The Salt Room Brighton Review
106 Kings Road
Visited February 2015
With the opening of Riddle & Finns’ beachfront venue and the renovation of The Grand’s GB1 fish bar in the last couple of years, it seems that restaurateurs are finally cottoning on to the fact that high-end seafood restaurants with sea views could be big business for Brighton. The Salt Room is the latest of these to hit our shore. From the team behind the much-loved Coal Shed, The Salt Room is described to us by the front of house manager as ‘The Coal Shed’s hotter, younger, sexier sister’. Everything about the interior, from the faux exposed brickwork and designer lighting to the copper fittings in the toilets, has clearly been chosen to create a chic yet relaxed atmosphere. This isn’t a restaurant apparently, it’s an ‘urban dining retreat’. At odds with this carefully crafted image, the place is lent a slight air of formality by the fact that alongside the knowledgeable waiting staff a small team of impossibly attractive hosts are sauntering around and chatting nonchalantly to diners about how well it’s all been going. The Salt Room is clearly out to impress.
The leather-bound cocktail menu and wine list is certainly impressive. It includes a selection of updated classic cocktails, gin and tonics – served European-style in huge goldfish bowl glasses – and aperitifs. I swear that four years ago most people had never heard of a Negroni and thought Campari tasted like mouthwash. These days I have to admit to being suckered by the Negroni revival and I’m quick to request The Salt Room’s smoked salt version. It’s medicinal, herbal and refreshing, served with fresh thyme and a hunk of ice large enough to cause a maritime disaster.
For starters we try ceviche scallops served on creamy avocado puree with crisp tomato and red onion. It’s dressed with sour yuzu fruit, micro herbs and a salty seaweed and tapioca cracker that offers a great texture contrast to the soft shellfish. We also have an Asian-inspired salmon dish with burnt cucumber and miso crème fraiche, flavours that work well with the delicately cured fish.
Patrons of The Coal Shed will recognise the ‘josper grill’ section of the menu, including steaks, lamb rack, fish and lobster cooked over the kitchen’s charcoal grill, which imbues much of the food with an unmistakable charred flavour. (Even our mustard-dressed salad leaves arrive with a definite hint of smoke.) We choose a catch of the day, whole black bream topped with clams, anchovies and capers. The josper has worked its magic, giving the skin an intense smokiness and leaving the firm, sweet flesh perfectly succulent. This is a summery seaside dish and I wish it was already warm enough to eat out on The Salt Room’s expansive terrace. The crab and shrimp burger, served in a brioche-light bun, has a fantastic texture, meaty and firm without being rubbery. Unfortunately the accompanying kimchi slaw tastes overpoweringly of fish sauce.
By the time we come to visit I’ve already heard about the restaurant’s signature dessert, ‘A taste of the pier’, a tongue-in-cheek sharing plate celebrating some of Brighton’s best-loved food icons. I love the kitschy seaside vibe but reading about candyfloss, doughnuts and nougat sets my teeth on edge. We opt instead to try the very grown-up hot chocolate mousse with bitter chocolate sorbet and coffee parfait. Compared to this devilish combination the deconstructed custard panna cotta with candied rhubarb feels angelic. It’s creamy and sweet, yet not at all sickly, and it looks so pretty I’m secretly pleased that I have a legitimate reason to photograph it.
The Salt Room has only been open a week and it’s already creating a real buzz with its trend-led menu and stylish interior. It all feels a bit slick for my tastes but Coal Shed fans are unlikely to be disappointed. Come summer that seaview terrace is going to be very full indeed.