MARKET’s latest incarnation is its finest yet
Like a gift the keep on giving, MARKET – a brilliant restaurant perched in that trendy little pocket of town right on the Brighton and Hove border – has been one of my absolute favourite Brighton restaurants since it opened in 2015 and is somewhere I have never had a bad meal. When it closed temporarily for a swift team turnaround, I panicked – it isn’t broken, what are you fixing? – I thought; well, more fool me. Serving up an inspired range of Anglo-Spanish tapas and small plates, Market was never broken, but at the hands of wildly creative head chef, Ian Atkinson, it’s never been better. BY POLLY HUMPHRIS
Let me just clear up the use of ‘wildly’ – Atkinson isn’t bonkers; far from it, but the passion and imagination that oozes from his every pore is evident in both his vibrant conversation when he talks about ingredients and in the glorious food that he puts on the plate. Needing little persuasion to join the award-winning restaurateur and designer/chef duo of Kate Alleston and Neil Mannifield, the combination of credentials that MARKET now benefits from with Ian’s expertise thrown in is evident immediately. MARKET, like the kitchen team that run it with encouraging confidence, is a little bit cooler and even more sociable than its former incarnation.
The name, inspired by the old Camden Market signage that adorns the restaurant’s façade, sets the scene for the entire dining experience. The interior, a combination of traditional butchers – blackboard banner; hanging legs of cured ham; gorgeous Victorian metro green tiles, and modern industrial – exposed copper; powder-coated steel; and lots of leather-topped stools to encourage countertop dining completes the package. It is a marketplace: a hub for great eating and great drinking, which, wonderfully, you’re encouraged to do at your own pace.
A mixture of artisan deli, tapas and small plates – all ideal for sharing – the menu, aptly divided by subheads Greengrocer, Fishmonger, Butcher, Mini Market and Sides is just insanely appealing; driven by the restaurant’s suppliers and seasonality, it sings with massive flavours and unique combinations. Crispy olives with spiced mojo rojo and Greek yoghurt are a MARKET staple; I’ve never eaten a hot olive anywhere but here because I know each divine salty mouthful wrapped in tempura-light batter will not be bettered anywhere else. Following suit, the cauliflower with truffled celeriac and cavolo nero, a heady mix of rich truffle, boldly seasoned celeriac, cauliflower with a subtle, sweet char to it and punchy, slightly bitter cavolo nero is a triumph. Nobody does vegetables like MARKET: fact – make sure you order the padron peppers spiced aubergine too.
The lemon sole special with samphire and a glossy butter sauce made citrusy by hits of lemon came a very close second for best fish dish to Atkinson’s cuttlefish, which is fried in light, crunchy batter and served with an ajo blanco deeply flavoured with garlic, olive oil and almonds, and a salty squid ink aioli. If you’re a lover of meat, you must opt for the beef cheek too – barring the use of some sort of alchemy, I’ve no idea how they manage to get that much flavour into the meat, which melts in the mouth as though it’s been prepared at some sort of Basque Country barbecue and is really robust at first bite, then lifted and made tangy with beets and onion.
I could go on about the food at MARKET for days, but alas, space won’t allow it – this restaurant just keeps getting better. The food, the team and the atmosphere are faultless. Oh, and if you don’t finish your meal with the hazelnut and caramel parfait with dark chocolate mousse, you’ll never forgive yourself. Your waistline may not thank you, but your sweet tooth definitely will.
42 Western Road