Review – Grow 40
The simplest things can be hard to find. When eating out, I often just want a relaxed, atmospheric spot, where I can chat for hours over a simple meal and great bottle of red, somewhere that isn’t hyped, overpriced and noisy. I want a lovely little bistro like Grow 40.
Formerly Café Delice, it’s run by the same people but with a new chef – Parisian Mickaël Blanchett, formerly of the acclaimed Pig hotel group. As before its refurb and rebrand, the restaurant opens daily for breakfast and lunch, but now serves dinner all week, too.
Downstairs, all exposed brick and wood, is inviting and cosy with outside tables for excellent people watching. Upstairs is more intimate, candlelit and appealingly rustic – arguably a better option for dinner. There’s even a wine snug at the back. It’s that rare all-purpose café/restaurant where you can stop for coffee, wine and charcuterie, or a long, boozy meal.
The dinner menu is small, which I like. Four starters, five mains. We started with goose rillettes, pickle, red onion purée and focaccia (£5.75), a great plate for sharing with classic flavours and contrasts. Razor clams with lemongrass crystals, rocket butter and parsnip purée (£6.50) were cooked well without a hint of chewiness, but could have packed more flavour.
For my main, it had to be aged ribeye with fries and Bearnaise (£20.50). I’m a complete sucker for this dish and here the beef was cooked exactly as I like it and really well seasoned. The Bearnaise, a little too sweet perhaps, came as a huge bowlful. Big thumbs up (I don’t react well to thimblefuls of Bearnaise).
Pan-roasted pork with sweet potato, sage jus and curly kale (£13.50) wasn’t at all dry, and fillet is such an easy cut to mess up. Sweet mash, bitter leaves and woody sage with pork – it’s a failsafe combination.
We didn’t want to leave our candlelit corner, so I went for a dark chocolate and chilli fondant with white chocolate sauce (£6). The fondant was a touch overbaked, but tasted great with just enough chilli heat. Sweetcorn cake with salted toffee popcorn and yogurt ice cream (£5.50) was syrupy and almost nutty in flavour, not unlike polenta cake. Incidentally, everything we ate also features on the lunch menu.
Service, by manager and sommelier Steve, was attentive and informative. Here’s a guy who’s clearly proud of his restaurant and its ethos – using local suppliers and growing their own produce wherever possible. He chatted enthusiastically about the roof garden, which will be open this summer to customers, and his wine recommendations were spot on – I love that they serve 500ml carafes at just £15 each.
My only complaint? Too much wooden board and slate action going on. I’m just not a huge fan of eating meat straight off a porous board from which many others have eaten before me. It’s a small gripe but one I know I share with many others.
All in all, for a simple, understated meal in romantic, cosy surroundings, this is the perfect place.
Grow 40, Kensington Gardens, Brighton BN1 4AL
First published in the Brighton & Hove Independent on 3rd April 2015