Brighton Food Reviewer, Ross Byatt, June 2016
Isaac At have started serving a lunch menu on Saturdays and Lucy and I are lucky enough to be attending the first sitting; is there a better way to begin a day than going for a luxurious lunch?
It is Kemptown Carnival and there is real buzz around town. Brighton always offers so much and Isaac At is creating just as much buzz as on the streets.
Light and airy interior
We enter the light and airy restaurant and are greeted by a warm and friendly welcome as we step in the door; the kitchen is the main feature, as you can watch the chefs hard at work. The simple decor adds a calming feeling to this classy establishment without any clutter in sight.
As we take our seats by the kitchen we have the perfect view of what is in store for the days exciting menu, which is changed weekly to highlight all the wonderful produce from our local area. We are offered a choice of the local wines which come from a variety of nearby vineyards.
Their knowledge of the wines is great and you can order by the glass or bottle.
We choose a lovely bottle of the Horsmorden Dry white from the Davenport vineyard and look through today’s menu.
Locally foraged and sourced ingredients
The menu is presented in a miniature scroll and as we open it we have the pleasant surprise of having all ingredients listed with the mileage it takes to get them to the restaurant; I notice that some ingredients are even locally foraged.
They take using local produce to the next level and want their customers to understand that we can create exciting dishes from food right on our doorstep.
This goes the same for the drinks, why not support the local producers? They are just as good as any of their far flung competitors.
Whetting the appetite
Whilst enjoying the crisp local wine we are treated to an amuse-bouche to whet the appetite. The chef serves us and explains our little treat of plum and chocolate rye bread croute, topped with chutney, blue cheese mousse and grated chocolate valrhona sprinkled on top.
What a wonderful start; I cannot believe how light the mousse is yet the flavour of the blue cheese is strong. What a pleasant surprise and real skill of the chefs. If this is the start of things to come I am very excited and grinning from ear to ear as I look over my shoulder to watch the chefs prepare the next course.
Tasty bread rolls
I gaze into the kitchen to see the chefs carefully preparing the bread course. I love my bread rolls and I have never seen such wonderfully presented mini bites served with Isaac’s homemade butter. We have a mini caramelised shallot brioche and a stout and ale rustic roll each.
The brioche has the sweetness of the onion coming through superbly, again a sign of knowing how to get the most out of the ingredients. My favourite, however, is the heavier stout & ale bread, offering a rich yet subtle flavour; this meal is just getting better.
I love how the chefs are taking it in turns to serve the courses and taking the time to explain each dish and ingredient.
As Isaac and the team prepare the starter I am enjoying watching the people walking outside and peering in to the restaurant, checking out the menu. Everyone that walks past seems intrigued by the restaurant and the reputation which they are creating. Young chefs with fresh ideas is a reason to visit and the fact they do it so well is a reason to return.
For our starter we are served bream, smoked broccoli, savoury lemon curd and goosefoot. The presentation is fantastic with the vibrant colours jumping off the dark background of the plates. Every item having its place on the plate makes for a vibrant dish that is pleasing to the eye. We haven’t even tried it yet and I love it.
Smiles between mouthfuls
Isaac explains that we have perfectly cooked bream fillets, charred skin resting on a smoked broccoli puree with drops of the lemon curd and goosefoot leaves as garnish. I am smiling between mouthfuls and the balance is delightful; the smokiness of the broccoli does not overpower the fish and the savoury lemon curd is a triumph as it adds a punch to bring everything together. I was unsure what to expect of locally sourced goosefoot as I have not tried this herb before. The leaves are lovely and almost spinach like, perhaps me and Lucy will head off on our own foraging trip.
Open kitchen for a real dining experience
The open kitchen really does create drama and a real dining experience. It also reminds me that, although I can cook at home, this is why we both love to dine out as I can only dream of producing food of this quality.
For the main course, the chef explains that we are served a five hour water bathed lamb neck, with ratte potatoes, wilted coriander leaves, an aubergine caviar and a lamb jus. Wow, the dish looks so inviting I have to resist whilst Lucy takes some photos. The lamb is pink and tender and the care and time in cooking is obvious to the eye; the taste is even better. The little ratte potatoes are buttery and crisp on the outside, perched on top of the lamb.
The coriander adds a subtle taste and a great colour to the dish. The aubergine caviar compliments the lamb perfectly with its sweet taste and contrasting texture. The rich lamb jus brings everything together beautifully. Every bite has explosions of flavour and I quickly gobble up the food in sheer delight. Lucy is shocked as she is enjoying hers but still on the first piece of lamb.
I sip my wine and wait for Lucy to finish her main; we chat excitedly about the pudding and what we can expect from the presentation. The chefs are at the pass, putting the plates together and I watch almost hypnotically at Isaac as he carefully layers each element. I think the guy is a genius and should be applauded after each course.
Best dessert I have ever had
The chef brings over our dessert which is a rhubarb crumble with a lemon thyme custard. Of course there is a twist and the dish has been deconstructed. This can go horribly wrong and look like separate elements on a plate, but living up to the rest of the meal this of course is not the case. The bright colours and white plate make this look like a piece of art fit for any gallery.
We have toasted oats with tiny pieces of compressed rhubarb that add a great freshness and contrast. There is a rhubarb sorbet that is bright pink and so moreish and an addition of burnt rhubarb drops that add a darker colour and a bitter taste which work perfectly. Add the whipped lemon thyme custard that is light and fluffy and sits proudly in place, and this is a knockout dessert. Little lemon thyme leaves, sat delicately on top, add that touch of class and I am in love; what a pudding. This is honestly the best dessert I have ever had! I cannot stop grinning and Lucy finds this quite amusing.
This has been one of the best dining experiences of my life and Isaac At is right on my doorstep.
As a treat after dessert we have an aerated dark chocolate bite with a raspberry gel. Normally I am not such a fan of dark chocolate but the gel cuts through the bitterness and they have immediately converted me.When the waitress clears our plates, she tells us that the chefs tried for months to achieve the perfect consistency. Their hard work certainly paid off and their dedication shines through.
What can I say about Isaac At?
The staff are brilliant and they know the menu which frequently changes inside out. They are friendly and welcoming and are a credit to the restaurant. Isaac and his team of chefs are at the top of their game and take the time to speak with the customers. Being able to watch them is a real treat and makes this a special dining experience. The venue is fresh and inviting and, with the chefs in view, this gives you a chance to see masters at work. The food is amazing, local, cared for and every bite of every dish is an absolute taste sensation.
I congratulate the chefs as we leave after a wonderful afternoon and being able to thank someone directly for giving you the best dessert you have ever had made the whole experience all the more magical. I will return and with a new menu each week, they can take me on another culinary journey. I cannot wait.
Well done guys; this is of the highest quality and you deserve all of the credit and praise that you get.