On one of those crisp January days when the sky is impossibly blue and the light reflecting off the sea is almost blinding, Team RB met at The Little Fish Market in Hove to celebrate the start of the New Year. Seated in the window, with light streaming in on both sides of the stunning dual-aspect space, we revelled in our good luck to be lunching at one of the city’s finest establishments, for the very first time.
Simplicity and Ease
Until now, chef Duncan Ray’s restaurant has kept things perfectly simple – with the sole option of a spectacular tasting menu for evening diners. Responding to customer demand, Duncan and his small team are now open for lunch on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The 3-course lunch menu is a masterclass in elegance and ease. You choose between two starters, everyone has the same main course, then there is a dessert or a cheese plate. This is offered for the remarkably good value of £35. So far, so really very good.
It’s an intimate set up with a small number of covers at Little Fish. Service is relaxed and personal, the small kitchen is steps away and it’s not unlikely that you’ll have a visit from the chef. As you might imagine, ours was a table of confirmed gastronomes so we conspired quickly to make sure all bases were covered and every option on the menu would be coming to us. To drink, some fresh, fruity non-alcoholic spritzers and, for me, a tiny glass of soft yet mineral Muscadet. Once we’d ordered, the cooking began.
Flavours In Harmony
Duncan Ray sources all his produce right here in Sussex and then designs his menus around what is tasting at its absolute best. On the menu that day, a Trout Ravioli, silky smooth hand-made pasta, stuffed with a delicate trout filling, steamed to tender perfection then served on bright green savoy cabbage with a light yet somehow umami-rich crab vinaigrette. The second option, a slice of fresh skate wing slid softly on the fork with a traditional beurre noisette spiked with mushrooms; earthy notes in harmony.
After a short anticipatory break, the main course arrived in a comforting shallow dish. The centrepiece, a fillet of Gilt-Head Bream, meaty with its skin blowtorched crisp, was served alongside a slice of roasted squash, sweetly caramelised and topped with whole leaves of fried sage. A deeply buttery sauce, popping with whole pink peppercorns, completed the utterly divine flavour profile; at once nostalgic and elevated – a nod to the past with an eye on the future – to be enjoyed right now.
To finish, there was a plate of sharp Montgomery cheddar with impossibly thin fennel crackers, whole seeds delivering a delicious aniseed bite and a cube of amber-coloured quince paste (Membrillo) on the side. That might have been a good stop but the Hot Valhrona 70% Chocolate pudding was good enough to start a riot.
The molten chocolate was topped with chopped, green pistachios, fleur de sel and magic. I’m telling you. Actual magic.
Duncan Ray is a passionate, uncompromising chef dedicated to his culinary art. Outside of work, he likes things simple too; time with his family, a fishing trip, a night out with friends. He’s not much for social media, or blowing his own trumpet, so you might not have heard that lunch is now on the menu at Little Fish. Let me then take this opportunity to tell you. There’s not much to rival this lunch, so you might just want to book before everyone else finds out.