A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: The Set, Brighton

A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: The Set, Brighton

In this series, we travel to some of the UK’s very best restaurants. And while these establishments are destinations in their own right, most are well worth an overnight stay. This month, we paid a visit to Brighton’s The Set for sea views and superlative cooking…

The Concept…

The Set opened across from the West Pier ruins on Brighton seafront in 2015. The restaurant is the creation of chef Dan Kenny, who has since gone on to launch popular pop-up kitchen Dizzy Gull at one of Brighton’s best boozers, the Brighton Beer Dispensary, run temporary dive bar Cease & Desist, and collaborate with the area’s best-loved takeaway, Pizzaface. If you know and love Brighton’s food scene, chances are you’ll have sampled Kenny’s menus at some stage. 

When it launched, The Set offered just that – three different three-course set menus every night, each presented between the pages of an old novel. It was a small, relaxed spot where an open kitchen allowed the focus to fall on the local ingredients used, and those cooking them. Five years on and things are a little different – the front café is now merged into the main restaurant, allowing for more diners in each sitting. There’s also an excellent integrated bar, a garden out the back, plus an a la carte menu, which was honoured with a Michelin Bib Gourmand in the 2020 guide.

Justin De Souza

The Food…

The kitchen offers a constantly changing menu with a focus on local produce and seasonal ingredients. On the night we visited, we began with ‘snacks’, which are served while you peruse the menu. We started with a warm slice of local Flint Owl sourdough served with umami-laden Marmite butter, plus flavoursome rolls of smoked salmon. Simply titled ‘Crab, carrot, hollandaise’, the first dish we try comprises fresh crab, crab volute, crab hollandaise and crab butter served with a steamed bun and pickled carrot – it’s an explosion of flavour. ‘Lamb, taramasalata, fennel’ turns out to be tender lamb tartare served with caviar, punchy fennel kimchi and crispbread, the perfect combination of textures.

Switching from well-turned cocktails (such as ‘Sussex Negroni' – damson gin,  Bolney Estate rosso and campari – and ‘Greyhounds Tooth’ – vodka, Benedictine, grapefruit and lemon) to a bottle of local, organic white, we tuck into perfectly cooked pork belly, which is served with a toothsome Tunworth cheese and pork croquette, squid ink sauce and a simply cooked scallop topped with pork scratchings. We also loved the medium-rare haunch of venison served with chocolate sauce, truffled potatoes, pear and roasted shallots. It’s rich, and perfect for this time of year.

Whatever you do, order pudding. We loved the hot chocolate mousse with milk jelly and cubed coffee, but our dish of the night has to be the wonderfully wobbly duck egg custard tart, served with sharp, early season rhubarb. It’s rare that a kitchen manages to absolutely nail everything from the amuse bouche to the pastry section – especially during a busy service – but The Set does just that.

The Verdict…

Not only is this a restaurant that hits all the right notes across service, cookery and atmosphere, it’s wallet friendly too: two courses cost £34 and three courses are £38. Add in its cool surroundings, great soundtrack and coastal location, and it’s a spot we’ll return to again and again. In need of a quick drink? The adjoining Fix cocktail bar is the place to head. We recommend the ‘Willy Tonka’ (Don Q rum, banana, chocolate and tonka bean) and the ‘Running Out Of Thyme’ (Portobello gin, Cocchi Americano, lavender, thyme and citrus).

Justin De Souza

The Set

Justin De Souza

Where To Stay…

In one of the Artist Resident hotel’s lovely bedrooms, all located above The Set. Rooms range from ‘Tiny Sea View’ to ‘Below Deck’, which has space for families and each comes with comfy beds, mini fridges stocked with local artisan produce (such as Brighton Gin), Bramley bathroom products and limited-edition artwork. There’s almost nothing better than waking up to a sea view – which many of the rooms offer – or a soak in a bathtub by a huge sash window. Breakfast, served down in The Set by the same team, provides a pleasantly unusual start to the day – think smoked haddock with potato cake, poached egg, haddock béchamel and vindaloo hollandaise; or white chocolate and rhubarb buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup.

How To Get There…

Trains from London Victoria and London Bridge take between 55 minutes and 1 hour and 20 minutes. The Set is a ten-minute walk from Brighton Station.

33 Regency Square, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 2GG

Visit TheSetRestaurant.com

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