I am going to come clean straight away. The reason why I am going to review these restaurants is in the hope that word gets around that I might be reviewing a place and then maybe the serving staff would give me some goddamn respect. Hence the picture. There, that’s my face, remember it well waiters of England. It would be nice to get some kind of return for all this (admittedly minimal) effort I’m putting in.
Anyway, with interests fully declared, Oki-Nami. It’s a Japanese restaurant, as you may have guessed, in Brighton, and its fab. It is the ideal luncheon venue in that it is cheap, cheerful and with quite quick service. My companion and I both dined from the special lunch menu (we were there at lunch time, by the way), and were both very happy. The staff were pleasant and affable, maybe having recognised me, and the building was a lovely regency affair with twisty staircases. Any excess waiting was softened by the chopstick wrappers which doubled as origami patterns. My companion D had the very last tempura vegetables whilst I had pork belly (and is it just me, or is the pigs tummy the only thing they seem to be serving anywhere these days) with noodles.
For afters I had Japanese Millionaire’s Shortbread, though the only oriental element seemed to be some green ginger, and D had green tea ice cream which was refreshing but disappointingly not Tempuraed as promised. All washed down with plum wine and sake, enough to make me fairly giddy in the afternoon. My only criticism (apart from my other criticisms), was that there was a baby seated on the table behind us who uncannily mimicked both the looks and actions of our own child whom we had fled to the South Coast to escape from.
It might undermine my apparent objectivity but we did appear to visit the two best restaurants in Brighton. Even if you were resident there you might not be aware of Alexander’s, located as it is off the main drag up and in the basement of one of the little hotels on the Old Steine. It is definitely worth the trip, as it is probably the finest restaurant I have ever dined in. It might be due to the fact that this is one of the first times I overcame my natural thriftiness and chose not to dine in a restaurant of the sort described above.
Or it might be all the booze we drunk.
Whatever the reason, it was great. There was a distinct lack of atmosphere caused by the remaining tables being filled by couples who seemed to have looked upon the place as a neutral location where they could sit and scowl in silence all night. But the waiter chap was friendly, and the toilets where Bali themed and reached through a secret passage, which I think is important. But most of all there is the food, the sort of food you wish could be conjured into reality by the sheer power of your memory, as memory could only ever be a cold reflection of the majesty of the process of eating.
I would warn you, though, don’t go if you’re a vegetarian. From the mighty amuse-bouche of pancetta on black pudding it was a big meaty fishy treat. I had my first ever lobster bisque as a starter, but it was the mains that really shone. Excellent ingredients cooked excellently seems to be the secret. My main was really three, a superb goose breast, a hare confit and some stuff which I never quite worked out what it was but tasted fine. As a special bonus I also got to eat my companion’s crackling as she had misread the menu. Eating other people’s food always gives it a little touch of specialness, which pushed this pork belly (see!) into the pork stratosphere.
The wine list was magnificent (we went for a sparkling wine from nearby Ditchling), the music was so good I begun to get paranoid that the guy had just nicked my iPod and put it on shuffle and the waiter (who turned out to actually be Alexander in the end) was very welcoming and enthusiastic when explaining the food. Also, by lasting three hours it solved our dilemma of what to do after dinner. We went to bed and watched TV.
Finally, a tip. Pretend you’re staying at the nearby Sea Spray hotel and get 10% of the bill (or actually do stay there, it’s great and has an Elvis themed room).
As if to punish us for such fine food, our final meal on the train home was straight from the anus of Satan. Due to my usual underestimation of how long it takes to travel by foot between locations and my insistence on having a hot cookies and cream milkshake (big mistake) we were unable to have fish and chips on the beach. My companion D was not best pleased as we ended up in East Croydon at 3pm still unlunched, so we decided to use our 10 minutes between trains to check out the culinary options available to us.
There weren’t many, but on a platform side Delifrance there were some surprisingly inviting looking Croque Monsuiers. Sure they were expensive, costing about as much as our tempura/pork tummy noodles the day before, but they were ham sandwiches with melty cheese on them, what could go wrong? The fact that they had a consistency more akin to bodily fluids than actual food, and a taste that could only have been reached by several months of consultancy, focus groups and hours spent in the lab trying to come up with the flavours most likely to cause someone to pull a face combining disdain and disgust.
I wonder if the whole thing is a cunning French satire on fast food?