Review – Avenue
All-day restaurants are popping up everywhere, which makes me happy. I love being able to drop into places I like, any time I like, to get a decent plate of food. And in a society which now demands instant gratification – contactless payments, on-demand TV – it makes perfect sense.
Avenue is a new restaurant by Ben Ranger, the man formerly behind Hove Kitchen. He has effectively lifted the all-day-dining business model that did so well at its last home, and brought it a few streets west to the site formerly known as Topolino Duo in Hove. Whether you’d eaten at Topolino or not, you’ll have probably known it as “that Italian place on the corner with a terrace that looked a bit holidayish”.
The terrace is thankfully still there, unfortunately covered the evening we visited. It was brass monkeys outside – in June, sigh – so we couldn’t eat alfresco, but I imagine a sun-soaked brunch or Sunday roast here (I’ve heard great reports) would be absolutely lovely.
We didn’t need much convincing to try a pre-dinner drink at the mezzanine bar, a slightly gloomy space which definitely hasn’t yet reached its full potential. It’s a tricky area to work with, both light and layout-wise, and Ben assured us he was thinking hard about how to maximise this part of the restaurant.
I really hope he does, too, as the cocktails here are exceptional. The menu features playful, clever twists on classics, such as Nikkas in a Twist (£9.50), Avenue’s version of a Manhattan which combines Japanese Nikka whiskeys with Griottines cherries. Sweet, smoky and dry, it was the perfect aperitif. Get the seating area up here bang on, and Avenue could well become a go-to cocktail place in its own right.
British and Mediterranean
Onto the food, which centres on British classics with a hefty nod to the Med. We enjoyed the warm, subtle spiciness of black pudding croquettes with parsnip purée (£6), while ultra-crisp calamari – a tumble of rings and curled tentacles – were delicious dunked in a great homemade aioli (£6.50).
The Avenue cheeseburger with homemade sesame brioche bun (£11) arrived with gherkins, lettuce, onion and tomato on the side, allowing me to customise the burger myself, but I found the whole thing a bit dry – a few homemade relishes would’ve made this a lot more fun to eat. We’re spoilt here in Brighton with some brilliantly inventive burger places; by comparison this one was a bit disappointing.
My friend’s aged rib-eye with red wine jus (£18.50) was declared perfect, cooked rare and bloody as requested, while a side order of green beans with chilli and garlic was also fab. The chilli had been fried to that precise point where it imparts a whack of smokiness without tasting bitter. Very good indeed.
A trio of desserts (just £5.50) was perfect for two, the star attraction an Earl Grey crème brûlée. I can’t abide Earl Grey as a tea, but its floral smokiness works surprisingly well in cakes and puddings.
The chef here clearly knows what he’s doing, the food is reasonably priced and service is flawless. While I get the feeling Avenue hasn’t quite yet figured out what kind of restaurant it is, we had a fun evening and overall were impressed by the food. If you live in the area, give it a go – and I have to insist you try a cocktail.
Avenue, 65 Church Road, Hove, BN3 2BD – 01273 739 742
First published in the Brighton and Hove Independent – Friday 19th June