THIS IS FOR MY PINTXO PEOPLE
It does, as you may well know if you’ve been glancing at the blog for a while, take an awful lot to persuade me to leave the safety of London, but on the very odd occasion, I do like to stir up the huskies and see where the gods take me.
In this case, er, Brighton. Well, it’s hardly Bhutan, but the journey there was, thanks to the cretinous scum of Southern Railways works planning dept, just as arduous. Four hours. Four bloody hours which included an unplanned stop at a place called Redhill seemingly populated with creatures from The Island of Dr Moreaux.
Thankfully, my new chum, Dawn, on whose birthday the trip was predicated, rescued me and came to pick me up just as I was about to turn around and head home.
When I was pondering on places to eat in Brighton, Nick “Hawksmoor” Strangeway told me I MUST try PintXo People not least for their cocktails. Who am I to argue with a man who has never let me down yet?
So, Pintxo People it was.
Relatively new ( I think they opened in May ) PP has been getting some very good crit’ and the bar was just awarded Bar of the Year by Class Magazine. Quite an accolade for such a new place.
The downstairs Tapas bar area is a great space, with its wide selection of montadito and Cruzcampo on draft, it had the feel of a modern Basque watering hole. A very good thing. Upstairs, the more formal restaurant and the cocktail bar area which is modelled on a bar in Barcelona whose name quite escapes me.
As you may gather from the many pictures of Martini’s on the blog, I am a great admirer of a good mixologist and Toby and his cohort, Marcus are amongst the very best I have encountered. Worthy of their recent prizes for sure. Passionate about what they were doing and happy to discuss what they were doing and why. Great fun was had as they made an exemplary Martini, a Champagne cocktail made with dark, lethal, Spanish brandy. It seemed rude not to let them demonstrate their chops some more, so we followed with an equally good Perfect Manhattan and a Margarita. I could have happily sat there until I slid slowly off the stool into a well shaken oblivion.
However, the stomach called and we went to a pleasant table in the darkened dining area.
The food in the downstairs area is classic PintXo stuff with croquettes etc while upstairs they are producing a Nuevo twist on Catalan cooking. They don’t like to mix the two menus but were kind enough to let us order a plate of croquettes with our starters. Very good they were too. Dense, creamy and full of, er filling. Just as they should be.
I was less convinced by the main menu. It is by their admission “experimental” but, in one or two cases is less El Bulli and more “liver in lager” ( a prize for anyone who knows where that comes from ) However. They know their stuff and the ingredients sing of good provenance.
Alongside the croquettes, we ordered some Jamon Iberico Bellota. I am guessing we got about 50gms for £12 which is about average. It came with some small crispbreads redolent of the breadsticks which are a staple in Spanish bars and also a small bowl of puree tomato. Jamon of this provenance never tastes bad but, this was a little dry and they explained that they had been asked to take the fat off by so many people that they now serve it lean. Madness, people who ask that should not be allowed to eat it.
Another starter of Padron peppers was good and a decent restaurant portion for £5.
It is the main courses where I think the meal was let down. Wild boar was cooked perfectly and served on top of a stew of green lentils. That would have been enough for me but the chef had added a slice of grilled pineapple underneath which I didn’t really get.
A dish of foie gras came on top of diced mango which makes sense to cut through the richness. It also came with a coffee syrup. As I have an allergy to coffee (which I had forgotten to mention when ordering ) I pushed the dish over to Dawn’s side of the table and she seemed to enjoy. Graciously, though they comped me another dish without the killer bean and it worked quite well. I am not sure what the coffee would have added.
More standard, was a dish of pulpo on top of “broken” potatoes. Sprinkled with paprika it reminded me of the creamy pulpo a la Gallega and was the best dish of the three.
One concern is that many of the dishes came out tepid or, in the case of the boar, cold. I am not one to crave everything piping hot, but I wonder if the kitchen was struggling to keep up with what was an increasingly busy dining room.
A pudding of banana parcels came highly recommended. Dawn professed to enjoy it but puddings do not do a lot for me so I only picked at it.
What does do a lot for me is booze. A bottle of Rueda was well priced at £22 and worked well even with the richer dishes.
As if we were not pickled enough, a glass of Cava rose was presented for Dawn’s birthday and then followed by two flaming after dinner cocktails which was enough to send us reeling into the night air.
Service throughout was exemplary and hugely friendly. Jason and Bruce who run the place obviously know how to maintain a slick operation.
Despite a few quibbles about the food, this is a place I could find myself visiting on a very regular basis if it were closer to home. The good news is that they are pondering on a branch in London’s fashionable East end and I can certainly see myself being an habitué when the need for decent tapas gets too much to bear.
Inevitably, this morning, we were feeling a little sorry for ourselves. So, a bracing walk along the front to The Lanes gave us the chance to pop in and take a dose of what every sane nutritionist recommends to perk you up, a sausage and bacon butty.
Happy Birthday, Dawn.