The Jetty Brighton Review: “I’m not sure if I should drink it, eat it, or get it a room”
Dorset’s award winning seafood restaurant has opened a seafront Brighton branch. Our resident foodie heads to Jetty to explore what all the fuss is about.
It stands to reason that you ought to be able to enjoy a decent fish dinner in a seaside town, and so much the better if the seafood is locally caught, the produce is seasonal and you can ogle the sea from your table. The Jetty, then, which opened on the ground floor of Brighton’s seafront Harbour Hotel in July this year, is full of promise.
The concept is imported from Dorset, where Jetty Brighton’s sister restaurant has just been awarded the title of UK Seafood Restaurant of the Year.
For a restaurant attached to a luxury hotel, the decor in the dining room is a confusing hotchpotch of marble, jarring upholstery, and some pretty heinous curtains. It’s a good job the place has a sweet sea view. The atmosphere, though, is buzzing – probably testament to both the genuine charm of the staff and the strength of the restaurant’s cocktail list.
We start by knocking back a couple of aperitifs: a thyme-topped smoked salt negroni, which is every bit as medicinal as it should be, and a dirty martini made with a seaweed infused gin, which lends the drink its savoury edge (the ‘dirt’, as it were).
“The sea bream with olive oil and chilli is everything a plate of fish should be”
While we ponder the menus (there are several), we order some Jetty seafood bites from the ‘whilst you choose’ selection. These dainty nibbles set the scene nicely for the Jetty dining experience.
There’s a tiny crouton topped with a smear of boldly fishy homemade taramasalata, a teeny copper pan filled with soft slow-cooked octopus in a zingy citrus sauce, a sweet smoked salmon mousse, and a scotch egg made with a soft-boiled quail’s egg encased in potato and hake. The latter, though technically spot-on, is too delicate in taste to compete with the other much punchier flavours on the board.
For the first of our ‘real’ starters, we try a beautifully assembled tuna tartare. It’s served with an avocado wasabi, which is simultaneously creamy and hot, and an oriental-style salad of dressed leaves and crunchy, paper-thin radish. Our second starter is a chunky bouillabaisse. It’s thick with hunks of fish and mussels, and the broth itself is almost overwhelmingly rich, with a heady flavour of shellfish.
Our selection of ‘bites’ and starters have favoured bold and eclectic flavours, with a fair amount of flounce and flashy presentation. For our mains, however, we select from the catch of the day menu, stripping things right back to what’s essential for a great seafood restaurant: good, locally caught fish, prepared simply and served without too much fuss.
“No one goes to a seafood restaurant because they love dessert, but I suspect they might come back to Jetty for that very reason”
The sea bream with olive oil and chilli is everything a plate of fish should be – beautifully cooked, succulent, dressed with just a few complementary flavours and enlivened by a vibrant salsa verde. The plaice, too, is excellently prepared, the mild flavour of the creamy flesh enhanced only with a nutmeg-spiked brown shrimp butter. The only accompaniments necessary are some crisp fries, earthy kale and a grilled lemon for squeezing.
No one goes to a seafood restaurant because they love dessert, but I suspect they might come back to Jetty for that very reason. The espresso martini sabayon might be the best pudding available on the South Coast. Happily appealing to my love of warm desserts that include ice cream, dark chocolate and booze, I’m not sure if I should drink it, eat it, or get it a room in the hotel upstairs.
Our waiter asks if we want coffee or after-dinner drinks, but after two cocktails, four courses and a bottle of superb Marlborough white, we admit blessed defeat. Welcome to Brighton Jetty. I think you’re gonna fit in here just fine.