‘We are thinking of getting a doorbell and sign saying, ring for dinner’ explains Ciaran as he takes our coats and leads us up a beautifully grand wooden staircase leading to one of the dining rooms Chard has to offer.
Stylish and Chic
Owners Mae, Ciaran and Benny, have recently moved into their new home above I gigi General Store on Western Road, Brighton. The space is outrageously stylish, chic beyond belief, yet offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere I don’t think can be found in any other venue around town.
Monthly Changing Menu
Mellow music plays quietly in the background as we are shown to our table which overlooks the street, one level up, and is a perfect spot for some unashamed people watching, I think to myself. As we peruse the February evening menu, Mae offers us a cocktail of the day which today, is a sharing carafe of vodka, prosecco and pomegranate. A nod to spring, if you will, which is welcomed on a day where it has not stopped raining and it is sub 5 degrees.
The most romantic restaurant in town
The room itself seats no more than 20 people and the gentle chatter of our fellow diners adds to the friendly and homely vibes Chard oozes.
This is without a doubt the most romantic restaurant in town, subtly charming and lovably unique.
We are served some homemade soda bread with anchovy butter promptly after ordering, which is moorish and soft and the perfect way to begin a meal.
Having previously worked in the wine trade, more often than not, I am drawn to the drinks list before the food. Personally, I prefer low sulfur, organic wine, despite the fact that the ‘organic wines don’t give you a hangover’ saying is sadly a complete myth! Chard’s wine menu doesn’t disappoint and despite being tempted by the rich and buttery Albarino, we decide to raise a glass to the weather, taking a bottle of the Camino Real Crianza.
Time to tuck in
Ciaran appears with our starters. Mine, a delightfully light, savoury, salt baked beetroot cheesecake. Sumptuous and utterly fulfilling, my concerns of a salt overload needn’t have crossed my mind as the flavours were so skillfully balanced and executed. Across the table, Jonny tucked into the Ox tongue with a parsley caper cream. Not usually a fan of offal, or pickled things come to think of it, chef Benny has changed a stubborn man’s set ways, as he is practically licking the plate clean.
‘There really is nothing not to like here’ Jonny says to me, as Mae tops up our glasses up at the exact moment our mains arrive in front of us.
Given the weather, I opted for the pork knuckle, after being reassured I wasn’t going to be served a big hunk of trotter with a side of bread and butter. On reflection, however, I am almost 100% sure Benny could make the most obscure of dishes taste and look wonderful.
The dish is almost stew-like, with beautifully tender pork, silky Jerusalem artichokes and sweet but sharp baked apples. It is true, hearty and reminds me of cooking in the winter with my mum. Jonny barely looks up, as his main is the dish of his dreams. He went for flank steak cooked rare, served with seasonal greens tossed in Brighton Blue (my favourite ever blue cheese) and some incredible, flavour packed purple sprouting broccoli.
Room for pud?
It would be totally rude not to sample some of their sweet options, as I have heard raving reviews about the homemade cakes and pies served during the day at Chard (11 am onwards). I order the ambiguous fried buttermilk drops, as anything fried is a winner in my eyes. Jonny goes for what would normally be my choice. The custard cream with apple sauce and sorbet. Both are magnificent, as expected, and are washed down by a glass of slightly sparkling Moscato d’Asti because, why the hell not.
There’s bias in this review, for sure, as this is our sort of food. But to be honest, who doesn’t love a menu so expertly designed that every customer and their tastes have been thought about in as much detail as the ingredients themselves. Mae and Ciaran’s service is impeccable. Friendly, knowledgeable and chatty, but unfussy and not in the slightest bit pretentious in defiance of actually, having a lot to be precious about.
You will leave Chard well fed, having eaten sensational food served by the loveliest of people.
As we head home, we recommended Chard to our taxi driver, and are curious about March’s menu we will almost certainly be sampling!
See the listing for Chard Cafe & Restaurant