MARKET restaurant review – Playful, Vibrant and Innovative
MARKET is the latest undertaking from the team behind award-winning restaurant Graze, which, having recently closed, has relinquished its prime spot on Western Road to this new venture. The antique Camden Market sign that apparently inspired the restaurant now emblazons the front, and the slightly moody dining room has been stripped out and replaced with emerald green Victorian tiled walls and astroturf panels. (Thankfully they’ve retained the eccentric animal portraits.)
There’s now an open kitchen, so that customers can choose to sit on bar stools overlooking the chefs as they cook. Although it does give the restaurant a lovely lively atmosphere, this is not just theatrics, it also removes the barrier between diner and chef, giving customers the opportunity to ask questions and make requests.
Tasting and sharing is encouraged, with a menu of small, tapas-style plates designed to be ordered at whim and shared between the table as and when they arrive. This casual mode of dining, where, in keeping with the MARKET theme, diners order the dishes they fancy ‘From the Greengrocer’, ‘From the Butcher’, or ‘From the Fishmonger’, has, according to our waitress, confused some of the old Graze stalwarts, despite being modelled on the former eight-course grazing menu. Anyone who can’t face sharing has the option to order from the Classics or Specials menus, which feature steaks, burgers and a catch of the day.
The atmosphere may be less formal than Graze but the standard of cooking remains impeccable. The food has a European flavour, with classic tapas of bitter, salty padron peppers and Ibérico ham featuring alongside more innovative dishes, such as broccoli smothered in an earthy tahini sauce, with perfectly crisp kale and strands of fresh, crunchy mangetout. Highlights of the plates we share include a Mediterranean-inspired dish of meaty octopus with salty capers and the intensely smoky flavour of paprika, and the softest scallops with paper-thin honeyed parsnip crisps and a rich bisque flavoured with lemongrass.
An unexpected favourite is the humorously named ‘Crashed eggs!’, a concoction of potato, Spanish peppers, romesco sauce and, of course, eggs, all ‘crashed’ together and served to the table in a cast iron skillet – an ultimate brunch if ever there was one, it bodes well for MARKET’s weekend breakfast offerings. We also polish off an entire baked camembert, studded with herbs and garlic and served with blackberry jam. The cheese is beautiful but the bread it’s served with just isn’t robust enough to cope with such levels of oozy cheesiness.
After such a rich dish, the chef’s recommended dessert of blackberry and lemon mess is a sweet relief, with its refreshing flavours of lemon curd and tart blackberry jelly, complemented by chewy meringue and glassy sugar shards.
Graze earned many loyal fans in its time, as well as recommendations from the Michelin Guide and the AA. Time will tell whether MARKET will earn the same loyalty from its diners; in the meantime, its playful style and vibrant food is rightfully inspiring a lot of excitement in Hove.