139 King’s Road Arches
There’s something very special about watching your cabbage being delivered, its leaves waving in the sea air as the kitchen assistant brings it along the seafront to the restaurant. When it appears half an hour later, sautéed to perfection, as the bed for your moist pork roulade (stuffed with truffles), home-made black pudding tagliatelle and crackling, there is a certain sublime symmetry.
And you know that, as well as being extremely fresh, few ingredients used in head chef Michael Bremner’s flavoursome dishes have come far. Bremner has been with Due South for just over a year, and has made his mark. He and the team source at least 80% of produce from within a 35-mile radius of Brighton Beach, and organic or biodynamic ingredients are preferred. Each month’s ‘guest oyster’ is the only food offering on the menu from outside the county.
Our excellent waiter Stuart talked us through May’s menu – the dishes change to reflect what’s growing in Sussex each month. He brought as an aperitif, a glass of Limney Estate Sparkling (2005 organic), which had travelled just a hop, skip and a jump from nearby Rotherfield. Given that Sussex’s terroir is similar to that of the Champagne region of France, its subtle, smooth mousse and pear-note finish bode well for the future of the county’s ‘fizz’ production. Accompanied it with a single Jersey oyster that slipped down as smoothly as the bubbly. This was followed by a delicious amuse-bouche; Slipcot goat’s cheese purée with asparagus.
Due South’s starter menu is delightfully inventive. Goodbye soup of the day, hello chilled nettle & sorrel gazpacho. This was a little salty, but a curved dollop of wild garlic mousse added kick to the subtle flavours. There’s no goat’s cheese tartlet, but vegetarians and carnivores alike will love the assiette of South Downs beetroot, whilst pescatarians must try the Due South sashimi. Turbot, brill, red mullet and sea bass were served with lemon and home-made soy sauces on a slate platter, garnished with edible flowers. Beautiful.
My friend’s main course was the chef’s special of pan-roasted rib eye steak, served with truffle-crushed potato and that fresh cabbage. The medium-rare meat was from Castle Farm in Hartfield, and melted in the mouth. My pork dish was a lovely idea, but as there was a little too much tagliatelle, the balance was not as good as it could have been. The bed of cabbage was, however, delicious. My glass of Plumpton Rosé 2008 was quite dry but fruity, and a glass of Nero d’Avola 2007 had raspberry notes that went surprisingly well with my friend’s steak. A side order of succulent asparagus with Sussex butter was the perfect accompaniment.
The pièce de résistance of the evening was the choice of desserts. If, like us, you were unable to choose between Due South beetroot baked Alaska, poached strawberry & white balsamic panna cotta and steamed rhubarb pudding with golden syrup ice cream, you could opt for the selection of desserts to share, which offers a smaller portion of three dishes of your choice from the menu. Inspired. We loved the rhubarb pudding, a tangy blend of sponge and fruit, and the panna cotta. There wasn’t a strong beetroot flavour to the baked Alaska, but the opposing heat of the cake and the biting cold of the ice-cream centre, coupled with a crunchy biscuit base, was stunning. A glass of Chateau La Garenne 2005 (organic) and excellent espresso coffees added to a very good menu.
Wherever you look, Due South has added touches to its décor that create layers of sensation. The driftwood-and-rope shelves, filled with local magazines, were obviously crafted from flotsam found on the beach. The kitchen is open to view as you pass down the corridor, and there are photographs of beach vistas covering the walls. The restaurant is as proud of its charity work as its food, however. By the ladies loos is a wall full of framed letters of thanks from the many charities (local and international) it has sponsored over the years. These include CIWF, and Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food & Farming. May’s charity provides clean drinking water to villages and farms in Africa. Rather than being offered ‘still or sparkling?’, we were brought a bottle of water from the tap, and told we could give £1 for it to go to the charity. But the choice was ours.
The view from our window table was definitely a bonus – beach, sea, the atmospheric West Pier, its skeleton silhouetted against the sunset – but it wasn’t a necessity. An evening at this cosy but elegant restaurant, wherever you sit, will be memorable.
Average price per person: £35 (including dessert, excluding drinks & tip)
Due South: 139 King’s Road Arches, Brighton Beach, East Sussex, BN1 2FN. Tel: 01273 821218.
Reviewer: Bryony Weaver