boti eats | isaac at test kitchen
The test kitchen experience at high-end hipster restaurant Isaac At is a chance to peek inside the creative minds of passionate chefs at work, as they test out wild and wonderful flavours for potential new menu dishes. Welcome to heaven for food nerds.
Located on a quiet corner of Gloucester Street, just beyond the bustle of Brighton’s North Laines, the calm setting belies the culinary audaciousness within. These chefs are not afraid to make bold moves with the super-locally sourced, seasonal produce at the heart of their cuisine.
Opened in 2015, this restaurant has picked up many awards over the years, including two AA Rosettes and recommendations by the annual Michelin Guide. Adding to its bravery, it was the first restaurant in the world to offer an entirely British wine list.
We were warmly welcomed into the 20-seater restaurant on a balmy summer’s evening. It’s so intimate, you’ll meet all the staff the second you step inside. The open kitchen is front and centre, and though impressive food is on the cards, the demeanour of the staff – all young cool people who seem to be good friends – means the atmosphere is ultimately relaxing, perfect for a date or dinner with a close friend. You can watch the chefs at work either sat at the pass or via the TV screen in the main seating area.
As head chef Caspian Armani tells us, the test kitchen is a chance for more junior chefs to flex their creative muscles and step up to the forefront, while being coached and supported by those with more experience. Cooking for us was the lovely Cameron, who had designed the menu himself and created the food before our very eyes.
To begin, we sampled a beautifully fresh starter of raw scallop and pickled cucumber carpaccio with coriander oil and coriander cress. The vinegar in the pickle was a touch heavy for the delicate scallop, but it was SO close to perfect for that hot evening.
For our next course, we were served mackerel on a bacon, grain and tomato salad, with fresh sea herbs picked locally that morning, a tomato consommé and hollandaise sauce. The mackerel was exquisitely cooked, flaky and rich, and the earthy grains and silky sauce complemented it perfectly.
The meaty main was pulled pork cooked in stout and soy sauce with celeriac and apple slaw, blueberry and apple ketchup and homemade bread. The savoury depths of that pork honestly knew no bounds – the kind of flavour you dream about for days afterwards.
We then enjoyed a palate cleanser of Pimm’s sorbet with cucumber and strawberry – another taste explosion packed into a couple of spoonfuls. Dessert was malted milk biscuits sandwiched with Earl Grey cream, milk sorbet and oat crumb. The whole thing was a sweet, creamy, crumbly delight. We fed back to Cameron that although delicious, it could definitely benefit from a stronger punch of Earl Grey. We finished the meal with a lip-smackingly sour gummy bear, which was interesting, to say the least!
The food was all beautifully presented and crafted with skill, and we enjoyed every surprising mouthful. You could tell that the dishes sometimes weren’t 100 percent there in terms of hitting the exact sweet spot with flavour. Part of the test kitchen experience is that it’s FUN contemplating the flavours and debating what could be better.
Compared to the usual tasting menu price of £60 per head, dinner at the test kitchen is a steal at just £25. They also offer a reduced-cost bespoke English wine pairing alongside your meal.
If you’re fascinated by experimental flavour, we’d highly recommend paying the Isaac At test kitchen a visit – it’s available to book every other Wednesday.
2 Gloucester Street, Brighton BN1 4EW
Wednesday – Saturday, 6pm – 10.30pm; Saturday lunch, 12.30pm – 2.30pm
By Alice Sambrook