Review – Edendum
A quick look at Trip Advisor tells me there are over 50 Italian eateries in Brighton and Hove. From family-run joints to chains, many of them – with the exception of a handful – dish up cheap and cheerful grub that serves more as convenient family food or stomach liner than a memorable, authentically-Italian eating experience. A lot of people just aren’t fussy about the quality of their pizza dough, or how genuinely Italian a pasta dish is. Each to their own.
It’s a confident and brave move by Edendum to open their Italian café and restaurant on East Street, yards from another independent Italian café and restaurant, and bang in the heart of the Lanes, which seems to house an above-average concentration of Italian places. This is a tough and over-saturated market. What have they done to try and stand out from the rest?
Run by northern Italian couple Lorenza and Diego (a charming, hospitable pair), Edendum prides itself on cooking traditional, regional Italian recipes using the very best-quality ingredients – many sourced from Piedmont – and showcasing some lesser-known Italian dishes. Spag bol, lasagne and Hawaiian pizza are definitely not on the menu.
The emphasis here is on quality and style as much as authenticity: the décor is modern and smart, and they’ve definitely made a concerted effort to avoid “Italian restaurant” clichés. A wall of Edendum own-brand, preservative-free products – sauces, preserves, pasta – are attractively-packaged and worth a browse.
Diego, clearly fiercely proud of his roots, is hugely enthusiastic about the menu, which includes lesser-known dishes like paccheri pasta (handmade on site) with rocket sauce, ricotta and hazelnuts, or cuttlefish with creamed chickpeas.
He suggests we start with magatello di manzo con salsa tonnata – medium-rare beef medallion, finely sliced and served at room temperature with a tuna sauce (£7.85). There’s also a platter of chiacchiere – deep-fried pizza dough balls – with Parma ham, tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and olives (£9.85).
The chiacchiere are incredible: crisp, chewy and oily in a good way, and great dipped in the creamy, salty tuna sauce. The beef is tender; the mozzarella milky and soft. It’s enjoyable grazing fare – simple, moreish and unfussy – and fantastic with a glass of Sangiovese.
Next up, we have frittura di paranza, a mixed fry of squid, octopus, sea bass and prawns; plus a dish of sea bass with sun-dried tomatoes, fried potatoes and salad (both £14.95). Fried orange-peel strips with the sea bass added zing to this very simple yet flavoursome dish, though we felt they could have been more generous with the potatoes. The fried seafood was cooked extremely well with a tempura-like batter that was light and melting – I particularly liked the curly, crisp squid tendrils.
Eaten alone, the fry was pretty one-dimensional in colour and flavour, so I ordered a red cabbage, orange, fennel and goat’s cheese salad (£4.95) for a bit of vibrancy and contrast. I do feel this dish should come with a salad, given the price.
And that’s my only quibble with Edendum – the prices. High rents and top-quality ingredients demand a certain price point, but this is very simple food and we found the portions a little on the small side. Lorenza and Diego are lovely, genuine people, their food is fresh, tasty and honest and the service all night was spot on. I just hope they can convince the non-purist Italian food-lovers of Brighton to abandon the chains and support independent places like this instead.
Edendum, 69 East Street, Brighton, BN1 1HQ – 01273 733800
Review first published in the Brighton & Hove Independent Friday 11th September 2015
Featured image by Julia Claxton.