Dina’s Kitchen Review – An Authentic Taste of Portugal
The first thing to say about Dina’s Kitchen is that it’s excellent and you should go there. The second thing to say is that if you’re expecting fine dining, you’re going to be disappointed.
Situated on what’s become the food-oriented street of York Place, Dina’s unassuming facade doesn’t pretend, once you’re inside, to be anything other than what it is: a top-notch neighbourhood restaurant serving a cuisine that hasn’t had much notice in Brighton, or in many places in Britain for that matter.
Originating from a successful street stall on the Queens Road, which then became an equally successful pop-up in Hove, this is the splendidly friendly and lovely Dina’s first proper restaurant. The idea behind it is to offer an authentic taste of Portuguese cuisine at a very high level but at the sort of prices that mean you’re tempted to try a variety of dishes.
Arguably, we ate too much, but then that’s the joy of going somewhere as delicious as this. The range of starters would be called small plates in any other restaurant, as three or four of these would easily be enough to feed a hungry couple.
The bolinhos de bacalhau, or salted cod croquettes, are fantastic, but for my money the rissol de leitāo, the suckling pig turnovers, are even better; imagine the best Findus crispy pancake you’ve ever had, filled with succulent, delectably prepared meat, and you’ve more or less got the idea. But then everything on the starter list is great. Kale soup – possibly the least sexy-sounding thing ever – is made delectable by the addition of slices of smoked sausage and a thick, creamy stock that I suspect contains a little potato to thicken it. The octopus salad has generous chunks of tender octopus to satisfy (and, incidentally, is an absolute bargain at a mere £5), while a dish of clams in white wine sauce had a suitably moreish quality.
We would have happily left after this and considered the meal a feast – and all for around £20 a head with drinks. However, in the interests of trying more of the menu, we cajoled ourselves into sampling a couple of the main courses: The bacalhau à bras, a rather lovely salad of salted cod and ‘matchstick fries’, and beef short rib with egg and peas, the latter being the only dish sampled that didn’t quite work. The beef was excellent – meltingly tender and succulent – but the combination of a poached egg and a dish of peas didn’t seem an obvious match. Still, at £8, it’s hardly going to break the bank.
Utterly stuffed by now, we were exceptionally grateful that dessert only consisted of a couple of small tarts, one a traditional Portuguese custard tart and the other with an intriguing taste that can best be described as being like rice pudding in a tart.
There’s a small selection of Portuguese wines by the glass of which the white Mina Velha is highly recommended – as well as being dangerously easy to drink – and a few others also well-priced, including a 2011 Cartuxa, the most expensive item on the list at £45.
But this is not a place where the bill is ever likely to be frightening. Instead, it’s a combination of excellent food, lovely service and a fantastic atmosphere that should deservedly see Dina, and her kitchen, become one of the most popular spots in town.