Graze, Hove, restaurant review

Date:20-11-2013 08:58:19 read:6

Graze, Hove, restaurant review

Hoping for haute cuisine in Hove, Zoe Williams is disappointed by a restaurant that tries just a bit too hard

Graze 42 Western Road, Hove, East Sussex Photo: MARK WHITFIELD

Graze 42 Western Road, Hove, East Sussex
Contact: 01273 823707
Price: Three courses: £35

Graze looks like a restaurant conceived before Brighton got packed with great-looking restaurants – it has a perfectly nice vibe, like a front room dressed to look like a gentleman’s club. It says “dining” all right, but does it say “fine” (apart from on its website, I mean)? Not really. Meanwhile, the rest of Western Road, where Hove guns into Brighton, has dinky new Mexican places, modernist-looking greyscapes that could be Swedish, coffee shops so grand they’re almost majestic. Through no fault of Graze’s, it has been slightly left behind.

The menu (three courses for £35), however, darts into original territory and leaves its fusty environs behind. My friend Y had the smoked rosemary goat’s curds, textures of mushroom and powdered pea. It was… all a bit miniature. That, combined with its beiges and taupes, made it look like a “streak of tasty snail goop”, she said. “These mushrooms are nice but smaller than my fingernails. The goat’s curds have that dainty, fairy-tea-party look.” The mushrooms were presented in different forms, but since one of those was “pickled”, that was the overwhelming flavour. Plus the curds didn’t make their mark past it, and the rosemary was incongruous.

I had the gravlax with a soft-boiled egg, dill powder, and pumpernickel crumb, and this was much more successful overall – the salmon had a deep but delicate flavour, not too salty, but such kick as there was softened beautifully by the egg. The crumb was way too sweet, though – not too sweet for pumpernickel, but too sweet for the heavenly trio of salmon, egg and dill, and it was insistently distracting, like trying to listen to music when your tumble-dryer is beeping.

This was the beginning of a trend in which every element was suffused with inexplicable sweetness, so off-putting that by pudding we were in desperate need of something more to eat but not, for mercy’s sake, pudding. I had the braised pork belly with black pudding and fig roll, fresh fig, watercress and vanilla celeriac purée. The black pudding, clearly tilting at wit, was dressed to look like a fig roll, tightly packed blood mixed with quite a bit of fig, wrapped in a very sweet pastry. I am no enemy of the introduction of black pudding into actual pudding – mixed with Nutella, it does something fascinating. But this was disgusting, and so much besides; it tainted the whole plate, it felt as though the unwanted sweetness was inescapable. Partly because it was: the vanilla in the celeriac made it taste like a crème anglaise in which the sugar had been unaccountably replaced by essence of root vegetable – a crazy Californian-diet custard.

The pork itself was hard to judge, swimming in cacophonous sweetness. Y’s salt-marsh lamb I thought would at the very least be salty, and perhaps it was OK without its almond milk barley, but that was claggy, with the horrible, almost neutral sweetness you find in nut butters and vegan desserts.

Y had the white peach, rosemary and white chocolate panna cotta, with granola, which was a mess – the white chocolate had that tired, waxy, back-of-the-cupboard flavour it takes on when it’s just about to go off. The rosemary introduced a savoury note that perhaps would have worked if one felt one could let go and trust the originality, but after the mains, my trust was gone. White peach sounded rare and precious, like an arctic ptarmigan, but tasted humdrum. I had the cheese, and that was fine. You could definitely come here and order the cheese.


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