Review – The Foragers
Tucked away on Stirling Place is The Foragers, a pub that rings a bell in many seasoned Brighton and Hove citizens ears – and an establishment that has made a name for itself for serving award winning food.
Not quite gastro-pub and not quite sit-down formal restaurant, The Foragers very much sits somewhere in the middle with table service, an a la carte menu and daily specials, yet is also seemingly packed with many locals enjoying a post work pint. Clientele aside, was the food still any good?
Having last visited The Foragers in July 2012 for a family meal, I was dazzled by their local, seasonal and often foraged menu (hence the name). Visiting nearly two years on, the a la carte menu seemed stripped back, more traditional and – dare I say – slightly predictable. One can only assume that throughout the past two years the pubs of Brighton and Hove have upped their menu game and The Foragers now seems to run alongside them and not stand out as it once did.
Ordering a large glass of dark and fruity Shiraz (£6.30), I was presented with the daily specials on a large chalkboard by an enthusiastic lad who also talked me through the menu and informed me that their new head chef was still testing and trialling new dishes. He also added the menu changed every 2-3 months; I’m not entirely sure this counts as seasonal. The emphasis on local produce, however, still prevails at The Foragers with meat from Clayton Farm, East Sussex and organic vegetables from Sussex and Kent.
Choosing the Crispy Pork Belly – with fennel salad and salsa verde (£5.50) to start – followed by the Pink Roasted Duck Breast – with truffle mash, spinach and roast garlic puree (£16.50), for main proved to be a mixture of great highs and room for improvement.
Presentation wise, the crispy pork belly was a gorgeous-looking plate of food. Centred on a clean white rectangular plate, the slather of pig was strewn with rustic-looking fennel and droplets of bright salsa verde. Full marks for the look and feel of the dish – although the pork was slightly dry and the assertive, anise fennel was overpowering. The salsa verde became pale and lost on the plate. In acute honesty, the dish lacked the pizazz and high standard of cooking The Foragers has built its fantastic reputation on.
The pan fried duck by contrast was a good dish. Three thick slices of duck breast sat atop a smooth, truffle-infused mash potato and finished with dark, almost bitter greens that complemented the richness of the truffle well. A slightly pinker duck and a smaller portion of the rich mashed potato would have taken this plate from good to great.
Rounding off the meal, Homemade Carrot Cake – with cream cheese sorbet and candied carrot – was a terrific end to the meal; thick, dense and slightly sweet carrot cake parked neatly alongside an absolutely stunning creamy sorbet. The candied carrot added a playful and intensely sweet element to the dish. Highly enjoyable and a real standout dessert.
The Foragers by no means lacks quality, just the dishes seemed a little rushed, a little over cooked and were very much still in their trial and error stage. With some careful refinement and reflection, The Foragers could soon be the crowning glory of Hove once more.
The Foragers, 3 Stirling Place, Hove, BN3 3YU. 01273 733134
Originally printed in the Brighton & Hove Independent 9th May 2014
Words and photographs by Claire Beveridge