Tom Flint: Hove meets The Hague at pop-up

The snacks to start, including the fabulous bloody mary oyster
The snacks to start, including the fabulous bloody mary oyster

Brighton Food Festival is not just about our fine city. The organisers look to promote Brighton’s chefs across the world via the international chef exchange events.

I have attended a few of these in the past and always enjoy seeing the chefs working together to create a one-off meal, and this autumn’s festival was no different.

The Japanese-inspired salmon starter

The Japanese-inspired salmon starter

Continuing with the festival’s links to The Hague, I attended an evening at Hove’s wonderful Etch restaurant where chef Steven Edwards welcomed Mark Van Bemmel into his kitchen. Mark is head chef of Publique in The Hague. The festival event would be a collaborative effort, showcasing a mix of modern Dutch and Sussex fine-dining styles.

A menu of five courses was on the cards, but as ever there were a few extras along the way to supplement the menu. We were first served snacks including a fabulous bloody mary oyster – something that would make a truly exceptional hangover cure. It was joined by an astonishingly flavoursome mushroom and truffle doughnut and some superbly crisp chicken skin. From this start, we knew we were in for something special.

Etch operates that ever popular mystery menu style where a couple of the key ingredients are listed. Personally I am not a fan. I like to know what I am eating, but as this was a set menu I was not so bothered as I wasn’t picking my dishes. For our fish starter this resulted in a pleasant surprise. Listed as ‘Salmon – Horseradish’ I was expecting something quite British, instead we were treated to a Japanese-inspired dish bursting with freshness and flavour. The slab of near raw salmon was superb and the tangy sauce and fresh cucumber made for a sensational dish – one of the best I’ve had in a while.

Next up was a delicate octopus dish that had been perfectly prepared. It went down very well at our table, although I was still reliving the joys of the salmon in my mind. This dish was followed by artichokes with onion, and other unlisted ingredients.

The divisive pineapple and coconut dessert

The divisive pineapple and coconut dessert

It was possibly a little on the tart side and I was not convinced by the texture of the purée, but the artichoke and charred onions were a great match.

The meat main featured a medallion of beautifully prepared pork with compressed potatoes and asparagus. It was as close to a Sunday roast as fine dining comes, with the crispy pork scratchings adding the crunch. It was an accomplished and comforting dish.

We finished with a divisive dessert of pineapple and coconut. Divisive as two of us don’t like pineapple and I also dislike coconut. Despite this, the desserts were eaten mostly without issue; the mango sorbet was delightful.

Another great festival event and it is always good to spend an evening at Etch; the chefs appeared to enjoy working together and the guests all left full and happy, and you cannot ask more than that.