The Chimney House in Seven Dials - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 15:23 05 February 2015 | UPDATED: 15:57 06 November 2017
Brighton residents in search of foraged local ingredients need travel no further than The Chimney House in Seven Dials
Currently at top spot in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, voted for by industry insiders, Copenhagen’s Noma has inspired a focus on wild and foraged ingredients.
It’s a focus I’ve enjoyed before at restaurants and pop-ups, but not hitherto in a Brighton pub.
Charlie Brookman, who’s working in the gallery kitchen with two young colleagues, has been the chef proprietor at The Chimney House in Brighton’s Seven Dials for about two and a half years, but his interest in wild food goes back much further.
The menu is liable to change, as the foraging company takes orders, but clearly relies on what the countryside currently has in stock.
The chefs make their own bread (fabulous – an on-off carb-dodger, I wolf down two slices) from their own sourdough starter. There are some unexpected ingredients – pork crackling comes served with Douglas fir salt, pork comes with elder – and the menu is confident and concise.
As I am working from home the following day, I wallow in a bowl of roasted garlic soup, comfortingly earthy and luxuriously pungent. My husband has a silky sliver of pickled herring and rhapsodises about its delicate flavour. The accompanying salsify turns out not to be what we thought it was, but a root vegetable not unlike a parsnip.
The charming waitress is knowledgeable and encourages questions, although she perhaps didn’t expect quite so many. “And what is woodruff gel?” I venture, feeling like a complete rube. Turns out it’s a woodland plant with a grassy flavour. On that recommendation, I order the vegetarian tasting plate. It is, I reckon, a deft choice – with lots of different mouthfuls, this way I will be well on my way to being a woodsman by the time I put down my fork. When it comes, on a generously apportioned slate, there’s little talking, much cogitative munching. The carrots cooked in whey are a total wow, I love the radishes with malt powder, and the cauliflower fritters are the kind of thing I could eat all night. I enjoy the woodruff gel too, with its clean, green savour.
The gent opts for fish and chips, but again there are features that make it a cut above the average pub fare. The fish is whiting – Charlie tries to use less well-known and more sustainable species – cod is off the menu, but this fish isn’t a million miles away from it in terms of taste and mouth feel. There’s a lightly pickled egg and a delicious curry sauce for the chips, which for a diasporic northerner is like manna from heaven.
We share a sticky toffee pudding, which is less unusual than the other dishes but no less delicious, and leave via the bustling bar. It seems the Chimney House has negotiated the balance of community hub and gastro pub very well.
The Chimney House, 28 Upper Hamilton Rd, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 5DF; 01273 556708; chimneyhousebrighton.co.uk