Review – Semolina
Semolina sits tucked away on Baker Street, unassuming to the average passer-by. But those in the know will have heard the murmurings of appreciation for this wonderful new London Road-based cafe-cum-bistro.
Run by husband and wife team, Linda and Orson, Semolina is a dream come true for the hardworking couple. Run solely by them, with Linda heading up front-of-house duties and Orson as head chef, Semolina focuses on “good food cooked well” and has a strong emphasis on using local produce.
Having opened last November, Semolina is the duo’s first venture together. Orson’s experience as a chef has seen him cater for many popular Brighton pubs, including The Geese and Shakespeare’s Head. At Semolina, Orson aims at bringing his experience and passion to create a welcoming, intimate bistro.The menu has Italian, French, and British influences – plus farther afield cuisines such as Thai and Indian.
All dietary requirements are catered for, something so important when opening an establishment in a diverse city such as Brighton and Hove. Dishes include a colourful beetroot, orange and pomegranate salad (v), whole grilled plaice, brown shrimp and caper butter (gf) and pan-fried squid, bass, coconut and coriander with jasmine arancini.
Sipping on a fruity non-alcoholic pomegranate cocktail, we ordered. Laura, with whom I was dining, opted for the crisp belly of pork, seared black pudding and jerusalem artichoke (£6), with roasted duck breast, spiced red cabbage and parsnip gratin (£15); I chose the clam and cockle chowder (£5), followed by venison haunch, creamed celeriac, glazed carrots and kale (£14).
Nibbling on gorgeous homemade, warm bread and softened truffle flavoured butter, I couldn’t help but feel relaxed in Semolina’s intimate setting and notice that everyone in the small space looked like they felt the same: laid-back and having a great time.
Presented after a short wait, our starters were both very good. Rich and thick, the clam chowder was well-seasoned with chunks of potato floating alongside salty clam and cockles and went perfectly with the homemade bread. For me, the chowder verged on being too creamy, but others may see this dairy overload as a good thing.
The pork belly dish was presented beautifully: tender squares of pork, thick rounds of homemade black pudding on a bed of smooth, creamed jerusalem artichoke. Laura waxed lyrical about how much she enjoyed this dish.
Cut into slender morsels, the venison haunch was exceptionally well cooked and retained a lot of juiciness and moisture, with a perfect light pink centre. Surrounded by small carrots and sitting on a bed of thick creamed celeriac, the balance of sweet and earthy flavours of this dish worked really well. The crispy kale, however, tasted far too bitter for the plate and could have been omitted.
I was particularly envious of the duck with red cabbage and parsnip gratin, as I watched Laura thoroughly enjoy this splendid, well-cooked plate of food. Both plates weren’t over-complicated and did exactly as Linda wanted: good food cooked well.
Charming, intimate, great service, and a varied seasonal menu. What’s not to love about another lovely addition to London Road’s growing food scene?