This year, Valentine’s Day was defined by a careful consideration of two rather tricky factors. The first was deciding which multiple-course menu I would artfully select, the second; finding a dress that would allow me to accommodate such a huge amount of food (something highly alluring yet miraculously roomy). With so many brilliant eateries in Brighton deciding where I would devote my stringently saved pennies was about as difficult as choosing which slot to put your green token in at Waitrose (really hard).
For a while I precariously juggled with several options, before following my gut and booking The (mighty) New Club. LA coffee house meets New York bar, I sometimes find myself just staring at the twitter feed and drooling, without being able to recall even turning my computer on. I’ve reviewed them before, but the food is always beautifully presented, genuinely exciting and unique, so naturally I was dreaming about it weeks in advance.
Arriving slightly late, (#fashun) we faced the shame of squeezing in-between two tables and what could possibly be the worst time to put your bottom in someone else’s boyfriends face. I say squeezing because we were dangerous close to couples on both sides, but nothing says romance quite like awkwardly brushing elbows with strangers and stolen snippets of sweet nothings (particularly those who braved seeing 50 shades). An intimate setting for everyone involved.
Cocktail-wise, this place means business. I’m talking over 40 different drinks PLUS specials, a veritable arson of alcohol that could make even Katie Hopkins feel amorous. With a strawberry-laced glass of prosecco waiting patiently in the wings, we wasted no time and ordered a round of hard OJ and lemonade (distinctly berroca-like but great for hangovers) and a Cucumber and Elderflower Fizz (english garden party in a glass).
Spiced local crab on sour dough
This was a great way to ease us into the meal and made for a very light and zesty round one. The modest quenelle of crab could have been a little bit bigger, but perhaps that’s just me, you can never have enough crab! Nevertheless, it was perfectly seasoned and citrusy, though made for rather noisy eating with the wafer-thin, garlic-drizzled slices of sourdough.
Peruvian black bream ceviche
Course number two was light, crisp and refreshing; a positive fiesta of flavour that really packed a punch. Wrapped up in a little boat like parcel, the marinated black bream was accompanied by a raw salad of celery and radish that really cut through the dish. Usually I’m not a huge fan of celery but it really brought out another dimension of flavour and went perfectly with the citrusy vibes.
Roasted potato almond gnocchi
The gnocchi was nothing short of outstanding and by far my favourite course of the night. A stark contrast to the two cold starters, the earthy flavours and warmth of the dish felt slightly autumnal and wonderfully wholesome, (though small enough to not be starchy or stodgy). The potato dumplings were plump and satisfying, served with sautéed shimeji mushrooms and a rich and buttery truffle mayo. This was such a faultlessly impressive dish, that even my best puppy dog eyes were rendered useless and I failed to see even a scrap of leftovers from my selfish boyfriends plate, not for lack of trying.
Seared saddle lamb rump
Somewhere along the line, we’d ordered (lots) more drinks, so I was feeling quite boozy and very glad when it came to eating a proppa-bit-o meat. Luckily for me, not only was the next course was the lamb, but the Dutch old Fashioned I had ordered seemed to get better and better as the ice melted, diluting the absinthe rinse, so I was able to take some time out and pig out too.
This was a good, hearty dish and very well portioned too! With very little veg, the focus was very much on the meat, which was served pink and juicy, in a pool of gorgeous jus. It was accompanied by (a solitary) roasted carrot and the most amazing roasted shallots, that, when crushed, became a soft and smokey puree. This, when accompanied with the walnut pesto and the lamb was divine. I struggled to finish this plate, though powered through, safe in the knowledge that I would be sharing my desserts.
Citrus sharing plate
As well as it looking absolutely stunning, (for those of you who said they didn’t want flowers but then got upset when you didn’t get any; here they are!) it was damn tasty too. This is the kind of pudding that even after lots of courses, you can still eat it whilst still feeling surprisingly healthy, because y’know, fruit. Topped with sorbet, lemon grass curd and an orange crumb, the varied textures and citrus combo worked exceptionally well. They say sharing is caring, but personally, what would have been a more preferable display of affection is your partner saying “No no darling, you have the rest…”
Coffee and chocolates
Good lord, I hear you groan, more food? Go on, they’re only small and they’ll go nice with your coff- oh, you’ve eaten them already. Fair enough. I’d like to say that I feel victim to sheer panic here, when these babies came out it was about 9 and the next group of people were already waiting at the bar.
I had began to worry about being the first of two dining sittings (7/9pm), imagining a bizarre two-legged race where, at the gunshot, couples of all shapes and sizes began their assault course of courses, confident at first but then slowly dropping pace, separating the men from the boys.
This was by no means a problem, and aside from an abrupt ending, the evening had been leisurely and relaxed, aided by good company, great food and a truly magnificent cocktail menu. Ever so thankful that home was a brisk and breezy 15 min walk along the seafront away, we stumbled out into the night, feeling decidedly over indulged. But if there’s ever an occasion for eating and drinking so much, you just have to lie spread-eagled on the sofa struggling to breathe or talk or move, Valentine’s Day is probably it, right?