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The Soho House Brighton venue, Beach House. Is it the place to lunch your friends, or your enemies?
The last time I was invited to review the Beach House Brighton restaurant, Cecconi’s, it was early summer 2022, and it was so bad I truly wondered if it was a set-up. I was looking for the hidden cameras, preparing my ‘oh you got me, you crazy kids’ face. The entire experience was a road accident in slow motion, and in fact it was SO bad, I honestly felt afterwards that I just couldn’t write it up. It seemed altogether too outrageous.
If I’d published an honest review, there might have been ‘visits’ to the restaurant from at least three different departments at the council, I calculated. I’m sure it would have made for hilarious reading, but I didn’t want to get anyone sacked.
There was a point during the meal where five staff members, including the restaurant manager, stood round the table looking at my plate, and nobody could find any words. It was quite an experience.
What to do?
I rang Camilla, who is head of something important at the London Soho House head office and told her what had happened. And she was as shocked as I was. Thanked me for not writing it up and said they were going to use the feedback to make changes. She’d give me a shout when they’d improved things, she said. And that, I guessed, was probably the end of that.
So imagine my delight and surprise when the lovely Camilla did indeed get back in touch. New managers, new staff, changes in training etc, she said. Would I like to go back and have another go?
Yes, I thought, I would like to have another go. And I really hoped it would be a Good Thing, because I’m a positive sort of bird. I scratched my head and thought about who I could persuade to join me for a long lunch that might include many courses and lots of wine. And decided Nicholas Lezard would be nobly altruistic enough to support me in this matter. And off we set.
Food, glorious food
We ate a lot, over several hours, so I’m going to do this a bit differently or you’ll all grow too old to read to the end. There will be a photo of something, and I will tell you what it was like. Then I’ll talk generally afterwards about the place and service, and then I’ll leave you to it. Sound good?
Let’s kick off with the cocktails, natch. Prices vary from £10-17
Lezard – classic dry martini with a twist £17
Very happy man. Had two, just to be sure of the quality.
Harrington-Lowe – the house cocktail, ‘Picante de la Casa’ £13
Aged tequila, chilli, lime, agave – if you’re going to a Soho House anywhere, try one. It’s a cracking drink – more refreshing than a margarita, and I love the chilli kick.
The Eastern Standard I followed it up with (Bombay Sapphire gin, lime, cucumber, mint) was also excellent – cold, zingy, minty.
And then we started eating…
Lezard – six natives with mignonette £18
Good oysters, shucked (I believe) without any bits of shell left lurking. No spoon for the mignonette (missing cutlery and napkins has been a thing on both visits, if I’m honest) and a pedant (Lezard) might suggest the ratio of vinegar to shallot a bit skewwhiff – more vinegar please. But exceptionally fresh bivalves, which I noticed went down the hatch at the speed of light. A definite yes.
Harrington-Lowe – quails’ eggs, tonne £9
Perfectly-cooked eggs, not over-boiled to grey rubber. I adore caperberries which are not mentioned on the menu, so a delightful surprise. The tuna dollop was pleasant, but perhaps overly liberal in quantity. Also a bit bland. Chuck in some onion and seasoning and that fishy dollop would be more interesting. Both of us quite shocked not to have celery salt as part of the deal, and in fact NO celery salt in the house. How do they make Bloody Marys?!
Lezard – calamari fritti, chilli aioli £11
Everyone happy here. Light batter, fresh squid. No chewiness, none of that stringy nonsense. Lifted considerably by the zhuzhy garlicky chilli dip. Tick.
Harrington-Lowe – tuna tartare, avocado, chilli, mint £15
I confess that I have ordered this starter almost every time I’ve been to the Beach House. I can’t help myself – it’s the perfect blend of sashimi grade tuna, avo chunks, lime, chilli, mint… this is such an uplifting starter I would go to this place, just for this.
We decided it was important to check the quality of the house plonk and I can say very definitely that both the red and house whites are actually very decent (Maison Vincent, Languedoc £20 for 500ml carafe). Particularly the red. The white is perhaps a little short on the nose, but it goes very well with food. Bravo.
Lezard – ribeye, fries, bearnaise £38
I had to beat Lezard back with a stick to stop him eating this before I took a photo. And I’m not saying that for dramatic effect. I don’t blame him – I had a taster of this steak, and it was astonishingly good. And actually cooked properly (rare, for those of you who need educating). Bloody good work.
Harrington-Lowe – Dover sole, meunière £40
It’s genuinely a long time since someone whipped up to the table and did something cheffy next to me. I’m going to campaign for the return of proper crêpes Suzette done at the table complete with fire and brimstone, because I love the theatre that this sort of thing brings to the meal. James, who fileted the fish, probably felt less excited about the whole thing than me. And indeed I have had fish fileted more efficiently. But it was fun, the fish was exceptionally fresh, that lovely little crisp on the outside, plenty of zingy capers. I’m drooling typing this.
Lezard stuck to the house red for his plate of cow. I went for a different carafe, the Gavi at £36. The sole, with all its tangy capers etc needs an oomphy white like this, and it was a perfect companion.
Lezard – sticky toffee pudding £9
Harrington-Lowe – chocolate mousse, raspberry sorbet, maple honeycomb £9
Personally, I thought that might be the best STP I’ve ever tasted; light and somehow still sticky. The chocolate mousse is delish but not for the faint-hearted. It’s exceptionally rich, but the fruity raspberry cuts through it. It’s still quite a beast though.
Wine, coffee, liqueurs…
Yes, we went there. It was at this point, suitably ‘relaxed’, that we started asking for things off-piste, which they managed without any issue. They rustled up a very respectably-chilled La Fleur d’Or Sauternes for us with pud, which isn’t on the menu. Then we had coffees – I asked for a French, which is the same as Irish but made with brandy rather than whiskey; Lezard had an espresso and a vast bucket of brandy. They warmed his glass, we were pleased to note. At this stage I’ve got no idea what anything cost, because it was the end of a long lunch, and who the hell knows anything by that point? It was all lovely though.
What a feast!
This was the kind of lunch where one arrives in the daytime, and leaves under cover of night. We rolled out of there feeling absolutely no pain whatsoever. The service we had was excellent – special mention goes to Dan, who is head of something important in Brighton. He took care of us like we were his own – and in fact, I remembered him well from the first visit, when he’d been the shining star then too. Soho House, hang on to that man for all you’re worth.
Interestingly, you’re not normally allowed to take photos of the food – or in fact AT ALL – at any Soho House venue. So consider yourselves privileged to see this grub.
As soon as I whipped out my trusty iPhone, James bustled over to the table to stop me. Having explained what I was doing, he stared at me for a bit, the cogs turning; should it be allowed, was I a chancer, should pictures be in reviews, how rude would it be to ask me for proof… I could see the whole thing passing through his brain… and then he allowed it.
The reasoning is, apparently, because the Soho House brand has famous members who appreciate the opportunity to shovel food and drink into their faces without having photos. One has to have some respect for that.
And to be fair, a very gobby famous person turned up as we were eating, and sat at the table next to us, in a scruffy tracksuit. So I can sympathise with the reasoning. I wouldn’t want to have been photographed looking like that either.
All in all
A very good trip. You do need to be a Soho House member to eat at the restaurant, but you can join just for the Beach House, rather than the whole SH group. There’s some shared workspace coming along as part of the venue. And apart from Cecconi’s, there are other bars and private hire spaces. It’s a good setting to be in, lovely outdoor seating during the summer, and right on the seafront. There are far worse things to spend your money on.
Will I be going back? Definitely yes. New general manager Molly Rafferty has had a clear impact on the whole setup, top down, and it was a joy from start to finish. Well done to all at Beach House, this is a commendable recovery.
Brighton Beach House
Sam is Silver’s founder and editor-in-chief. She’s largely responsible for organising all the things, but still finds time to do the odd bit of writing. Not enough though. Send help.
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