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Pascere in Brighton: Restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 12:02 21 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:03 21 May 2018

Pascere (Photo by Julia Claxton)

Pascere (Photo by Julia Claxton)

Julia Claxton

Pascere displays touches of brilliance but according to Laura Paton the restaurant hasn’t quite achieved its full potential

Buttermilk sponge with honeycomb and milk ice cream © Emma Croman Buttermilk sponge with honeycomb and milk ice cream © Emma Croman

Inauspicious beginnings can be a precursor to great things and, in some ways, this is true of Brighton’s Pascere. Its arrival on the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene was much-anticipated but just months before opening day came the announcement that Tom Griffiths had bowed out as head chef and joint owner. Johnny Stanford stepped into the breach and has been at the helm ever since.

Despite being tucked away in the The Lanes, Pascere – which means ‘to graze’ in Latin – is only a ten-minute walk from the railway station. Ensconced in the first-floor dining room, decorated in a sophisticated palette of teal and gold, my companion and I choose from a menu comprising small plates, while-you-wait nibbles, ten-course tasting menus (£75pp), five starters (£8-£12), five mains (£17.50-£21) and five desserts (£8.50-£9.50).

At the recommendation of the waiter, we agree to a pre-prandial snack. Picked green and brined, the Gordol olives (£2.50) are large and firm, but it’s a pity they aren’t room temperature.

Two complimentary courses follow. The first is a pair of perfectly domed, satsuma-sized bread rolls. One, golden and glossy, is flavoured with Saison beer and onion; the other with stout and treacle. Still warm from the oven, they are accompanied by a whipped rum butter, sprinkled with muscovado sugar and salt. Not much more than a few quick glances pass between us as we devour every last crumb and scraping of butter. It’s rare that a bread course evokes such strong feelings, but we concur that the combination of flavours is inspired.

The second is a plate of puffed rice crackers topped with a butternut squash remoulade. Unfortunately, following so closely behind the sensory overload that the rolls provided, these morsels seem lacklustre, but they don’t dilute our enthusiasm for the rest of the meal.

Our starters arrive to the tune of pan-fried scallops with glazed chicken wings, roast Jerusalem artichoke, artichoke purée and passionfruit oil (£12) and rabbit saddle, leg tortellini, rabbit faggot with leek and chestnut, and lobster foam (£10). My scallops are sweet and caramelised with just the slightest hint of pearlescence remaining, and the cooked-three-ways Jerusalem artichoke provides earthiness and texture. The acidic passionfruit oil works exceedingly well; it’s just a shame there isn’t more of it. A generous portion of tortellini is being enjoyed across the table, the only flaw being that the flavours of leek, chestnut and lobster are lost in the richness of the sauce.

On to the mains, and it’s a surprise to see a pastry straw balancing precariously atop my guinea fowl (pan-roasted breast and leg with trompette mushrooms, white pudding and chestnut mushroom puree, £21). Light, crisp and strong with cheese, it cleverly enhances every flavour on the plate, bringing harmony to this celebration of autumn.

The pan-fried halibut and clam chowder, celery, roast salsify and pancetta (£19) falls short as the fish is overcooked, however my fellow diner enthuses about the accompanying oven-baked parsley crust, deeming it “very tasty.”

Desserts are a chocolate cremeux with salted peanut ice cream (£9) – a sweet and salty delight – and a refreshing bergamot orange sorbet and bergamot custard (£8.50). The smooth, citrus sorbet gets top marks.

Striding back to the station, we contemplate whether tonight’s inconsistencies could be linked to that eleventh-hour reshuffle. Overall, the meal wasn’t a triumph, but there were touches of brilliance – I just wish there’d been more.

Pascere, 8 Dukes Street, Brighton BN1 1AH; 01273 917949; www.pascere.co.uk

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