part of their kids’ menu and surprise candy floss sticks when we paid our bill. A nice little nod to the seaside.
The husband had the most insanely delicious sorbets: a scoop of burnt orange and another of rhubarb. I think I heard the words “best. sorbet. ever” in between hurried slurps before any small spoons invaded his bowls.
I don’t know who’s been serving my friends and family, but our waiter couldn’t have been nicer, more charming, friendlier or funnier. He was brilliant at accommodating off menu requests, lightly bantering with the girls, checking with the kitchen if dishes contained milk for the husband, waiting for me to photograph my fish before filleting, perfectly filleting my lemon sole with everyone watching, getting the blend of attentive and discreet spot on and just being and all-round dude. Our expectations were low but our experience couldn’t have been any more different.
The food was great, the service impeccable, the delicious kids’ food (starters aside) free. There was surprise candy floss and extra delicious roast potatoes. The only small criticism we had was the disparity in the size of the starters and that it would have been nice to have a little petit four with coffee. But other than that we had a top notch Sunday lunch and look forward to coming back (hopefully very) soon.
So, if you’re in Brighton and you’re looking for a foodie-family-friendly restaurant that has all the hallmarks of fine dining I reckon you’d enjoy The Salt Room. Especially if you like seafood. Especially if you’ve got under 7s. And especially if you get the waiter who served us.
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