Bringing a Taste of Andelucia to the Brighton Seafront
Agua Dulce – named after the place in southeast Spain where it all started – is an authentic tapas bar and restaurant located on Kings Road in Brighton, opposite the sea.
It offers a bar area for the more relaxed diner, where a drink and a tapa can be enjoyed, or a restaurant area for those wishing to settle in and order from the thoughtful Mediterranean menu, which includes a great variety of Tapas, as well as traditional Spanish Paellas, carne (meats) and pescardo (fresh local fish).
Agua Dulce looks the part from the outside; it certainly congers up memories of Spain.
It is a little hidden away, not really benefiting from the natural foot fall of the town centre, however, when inside it becomes very apparent that people know about this place.
It is really buzzing; the diners are happy and chatting away, indulging in their food and drinks.
The staff are relaxed and tending to every need flawlessly and with flair. Agua Dulce runs like a well-oiled machine, without losing any of that wonderful Mediterranean hospitality in the process.
Our waiter, who greets us and seats us by the window, is attentive and wastes no time in explaining the ‘specials’ in careful detail to us. He speaks with such pride about the menu; my partner and I are grinning more and more with each appealing dish he describes.
Once he has finished doing justice to the ‘specials’, our attentions turn to the drinks menu. From the extensive array of Reds, Whites, Roses and Cavas, we order two large glasses of Rioja and some water for the table.
Then we are welcomed by the owner of Agua Dulce, Carlo, who is expecting us and comes over to introduce himself. I get a hand shake and a kiss on both cheeks; now I really am in Spain! He gives more glory to some of the specials, in particular the prawn dish.
He tells us about the Mediterranean Red Prawns that make this dish so special. He describes how they are cooked and tells us they are just delicious. Not long after Carlo leaves us salivating in anticipation of his creations, my partner and I decide that he is clearly the best person to choose what we will be eating tonight.
Carlo seems very happy we have put our tapas in his very capable hands, and we rather enjoy the mystery of it all. Our wine arrives, with some Saville olives, perfectly fluffy white bread and some super garlicy aioli. The simplest of things can sometimes be the best; that bread dipped in the aioli is just so good, we struggle to stop eating it! Having a fairly strong inclination that a feast awaits us, we symbolically move the bread slightly out of reach to kerb our snacking.
We are not wrong! When the tapas starts to arrive, we wonder if this sea of food will end.
It’s no big surprise to us that the much talked about ‘special’ prawns are one of the first to make an appearance at our table.
They look big and meaty and glisten with butter and flecks of the sea salt they have been grilled with. I have to agree with the menu here – ‘mmmm, you won’t find these everywhere’!
Along with the prawns, another special is brought to the table: flamed goats cheese, with a homemade plum jam and honey, drizzled with truffle oil and served with toasties. A very healthy
sized portion, full of different flavours and different textures. The slight sourness of the jam, sweetness of the honey, creaminess of the goats cheese and savoury crunch of the little toasties, makes up a very moreish, and filling plateful.
A potato dish follows in quick succession, smothered in a spicy sauce. Secretly I was hoping for something a little lighter, but that is not to say this dish wasn’t welcomed. Then another seafood dish, one I would not have necessarily picked myself and have never in fact tried before: deep fried shark steak. This dish, marinated ‘Andalucian style’, has a very distinct favour that works well with the meatiness of the fish and the light batter coating.
Finally, our last two dishes are every meat lover’s dream. The first is a slow cooked pork, which is melt in your mouth good. The sauce it is cooked in is rich and begs to be mopped up with another piece of that lovely bread. The second, another special dish, is the Jabali.
This Spanish style casserole, with wild boar and chickpeas is hearty, rustic and drenched in flavour.
These dishes feel authentic and show off Agua Dulce’s talent for deep flavours and perfectly cooked meat.
We have been spoilt and have certainly over indulged, there are no two ways about it! Dessert is going to be a challenge, but spotting a crème caramel on the menu, at least makes the choice a little easier. To aid the food coma we are slowly falling into, two espressos are also ordered. Hopefully these will give us the energy to walk home.
The crème caramel is sweet, smooth, perfect and served to us with a little ‘eat me’ flag sticking out the top. At this point, I think I might just need that sentiment to spur me on to the finish line!
Agua Dulce oozes personality. The atmosphere is relaxed and lively. The staff are absolute pros.
The food is fiercely authentic and the menu really reflects this. For those of us who like to be a little more adventurous, there are plenty of new things to try.
I like the fact that we have given Carlo charge over our meal tonight; I think he has really shown us what makes Agua Dulce a great restaurant.
He has not been afraid to serve us those more traditional dishes that perhaps we would not have chosen ourselves. They are proud of what they do here at Agua Dulce, and they should be.
For a couple of hours this evening, we have been in Spain… and it was great!
Brighton Food Reviewer: Sarah Gathercole, October 2014
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