boti eats: pascere
First things first. Let’s deal with the baby elephant in the room, or rather, the restaurant. Just how DO you pronounce it? We thought we were being all clever by going with the European-sounding ‘pash-air-ay’. Actually, though, it’s the far simpler ‘pas-ear’ (with a short ‘a’) and is Latin for ‘to nourish’. Feel free to thank us with drinks later.
Phew, that’s that out of the way, now on to the food. Although, wait, it would be remiss of us not to mention the entrance – as you push through a luxuriant swathe of velvet curtain, it’s rather like stepping on to the stage (it’s actually designed to keep the cold out). And the scene is certainly set for the occasion – the softly lit elegant interior features plush teal velvet chairs set off by mustard banquettes and yellow blooms, shining brass fixtures and full-length picture windows. But it’s certainly not a case of style over substance: the seats are comfortably padded and, despite the intimate space, you’re not cosying up to the strangers at the table next to you. With tantalising smells wafting through the air a delicious promise of what’s to come, we can’t wait to get started.
After taking our order, our lovely waitress recommends the Spanish Sant Bru, a smooth full-bodied red that goes down a treat and proves once again that the restaurant is a deserving winner of ‘best wine list’ at this year’s Brighton Best Restaurant awards. Nibbles while we wait are suggested next. Never ones to turn down offers like that, we go for the Marcona almonds and honey-roasted Macadamia nuts. Still hot from the pan, they are deliciously moreish and our fingers seem to be on auto-pilot as they reach for another. And another.
We are saved from ourselves by the first pre-starter (pre-pre-starter?) in the form of two melt-in-the-mouth mini bread rolls – one is saison beer and onion and the other stout and treacle – with a side of black salt butter, topped with Muscovado sugar. We wouldn’t be exaggerating if we said we could eat these all night. The combination of the savoury bread with the sweetness of the butter is a revelation. But there’s more! The butternut squash crackers are next – the light crunchiness of the cracker a perfect foil to the sweetness of the mounds of spiralised squash and smooth purée.
Time for the pre-main, or the starter, if you like. Sweet potato velouté may sound simple, but this lovingly executed creamy soup is elevated by sweetly acidic Moscatel vinegar pearls that gently pop in our mouths. Next up is the king oyster mushroom main – a beautiful dish, in terms of both presentation and flavour, with sesame-roasted pak choi and roasted hazelnuts working in harmony to enhance the meaty flavours of the mushroom. Our dining companion opted for the confit trout (pictured below), which he dubbed “an exquisite creation”.
Last, but by no means least, is dessert. The word ‘chocolate’ appears twice on the menu, so that’s an easy decision. We choose (or in our co-dinee’s case, have chosen for them) the chocolate crémeux with salted peanut ice-cream and a chocolate tuile and the bergamot orange sorbet with aerated chocolate (it’s like a posh Aero!) and bergamot custard. These turn out, unsurprisingly, to be excellent choices and our companion forgives our bossiness as the chocolate-peanut combination works its magic, conjuring up a high-end version of a Snickers, he says. Meanwhile, the citrus-y flavour of the bergamot dances around our mouths in perfect sync with the orange, making the sorbet a light and refreshing end to a wonderful meal.
For great views of the chefs in action, ask for a seat at the pass upstairs. We should also mention the impeccable service, which achieves the optimum balance between friendliness and professionalism, and the staff’s excellent timing (they seem to have an almost sixth sense about when to return to the table). The dishes themselves are as creative in their execution as in their presentation, all while steering clear of fussy territory. Speaking of presentation, a common complaint at fine-dining restaurants is that it might all look great, but you leave hungry, but this certainly isn’t the case at Pascere. Each plate is a picture, for sure, but when we leave, we can honestly say that we are wonderfully sated or, as per the restaurant’s name, nourished.
Photo credits: Julia Claxton
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8 Duke Street, Brighton, BN1 1AH