Head chef of Brighton’s new seafront restaurant says it will offer ‘fresh, vibrant and unexpected’ food

Brighton’s new restaurant and bar Cyan has opened at The Grand Hotel, on Kings Road.

Friday, 29th November 2019, 1:05 pm
Updated Friday, 29th November 2019, 5:06 pm
Kirk Johnson, head chef of Brighton's new restaurant Cyan. Photograph: Emma Croman

The modern all-day dining venue, which replaces GB1, can seat up to 80 people and is offering an interactive dining experience with the food and drink menu inspired by ‘culture, heritage and travel’.

Ahead of its launch event yesterday evening (November 28), head chef Kirk Johnson, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry, including working at country house hotels and Royal Ascot and training with Michael Caines MBE, answered our questions:

How are you feeling about the launch? 
“Excited, exhilarated and a little bit nervous! The amount of restaurants in the city feels astronomical, but that’s even more motivating and inspiring for us to be amongst the top places to dine on the south coast.”

Cyan restaurant and bar at The Grand Brighton. Photograph: Emma Croman

How would you sum up Cyan’s food in three words? 
“Fresh, vibrant and unexpected.”

Where did the concept for Cyan come from and what has inspired the menu? 
“The name Cyan came from the colour where blue meets green. As a seafront restaurant, which sources its produce from both land and sea, we feel really strongly about bringing the best out of locally sourced ingredients, and creating new and unexpected combinations with flavours from around the world.

“A lot of the flavours we use have been inspired by our travels. The concept of food and drink bringing people together is also really important to us, and we’ve structured the new menu around nibbles, small plates and sharing platters which can be enjoyed by everyone at the table.”

What is Cyan hoping to bring to the Brighton food scene? 
“Our residency at The Grand Brighton gives us a central location at the very heart of Brighton’s seafront, where locals and travellers from afar will be able to come for a relaxed all-day dining experience with a menu that can be enjoyed by vegans, pescatarians and meat-eaters alike.

New restaurant and bar Cyan at The Grand Brighton. Photograph: Emma Croman

“The space is incredibly chilled and very flexible, so whether you fancy perching at the bar with your laptop for a daytime meeting or partying the night away over cocktails and sharing plates with family and friends, there’s really something for everyone.”

How long has it taken you to come up with the menu, and when did you get involved? 
“Before I joined the team as head chef, our executive chef Alan White had been pulling together ideas for the concept and menu for the restaurant about a year in advance. We started to have conversations about it at the end of this summer, and we’ve been tweaking the menu ever since to get it just right ahead of our launch at the end of November.”

What are your favourite dishes on the menu? 
“To pick a top three, I’d go with the sirloin steak which we’ve paired with home-made kimchi and chargrilled spring onions. There’s also the soft heat of our Szechuan pepper pork ribs small plate which is incredibly moreish.

“For veggies, I’d certainly recommend our pickled daikon salad. We julien cut the daikon (Japanese white radish), marinade it with a splash of yuzu citrus juice and combine with peanuts, chopped coriander and tempura beansprouts – it’s a great combination of tastes and textures.”

Kirk Johnson, head chef of Brighton's new restaurant Cyan. Photograph: Emma Croman

What can diners expect from Cyan’s interactive dining experience? 
“It’s a great chance to meet our chefs, and we’ll walk diners through what they like to eat, or what they don’t like and we’ll help to pick our recommendations for them.

“Most of our small plates and nibbles will be cooked directly in the centre of the new restaurant space. You’ll see our team serving up sizzling plates of our crumbed squid with gyoza dipping sauce, for example. But we’ll also try out some new dishes over time at the bar too – what better way to experiment with new flavour combinations than by offering up testers to our guests.”

What challenges have there been along the way? 
“Working with a brand new team whilst developing dish concepts all at the same time, has been a bit full on.

“The final run is quite intense before the restaurant opening; making sure everything on the menu is being executed exquisitely, whilst also taking the time out to get to know new team members more personally. But I’ve admired Alan White’s work for a long time, and it feels fantastic to work alongside him. The whole team has been really helpful and I couldn’t have asked for more.”

New restaurant and bar Cyan at The Grand Brighton. Photograph: Emma Croman

What is Cyan doing to be sustainable? 
“The very look and feel of the restaurant has sustainable elements woven through the design. We’ve collaborated with local artists, Weez & Merl, who have helped us to create unique wall displays, menu boards and coasters out of recycled plastic waste. You would never guess that the beautiful marble textures featured throughout the restaurant are made from old plastic bags.

“Our culinary approach to sourcing food has also been to shop as locally as possible and reduce the distance food travels before it gets to your plate. The whole process in sourcing our ingredients is based on seasonality and sustainability, and it’s great that our suppliers back this ethos. We source all our fish from Brighton and Newhaven Fishmongers, who we’re in constant conversation with about what’s in season and available each day. Our first menu will feature a monkfish and baba ganoush sharing dish – which I think will be a real crowd pleaser – but come the new year, we’ll look again at what fish is in season to create a new signature dish.”

What producers is Cyan working with in the Sussex area? 
“We’re lucky to have close relationships with brilliant produce suppliers from across Sussex, and they’re all bringing some really exciting ingredients to our opening menu.

“All of our beef is raised at Trenchmore Farm in Horsham. They’re grass fed, but also eat the same ‘Silly Moo’ apples which we’ve sourced to pair with our Oysters and serve as cider at the bar. For our smoked fish platter, we use tea leaves from Bird & Co – you might have spotted their shop in Brighton’s North Laines. The rest of our cheese and cured meats come from The Great British Charcuterie Co. who are based in Brighton Marina. Aside from the food, we also have some great partnerships with local vineyards and wine suppliers including Butlers Wine Cellar and Bluebell Vineyard.”

Cyan is open from 11am to 10pm

New restaurant and bar Cyan. Photograph: Emma Croman