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The Restaurant at Drakes in Brighton - restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 16:53 29 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:07 06 November 2017

Confit of Suckling Pig

Confit of Suckling Pig

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Hidden away below pavement level on Marine Parade, the Restaurant at Drakes goes from strength to strength under the guidance of chef Andrew Mackenzie. Jenny Mark-Bell was bowled over by the elegant but comforting Modern British cuisine

I had visited The Restaurant at Drakes before, so I knew I was in for something of a belt-busting treat as I descended the stairs with some colleagues. Under the long-standing supervision of Head Chef Andrew Mackenzie, it has gained a well-deserved reputation for finely executed Modern British cuisine of sophistication and subtlety, and I was looking forward to finding out how the restaurant had developed in the three years since I had visited. One of my dining companions had last been at the site when it was still the site of the Gingerman restaurant, the first outpost for the highly acclaimed group.

Almost as soon as we were seated, our charming waiter brought out glasses of Bluebell Vineyard Blanc de Blancs. It was so delicious that one of our number was halfway down her glass by the time she remembered she was doing Dry January.

A tantalising amuse bouche of butter-soft salmon tartare was rolled in herbs and served with creamy goat’s cheese, keeping us occupied until our starters arrived.

I rarely order soup in a restaurant, the homemade variety being a no-brainer for a weekday lunch. On a blustery day, though, a hug-in-a-bowl spicy parsnip soup was hard to resist and proved to be exquisite: rich and velvety, with folds of cream and parsnip crisps enlivening the texture. The duck and ham hock terrine was generously meaty but avoided the oily heaviness that can afflict that dish, while delicate and refined quail boudin was served simply with earthy shaved truffle.

There was more duck to follow: the main served with a hearty, wintry farro risotto (an Italian grain that keeps its bite) cabbage and a creamy sweet potato puree. The duck was pink and lusty, with a rich and decadent gravy. My own Loch Duart salmon with creamed potato, braised fennel and a notable beurre blanc sauce was sumptuous and comforting while a Crottin de Chavignol pithivier didn’t stint on the cheese. It was presented with an array of winter veggies, all beautifully cooked.

To finish we shared a pave made with fruity Peruvian chocolate and served with a knockout honey ice cream, alongside an iced clementine soufflé that took my tastebuds back to Christmas (possibly due to the Grand Marnier sauce). Demonstrating disgusting greed, I ate most of the petits fours that came with our coffee: they were just too good to pass up – perfect little macarons shared a plate with chocolate and passionfruit truffles and a blackcurrant Turkish delight.

Drakes’ oft-changing set lunch menu is cracking good value at £25 for three courses; cooking and service alike were exemplary throughout. Next time you are considering dining on Brighton’s seafront, cast your eyes towards the subterranean splendour of Drakes – you won’t regret it.

The Restaurant at Drakes, Marine Parade, Brighton; drakesofbrighton.com; 01273 696934

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