Review – Sven-Hanson Britt @ Café Rust
Masterchef fans will remember Sven. He made it to the final three of the Professionals series last year, impressing with beautiful dishes that celebrated seasonal, foraged food. So, when I heard he was coming to Brighton to host a pop-up titled ‘Spring Dinner’, I couldn’t wait to book a table. At £30 for six courses, it seemed more than a bargain.
Sven promised ‘a few surprises served up in a beautiful location’, and I certainly can’t fault the venue he chose. Café Rust (formerly Metropolis) on Preston Road, near London Road, is a lovely, intimate place and quite unlike other cafés in Brighton with its industrial-meets-vintage feel – unfinished plaster, stark steel light fittings, distressed wood and high ceilings.
Echoing our surroundings, the menu was pared back and delightful in its simplicity. “The Broccoli – Nose to Tail” saw a humble vegetable re-imagined as a vivid green, surprisingly great myriad of textures: charred stalk, wilted leaves, broccoli purée and a broccoli crumb, dotted with wild garlic flowers.
Cornish sardines on “toast” – a clever skin of breadcrumbs hugging one of the fillets – were accompanied by parsley and horseradish. English asparagus with confit egg yolk, hazelnuts and broad beans, a modern version of a classic, had us gleefully dunking the spears into a rich, sexy yolk dredged with parmesan. Brilliantly executed and gorgeous to eat.
Hampshire lamb was served as two dishes: melting, shredded shoulder with sheep’s milk curd and fresh peas; then a perfectly pink fillet with lamb crackling, wild garlic leaves and a sticky, shiny jus enriched with lamb offal, a contender for the best sauce I’ve ever eaten. Utterly delicious, this was for me the standout dish of the evening.
Moving everyone downstairs to a low-ceilinged, whitewashed cellar lit by church candles and dotted with vases of elderflower was one of Sven’s surprises. Here we sat at long wooden tables and dug into poached rhubarb and damsons, then caramelised banana with gingerbread, praline and a rum gel that packed a seriously boozy punch.
The night ended with Sven handing out gifts that elicited squeals from me and my friend: brown paper bags filled with homemade chocolate bourbons and jammy dodgers. The whole evening was just so convivial, laidback and fun.
I asked Sven why he was holding a pop-up in Brighton, hoping he was considering a permanent move here. “I’m from Hampshire and have spent quite a bit of time in Brighton, but I only recently realised how good the food scene is here,” he said. “Brighton has a really great vibe, and having a pop-up here just seemed like a natural stepping stone. Also, Café Rust is such a beautiful spot. I do hope to get back here sometime in the near future.”
These dining experiences, some in the most unusual of locations, really are a must-do for anyone who wants to try something different.
Cafe Rust, 50 Preston Road, Brighton BN1 4QF
First published in the Brighton & Hove Independent on 29th May 2015