I like it when something turns out to be completely different to how you think it is going to be
I like it when something turns out to be completely different to how you think it is going to be. This is exactly what happened on my recent visit to Fourth and Church.
I thought I was heading into a wine shop that did a few nibbles. What I actually arrived at was something so much more.
Situated opposite Hove Town Hall where Church Road meets Fourth Avenue this new neighbourhood shop and café bar is the brainchild of Sam Pryor and Paul Morgan.
Each bring many years of food-related experience into this venture, and the concept is simple; great wines, great produce, and great flavours.
The bright and open space - with an interesting wall of wines on one side and deli counter on the other - immediately sparked my interest and I browsed before taking a seat in the window.
What I was then treated to was nothing short of exceptional. Sam took me on a flavour journey that was one of the most memorable I have had in a long while. There were moments that transported me back to childhood holidays in France and new flavour combinations that rendered me momentarily speechless.
Things started gently with a Mezze-style dish of Marmara pepper with roast garlic, mint hazelnut dukkah and yoghurt (£4.00) which was incredibly fresh and light with subtle chilli and citrus accents.
This was followed by their homemade gravadlax (£5.50) with dill crème fraiche and cucumber. The cured fish was not overly salted and the classic combinations were spot on. Both dishes were matched with a suitably fruity and slightly sweet Custoza white wine.
Next up things got more intense with a soused mackerel dish (£5.50). The vinegary yet mildly sweet fish was served with a celeriac and mustard coleslaw adding a savoury edge; sweet crunchy carrot added more bite and texture. This came with a crisp and zingy Razza white from Portugal that I really enjoyed. The charcuterie board (£10) consisting of speck ham, fennel salami and a pork terrine was of the absolute highest standard. Picked plums added a fantastic sweet contrast to the meats and picked caper berries a sharp contrast to that. The revelation of this course was the sweet onion tart (£4.00).
It was so flakey and caramelised it resembled an onion mille feuille; some pine nuts and basil leaves brought it back into the realm of the savoury. I could have happily eaten this over and over again.
A warm dish of ham hock and chorizo stew which had a Spanish feel to it followed. It was a very simple stew that was comforting and tasty rather than rich and hearty. This was served with a creamy, vanilla tinged red from the Napa Valley.
The dish that followed summed up the whole experience and what I felt Fourth and Church was all about. The focal point was a creamy yet mildly tangy butter-like Durrus cheese (£5.50) that hails from Ireland. This was served with more of the sweet and fragrant pickled plum and a caraway and coriander parchment bread.
This was matched with a mildly bitter vermouth which was an inspired choice. The combination of flavours was stunning and yet so simple.
To finish I had a chocolate and cardamom chocolate pot (£5.50) which was so silky smooth it practically swallowed itself.
This was matched with a deep molasses flavoured sherry which added to the decadent delight of the dessert. Fourth and Church has achieved something quite remarkable; bold yet simple flavours made from quality produce yet at a very reasonable price. They create nearly everything in house by curing, fermenting and pickling their artisan produce.
For me what stands out most of all about Fourth and Church is not the quality produce; nor the fabulous wines and drinks; but it is the knowledge and palette of the two chefs that put it all together. These guys know how to make flavours work and sing together. They run regular tasting evenings which sound too good to miss but do not wait for one of these; pop in of an evening or afternoon and let Sam and Paul take you on a food journey that you will not forget.
Fourth and Church
84 Church Road, Hove, BN3 2EB
Open 10am till 10pm Monday – Saturday