The Mediterranean-Italo Experience
Whether it is after-work drinks, or just some light nibbles before the evening meal to whet the appetite, the Coppa Club has a Mediterranean-Italo derived menu, presented in the form of tapas-style sharing dishes and an array of refreshing beverages which they are calling the ‘Summer Sips’ menu. Whichever way you want to swing it, what we are really talking about here is the ‘Aperitivo’ (derived from the Latin ‘Aperire’, literally the verb ‘to open’). Though I believe this refers to the opening of the stomach, Aperitivo is also a perfect opener to any evening. And this time honoured northern Italian tradition of early evening drinks and nibbles is given a Brighton twist here in the heart of the Lanes.
A Hidden Oasis – Dolphin Square
Tucked away in the back streets, away from the traffic of the city centre, is the charming Dolphin Square; a hidden courtyard of opulent greenery, olive trees and pergolas, complete with the fountain sculpture from which the square takes its name. The potted trees and shrubs balance the garden, providing pockets of privacy and screening. You feel slightly hidden, ensconced. There are also two amazing glass igloos, which looked enticing given the evening chill but were unfortunately already occupied.
A Warm and Inviting Ambiance
The staff are super friendly and, though given the choice, we opt to sit inside. The Coppa Club has a warming palette, lots of plants and greenery here too, somewhere between a cosy, living-room feel and the lounge of a swanky hotel. Dusky oranges, pinks and golds highlight the plush bench seats, dining chairs and sofas languishing in the soft lighting. The chatter of patrons in the lounge area and bar gives a relaxing and informal feel.
Sip and Savor
Starting with drinks, we go for the tropical Spritz of passion fruit vodka and pina colada syrup, prosecco and soda. I did say there was a twist, and this sweet, surprising take on a spritz is one of a few different options on their main bar menu. I opted for a Crodino, which is alcohol-free (driving) and classically Italian; bitter and sweet at the same time, very refreshing and served with a satisfyingly chunky wedge of orange. We ordered one of everything on the nibbles menu. Why not, it’s only nibbles, right?
The food came quickly and the zucchini fritti were light, nicely fried and not greasy, very thinly cut and melt-in-the-mouth. Also, a healthy portion for nibbles, presumably because they are just zucchini and therefore you should eat more…seems reasonable, no?
The skinny fries were equally crunchy with a light fry and were well-paired snacks with the dominant flavours of our drinks. Whilst the fries and the zucchini, like the crunchy nocellara olives, are clearly an accompaniment – something to nibble on whilst you chat – the Parmesan Croquettes and the Butter Chicken demand a bit more attention.
The croquettes are not one-each-and-a-spare, you get a whole bowlful and they are crunchy and gooey and moreish. The butter chicken is more like popcorn in size, but big in flavour, and comes with a delicious spicy mayo. The red cabbage and mint accompaniment with a dash of lime juice does little to offset the guilt but it does help balance the dish nicely. We may have overdone it slightly on the nibbles, but you don’t have to order the whole menu…unless you want to…in which case you should.
We order a couple more drinks to finish. The Prosecco Brut is DOC from Vento and is a classic citrus fruit crisp flavour with a flourish of bubbles and a dry finish, lovely after the crispy, fried snacks. We also order a delicious rosé from Cotes de Provence and immediately wish we had ordered this from the outset, a delightfully crisp and light wine, very easy to drink and again an excellent riposte to the nibbles.
Coppa Club are looking to fill the gap between the social drink and the evening meal and bring a little bit of ‘the dolce vita’ to Brighton. But does it work? Yes, yes it does! Now put on your sunglasses, take me to the garden and show me that spritz menu you mentioned…