Copper Clam Brighton
In the summer I can think of nothing better than dining on the terrace of one of Brighton’s beach front restaurants, working my way through a plate of fresh seafood and a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, watching the sun set behind West Pier. Heavenly.
Fast forward to October: it’s a dark, chilly evening; not conducive to al fresco dining.
However, The Copper Clam is still welcoming diners and hubby and I cosy up on a windowfront table in the small upstairs restaurant, watching the joggers and dogwalkers brave the fresh wind.
I’ve not been inside The Copper Clam before. The décor is rustic: think open brickwork, wood floors and weathered wooden tables. A shiny copper bar and retro chandeliers add a touch of glamour, but there’s an unpretentious vibe.
It’s all about seafood
Whether you prefer your fish to be battered and served with chips; simmering in a warming stew; or simply pan-fried, you’ll find it on The Copper Clam’s menu. If you’re partial to shellfish, you’re spoilt for choice: squid & scallops; oysters & octopus; crayfish & crab all feature in dishes. And if you can’t decide, there’s the signature shellfish sharing platter which offers the chance to sample an assortment of seafood. The fish is all locally sourced, apart from the oysters from Jersey and the mussels from Essex. The waiter proudly explained that the lobster and crab are provided by a fisherman in Shoreham. I should mention that if you’re not a fish fan or your dining partner prefers meat to moules, there’s a steak selection.
Fish and feta?
I’m a sucker for a scallop and was tempted to choose the classic pan-seared scallops with black pudding to start. However, the dressed crab with feta, pink grapefruit and pickled radish caught me eye. Each of the ingredients rate highly on my ‘food-I-like-to-eat’ list, but I would not have put them together in one dish. Infact, I always thought that mixing seafood and cheese was a no-no. I was happily proved wrong! The sharpness of the grapefruit slices and saltiness of the crumbs of feta cut through the soft creaminess of the crab, without overpowering the subtle flavour of the sea.
Hubby’s starter of smoked eel and salmon was beautifully presented. Slithers of curled smoked fish balancing on a wafer-thin slice of pickled radish and crispy belini spread with horseradish; topped with a morsel of caviar and baton of beetroot.
Whilst it sounds like a medley of too many strong flavours, the dish tasted as good as it looked.
Classic and quirky mains
Having opted for an unusual starter I went for a crowd-pleasing main course – poached skate with beurre noisette and green veg – whilst hubby chose the more adventurous braised octopus with squid ink rice and saffron emulsion. Compared to the delicate-looking starters, the mains were hearty in portion size and appearance.
I think cooking fish is a tricky art. Even just a couple of minutes too long can turn a succulent fillet into something dry and dull.
My skate showed the work of a talented chef.
It was perfectly cooked and flaked off the bone with ease. The beurre noisette was rich and nutty but not cloying, and the green veg was al dente. No pretentious flourishes, just good quality fresh ingredients simply showcased.
Hubby’s main course was hands-down the more eye-catching of the two dishes. Pink spheres of radish peeked out from beneath a mound of squid-ink-coated long-grain rice, that was dotted with nuggets of octopus. Dark green florets of kale and a bright yellow creamy saffron sauce provided contrasting colour and texture. Wow! A bold plate of food and not the risotto-esque dish I had expected. Hubby was not perturbed by its’ rather dramatic appearance and tucked in. Murmurs of pleasure from his side of the table indicated signs of enjoyment.
Not just for summer dining.
As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, dining beside the beach doesn’t hold the same appeal. But if you’re looking for a fish-focused menu and a cosy ambiance to warm your cockles (sorry!) I would recommend venturing down to The Cooper Clam. You can feast on fish and feel suitably smug about avoiding the sun-seeking summer crowds.