Havana restaurant review, Brighton - consistently bringing smiles...
PUBLISHED: 16:00 04 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:54 20 February 2013
With so many great new restaurants in Sussex, it would be wrong to overlook Havana, which has consistently brought smiles to the faces of Brighton's real foodies, says Viv Craske...
When Persian-born Ben Samandi bought this site eleven years ago, it was a run-down market on the site of the original Theatre Royal. All the original features of the theatre (which dated from 1790) were gone. Having run a restaurant back home and studied business and catering in the UK, Ben set about creating an upmarket London-style restaurant by the sea. Choosing blinds, a large open space, whitewashed walls and dark wood furnishings, he realised that the look he had inadvertently assembled was Colonial in style, which suited him just fine.
Having just celebrated its tenth birthday, Havana has been lovingly tweaked by Ben over the years. The head chef comes from a three Michelin-starred restaurant and has added a strong contemporary twist to the menu.
Havana makes bold use of fish and seafood. The starters feature scallops, calamari, crab and tuna, while cod, calamari, tuna, halibut and bream find their way into the main courses.
While it's a menu that might occasionally fluster the more casual restaurant goer, the waiting staff here are well-looked after and regularly spend time in the kitchen to find out exactly what the chefs are up to. Our waiter tonight, Gareth, offers an easy charm and helpful advice when asked, without being over-bearing - something that many London restaurants of this quality fail to get right.
An amuse bouche of tomato puree and red pepper sorbet with prawn souffl is superb - the sorbet sweet and slightly spicy - as is the choice of bread, which includes walnut bread and curry and sultana bread.
The scallops dusted with hazelnut powder are good, the bitterness of the braised endives complementing the sweetness of the scallops perfectly (9.75). My date's strip of red mullet comes with a scallop and prawn vol au vent and is fabulously fresh and clean on the palate.
And onto the mains, we stick with the fishy theme. The huge thick wedge of tuna my date is served is glazed dark with aged Xeres vinegar. This is served with a bean puree and capers which gives it a rustic peasanty feel (18.95). My bream takes its inspiration from the Mediterranean, layered with black olives, anchovies and artichoke tempura (21.50).