Graze: Put out to pasture (July 2015)

Research the Brighton nightlife scene and there is a bit more to this city than gay bars and cavernous venues for stag/hen do’s. Graze (in fact located in more sedate neighbouring Hove) arguably offers the finest dining experience that can be found in the vicinity. My comrade and I both enjoyed a recent Saturday night there, but readers beware: unless you go before the end of the July, the restaurant in its current format will no longer exist. Given six years of success and multiple plaudits, it is only fair to consider why the place is going for a revamp (and name change). It was certainly busy the night we visited but Kate, the effusive owner, informed us this is a place people choose for (civilised) celebrations and so only visit once or twice a year rather than on a more regular basis. Unsurprisingly, restaurateurs normally prefer the latter pattern of more predictable footfall to the former. I will be intrigued to see what they do with the place, but we loved the old world, slightly decadent art nouveau charm of the place, the intimate tables and the friendly service. Graze can also be praised for the inventiveness of its tasting menus (far more interestingly composed than several we have encountered in London), even if the paired wines were probably better than the actual dishes. My omnivorous journey started with an amazingly good seared scallop, beautifully presented and perfectly complemented with pickled shimegi (a form of mushroom), radish and salsify puree. It set a high note from which to follow. Sadly the rabbit terrine that followed was very average (dull and flavourless) and the beetroot-cured salmon simply bizarre, with highly discordant flavours. I am sure the ‘basil and lychee syrup’ did not help. The menu was redeemed by an excellent fillet of lamb, while both puddings (a honey and cinnamon parfait and then a black forest mousse) pleased, again scoring well in terms of presentation and taste. There were similar hits and misses on my comrade’s vegetarian menu. Throughout both our meals, Graze excelled in its wine pairing with the presence of a False Bay Chenin Blanc, a Ripasso Valpolicella and the ever-sublime Rutherglen Muscat being stand-out features. Pricing, certainly relative to comparable London experiences, was also very favourable. Let’s hope that the team at Graze retain what they are good at and improve on what is currently lacking.