The Set Bar: A New Standard for Seasonal Small Plates
Since The Set – the eagerly anticipated restaurant from Dan Kenny and Semone Bonner (former head chefs of Brighton favourites, Gingerman and Ginger Pig respectively) burst onto the Brighton food scene in 2015, it’s done little more than gather acclaim. And rightly so. Serving up seasonal set menus from an intimate 20-cover dining room at Regency Square boutique hotel, Artist Residence, it’s a trendy, thought-provoking restaurant where dining combines an element of surprise (the set menu changes weekly) and modern, delicious food. The Set Bar therefore, is its more chilled out little sister; promising tapas and a laid-back base for catching up with friends over a few drinks.
Firstly, I wouldn’t call what The Set Bar serves up tapas, I’d call it small plates; for me, tapas denotes a selection of small, predominantly Spanish dishes, which doesn’t do justice to the series of inventive dishes – inspired by near and far – that we had the pleasure to eat here. Cold snacks and sharing platters are served from the The Set Bar’s central counter, including charcuterie from Kent-based Moons Green Farm served with sourdough and kimchi dip, British cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairy, and fresh Maldon oysters, while hot dishes include suckling pig and cheese croquettes, focaccia with chorizo jam and sage, and fried dumplings with cucumber and miso.
Where possible ingredients from The Set kitchen form the basis of the menu to minimise waste, meaning that – as with The Set, its more formal counterpart – the menu will naturally evolve with the seasons. Both sets of croquettes: the aforementioned suckling pig and cheese, which went from crunchy coating into salty, rich pork and oozing sweet cheese in one mouthful, and the haddock croquettes with squid ink taramasalata, which combined creamy roe, hits of citrus and soft, sweet flakes of fish, were almost too tasty. Perfectly balanced mouthfuls of full-on flavour, which couldn’t have paired better with cold, crisp Sauvignon Blanc, we greedily ordered at least three portions.
Other standout dishes you should over order are the beetroot, feta, mint and pear salad, the freshness of which teams up beautifully with the focaccia and chorizo jam (an elevated bacon sandwich) and cleverly manages to cleanse your palate as you go, and the plaice ceviche with seaweed vinaigrette, a dish that transports you straight to Latin-America-on-Sea and is a great match with a Seasonal Martinez citrus cocktail from brand new adjoining cocktail bar, The Fix. The star of the show though? The squid bun with roast garlic aioli – all at once a bite of buttery brioche, firm, grilled squid that tastes of the sea, and salty squid ink with a glorious oniony aftertaste, it’s just a heavenly combination with the look and feel of comfort food, but the flavours of fine dining.
Do be sure to arrive a little early and head first to The Fix for an aperitif. Very Brighton, it’s a seasonal cocktail bar, but it doesn’t feel gimmicky. In line with The Set Bar and The Set itself, that just means it takes its lead from the main kitchen in terms of ingredients and as a result produces some pretty quirky combinations. A textured blend of wood, exposed brick, resin, stone and huge mirrors, it’s the inspiring interior design of all three Set siblings, as well as a dedication to seasonality and a desire to excite and surprise that bonds them all, and yet they each have distinct personality quirks – my advice would be to book a room and make a weekend of it, so you can experience all three.
The Set/The Set Bar/ The Fix
The Artist Residence
01273 855 572