Adventurous pub food lands on Preston Street

Tom Griffiths first hit my radar when he was head chef at The New Club.

Friday, 2nd October 2015, 10:20 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:45 pm

Tom Griffiths first hit my radar when he was head chef at The New Club - specifically last summer when he launched his weekend 'supper club' menu there.

This ever-changing evening menu allowed him to deviate from the Club's usual brunches and burgers, and try out more playful, inventive, and seriously impressive food on its diners. I became an instant fan.

Tom has since parted ways with the New Club and ventured out on his own with a nose-to-tail dining concept called Flank, currently in residence at the Royal Sovereign on Preston Street. Each deceptively simple plateful has only around three key components, and Tom's whole ethos centres on no part of the animal going to waste.

He's not joking either: the night we visited, dishes included ox tongue, smoked ox heart, pig ears and pork jowl. Tom's passion for cooking seasonally was also evident, with beautiful autumnal ingredients like cobnuts, blackberries, truffle, and crab apple dotted around the menu. Everything this man turns his hand to is a foodie's delight.

Pig ears, sliced into strips, fried and dunked into a peppery cola dip, were my ultimate bar snack '“ salty, sweet, crisp and fatty. Homemade toasted sourdough came drizzled with a bone-marrow butter that was so moreish and rich, I could happily have eaten just that all evening.

Short rib '“ from rare short-season Dexter cattle '“ was an absolute triumph. This cut usually requires low, slow cooking, resulting in meat that falls off the bone, yet this arrived as pink and translucent as rare beef fillet. Tom takes a clever approach by cooking the meat sous-vide for 72 hours at sub-60 degrees, then finishing it on the barbecue.

This attention to detail and deep understanding of his ingredients is what makes Tom such an impressive cook. The rib was served sliced, off the bone, with a rich, glossy sauce '“ that's it. Simple, effective and highly confident cooking. Dripping triple-cooked chips were fat, crisp and fluffy - a perfect accompaniment.

Pork jowl with crab apple, salt-baked and pickled carrots, angelica and shallot, was meltingly soft - I've never known fat to collapse so easily under the touch of a fork '“ with the tangy apple and pickled carrot cutting beautifully through the meat. I enjoyed the dish a lot but there was, even for me, a bit too much fat.

Hogget cooked two ways, served with dumplings braised in liquor and a sharp homemade piccalilli, was the ultimate comfort-food dish - a beautifully balanced and well-cooked plate.

During the day, Tom serves up proper pie and mash, and at weekends he's doing a roaring trade in roast dinners. I'm not sure whether the pub is the right place for his evening menu, though '“ it's a traditional, cosy boozer and possibly a bit too low-key for such unusual, ambitious food.

By his own admission, Tom reckons he's taking a huge risk serving up this kind of fare to a pub crowd, and told me he'd one day love to open Flank as a restaurant in its own right, which sounds brilliant. In the meantime, head down to the Royal Sovereign to try some of the most interesting food in town.

Flank at The Royal Sovereign

66 Preston Street, Brighton BN1 2HE

@flank_brighton 01273 323289