Seafood Si: The Salt Room, Brighton

There are no two ways about it. On a grey Wednesday lunchtime, spending fifty notes on a hot crustacean platter is pretty decadent. Maybe not if you’re an on-expenses food critic or a lady who lunches, but for a couple of jobbing builders in Brighton for a work trip, it was one of those moments. Are we really going to do this?

Bloody right we are. After two days of motorway sarnies and late night half price Itsu, The Salt Room Brighton rises up before us through the mist and practically demands to be on the Si’s Seafood Tour list of UK platters ticked.

It sits squarely on the seafront, a way down from the hub of the town and underneath the Hotel Metropole not far from the BA eye thingy. We stumble across it quite by accident, wandering out for a bite to eat before the long journey home. It’s a very cool design, all sturdy black pillars and crisp white render. Looking this attractive on a grey drizzly day is no mean feat, as my hair on the day proves. No selfies in this blog post.

Equally cool indoors too, warm and inviting even when Tuesday lunchtime quiet, just us and one other large group carousing in the private dining room at the far end of the room. I’d already clocked the champagne and oyster Wednesday special at £20 and the lunch time a la carte deal, but where there’s a platter, there’s a Moregeous smile. No chilled offering here but instead a hot Surfboard, fired up on the Josper grill. It has to be done.

First impression, and we’ve had a LOT of platters…. it wasn’t huge, for two, for £50. I see his face. You know him, he can eat, and when he looks at me across the crispy octopus, this is what his expression says : A) You’ve got a fight on your hands and B) It’s a good job we ordered the bread.

And then we start to eat. And we eat our words.

Damn it’s good. It’s really really good. So often hot seafood platters are a bit disappointing. Too greasy, too limp, too lacklustre.

This platter is incredible. The oysters drizzled in basil oil are zingy and fresh – there needed to be more. At least 12 more. We almost come to blows over the octopus which is the close to the best I’ve ever tasted (second only to a Greek beach BBQ many years ago). The squid is fat and juicy but bites clean through, perfectly prepared and cooked. Grilling the langoustines (on the Josper?) imparts them with a smokiness rarely come across indoors and there’s much sucking of fingers and shells. Hiding under more prawns are three beautiful scallops. Three scallops. For two people. Chefs really needs to learn how to count if they want to prevent over lunch divorces.

When ingredients are this good, savouring them is a delight and any disgruntlement at portion sizes rapidly evaporates. High quality seafood costs and this is the best quality, simply & effectively presented.

The baked on the premises bread, caper mayo, crisply salted chips and whipped butters all serve as fillers but are much more in their own right. I’m trying to avoid eating too much bread and potatoes at the moment – middle aged spread – and both side dishes blew that resolve straight out to sea. Fabulous!

There’s a whole host of other incredible sounding fish dishes on the menu if platters aren’t your thing. If I ever find myself back in Brighton, it’ll be the monkfish scampi and hazelnut skate wing for me. And one of the amazing pudding platters which we see being presented to the party gang dining and feel really cute jealous of, but the M6 beckons.

We’ve had some absolutely awful and some distinctly average seafood profferings as we’ve travelled around the UK in this past year. The Salt Room Surfboard lunch is way, way up there with the best.

Special mention to the bathroom copper tiles, the Crittall effect screen and the cool lighting over the blue banquettes.

It’s making me smile just thinking about this lunch, even as I write this several weeks later. That’s an excellent sign isn’t it?

If you find yourself in need of a hot fishy fix, make a detour here. Just remember to be fast with the fork for that third scallop 😉

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