Review – GB1
Opening in February of 2013, GB1 markets itself as “one of Brighton’s new and glamorous and hotspots” as well as “offering a unique dining experience”. I would assume the glamour and uniqueness is based on the centre piece of the stylish restaurant – the 20 seater oyster and Champagne bar. Located in the centre of a large, light room with high ceilings, the bar runs in a horseshoe shape with high, pink leather seats running around the outside.
Initially we were seated here by our attentive and polite waiter, however, after a long day at work, I didn’t want to be placed on the equivalent of an adults high chair, nor was I overly keen on watching someone working whilst I was trying to have a conversation and eat food. Furthermore, Mum remarked it reminded her of Heathrow Airport – hardly a unique or glamorous concept.
Don’t get me wrong, the bar is a great for those who fancy a glass of wine, a flirt, a chat, a cocktail and a nibble on some shellfish, but not ideal for a sit down meal. I can see the appeal for those dining alone as you’d be able to interact with someone whilst enjoying your meal. But was it for me, not at all.
Being re-seated on a wide table for two in the corner, we were keen to read the menu and see what GB1 had to offer. The menu itself was designed by head chef Alan White, who rumour has it, aimed for dishes that were symbolic with watching the waves crash on the shore outside. It’s no surprise then that the menu is heavily fish centric with a few options for vegetarians also.
Broken down into a variety of sections, the menu very much based on a pick and mix ethos. You can order your usual starter and main but add shellfish, oysters, crustacea and sides to mix things up a bit. Prices range from around the £9 mark for fish and chips up to £150 caviar and £60 lobster fruits de mere with extras starting at £2.50 and working up towards £13.50 for 6 oysters.
We started by ordering 3 Native Oysters (£6.75 for 3) and a glass of Italian Prosecco (£6.50) to go with them. You can order your oysters with a variety of sauces, including the standard raspberry and shallot or be more adventurous with cucumber and pancetta. Both Mum and I went for waxed lemon, keeping it nice and simple.
The service and presentation was impeccable, it reminded me a lot of when I was in Paris a few years ago for my birthday. Very fancy, yet modern and accessible. The oysters themselves I were expecting to be slightly larger and plump, however am told this is because I am used to rock oysters – native oysters are smaller with a more meaty texture. Picking one up and drizzling it with a lemon, I slipped it into my mouth and savoured the salty, yet creamy oyster. Delicious. A brilliant start to the meal.
I began to relax slightly in the formal dining area and we ordered a bottle of Chateau de la Roche Touraine Sauvignon Blanc (£29) to accompany our starters and main courses.
As previously mentioned the menu was a minefield of shellfish, fish and crustacea and it took me a while to eventually make my mind up. I initially ordered the crab, however was informed upon ordering that it was unavailable that evening. I wish I’d known before placing my order, as I made a hasty decision based on the waiters recommendation of the Duck & Pork – fried duck egg, with Sussex pork belly, wild mushrooms, veal jus and eggy bread (£6.50) instead. For main, I had the South Coast Turbot – with samphire and seafood casserole and girolle fish sauce (£16).
Chatting idly and wondering what the dishes we ordered would be like, we didn’t have a long wait until our starters were presented.
The presentation of the dish was really good – a well thought out dish. The duck egg looked a fantastic shade of bright, neon orange (something my poor photography skills have managed to not grasp) and the veal jus was a translucent, sticky drizzle of pleasure.
Tucking in, I enjoyed the different combination of textures, from the soft and saturated eggy bread to the sticky duck yolk and the crunch of the fatty pork. These all worked, however I don’t feel the dish as a whole worked as a starter. I felt like I was eating breakfast with the combination of pig, egg and bread. Each element was cooked well but for me, it didn’t gel together as seamlessly as it perhaps should have done.
As we awaited service for our main course, we both remarked how much we were enjoying the white wine we’d ordered. It was a really good bottle and as I’m not a huge white wine fan, I was really enjoying the crisp, sharpness with hints of lemon coming through – a great recommendation from our waiter and the perfect accompaniment to our main course.
The dish was minuscule – I’ve had amuse bouche bigger than this in other fine dining establishments. Being served in a large bowl didn’t help the dish and I promptly ordered a second basket of bread.
The turbot itself was well cooked. It remained firm, moist and fell apart into the rich, creamy casserole underneath. I also enjoyed the samphire which was beautifully and delicately laid on top of the fish. The sauce was enjoyable as were the tiny griolle mushrooms floating in it. These elements all worked together very well.
Expecting mouthfuls of glorious seafood to be uncovered as I broke away my fish, I was mildly disappointed to find a few clams and not much else. Overall, there was nothing exciting going on here. It was a well cooked piece of fish, with a sauce and some veg. No pizzaz or personality came through in the dish.
Am I missing something? Are chefs signature dishes designed to be small and of low substance? As I ate my third piece of bread and mopped it into the remains of the sauce, I seriously questioned whether I am miles behind this ‘fine dining’ malarky and this is how we’re meant to eat out nowadays – paying a lot of money for a very small quantity of nothing special food?
I took a look at the desert menu but realised I was only looking to order something to fill the gap in my stomach. Paying the £110 bill (!) we left feeling slightly let down by GB1.
The Grand hotel and GB1 may have all the gear but it really has no idea. Mediocre food served at high prices with an air of pretension. Attempting to cater for everyone but having an expensive oyster bar as the centre piece then trying to pass that off as unique? It doesn’t wash with me. As accommodating and polite as the waiters were, both Mum and I came away feeling a bit, well, mugged off by GB1. Perhaps we weren’t the right clientele? Who knows.
GB1 had caught us, hook, line and sinker, gutted us then throw us onto the pile. I don’t think I’ll be returning although I’ll certainly be attempting to cook more fish at home, that’s for sure.
Words and photographs by Claire Beveridge