Chips off the Old Block
Henry James: “Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. There are circumstances in which, whether you partake of the tea or not – some people of course never do – the situation is in itself delightful. Those that I have in mind in beginning to unfold this simple history offered an admirable setting to an innocent pastime.”
Many silvery moons ago we stayed in the Grand Hotel and were pleasantly surprised by this piece of Mayfair-on-Sea. The hotel’s GB1 seafood restaurant is quite simply the Scott’s of Mayfair Brighton. It even has a stadium shaped bar piled high with oysters encircled by diners perched on stools. A delicious morsel of Edwardian Brighton reinvented for the New Elizabethan age. Another prized stretch of coastal real estate, overlooking the tangled silhouette of the darkly skeletal West Pier, has been snatched up by The Salt Room.
This restaurant has gone all Duchess of Bedford. You guessed. It’s started serving afternoon tea (£24.95). The ultimate meal sandwiched between meals hasn’t been so popular since Princess Catherine of Braganza rocked up with a bonanza of tea in her dowry. The interior might be contemporary but the veranda has a natural turn of two centuries ago feel to it. Will it be full of piscatorial pleasures like the Cosentino party’s oysters with gold leafed carb free caviar? Or the black cod canapés at the Aqua Kyoto shindig?
We know our quirky afternoon tea interiors – think Sanderson and sketch – and quirky afternoon tea treats – think Marriott Park Lane’s beetroot finger sandwiches and Marriott County Hall’s cheesy savoury scones – but in this relatively restrained space there are a few new nutritional novelties even to us. Candy floss is a first! And sure enough, Executive Chef Dave Mothersill’s menu is aptly peppered with piscatorial pleasures. Even the wine list includes a Salt + Shell section: organic wines produced on coastal vineyards from Sicily to South Africa:
- Amalfi Coast: Greco di Tufo Cutizzi, Feudi di San Gregorio (£44.00)
- Bay of Biscay: Txakoli, Hirutzta Winery (£37.50)
- Languedoc Coast: Picpoul de Pinet, Gérard Bertrand (£32.00)
- Loire Atlantique Coast: Muscadet de Sèvres et Maine Sur Lie, La Griffe (£27.50)
- Santorini Coast: Thalassitis Assyrtiko, Gaia (£45.00)
- Sardinian Coast: Vermentino di Sardinia Ala Blanco, Poderi Parpinello (£34.50)
- West Istrian Coast: Malvasia, Kozlovic (£32.00)
- Gavi di Gavi Rovereto: Michele Chiarlo (£46.00)
“Wines influenced by the sea have a real freshness and purity,” explains Dave, “making them the perfect partner to our local seafood. The soils are packed with fossilised seashells which, when you combine with the salty influence of the sea, helps to create wines of real character. All these wines are coastal with the exception of Gavi di Gavi which is planted on an old limestone seabed. We squeezed it on our list because we love it!” Gotcha. Pier pressure continues with crab rarebit, smoked mackerel paté and, oh good, chocolate pebbles. Even the strawberry jam with the scones is laced with vanilla. Maybe an oblique reference to ice cream? Synchronised idiosyncrasy delivers chive butter crumpet, pumpkin fritter with carrot tartare and a glazed mini doughnut
Abruptly, after overindulging on Jing tea, our rose tinted glasses are lifted, and it all becomes black and white to us. The black bathroom with The White Company accessories. Of course. Monochromatic madness. The Salt and Pepper Room. Aha! We’re in a metaphorical chip shop. What could be more Brighton? Our chips are down. Let’s hope it’s not too many ghostly moons till we return to this innocent pastime.