Review – The Waterhouse Bar & Terrace
“Ooooo!” – my lunch buddy coos in appreciation of the swish Art Deco interior of The Hilton’s Waterhouse Bar and Terrace.
We’re here to check out the relaunched afternoon tea and new signature dishes of Executive Chef Peter Buckingham, launched as part of their Spring menu. It soon becomes apparent that this menu has been a real team effort with cocktails matched to each course by Bar Manager Nick Heasman, plus a united team of attentive staff to back it up.
Peter talks us through the three courses, starting with a delicate Mackerel Salad. I often think this is a fish that has got an undeserved bad rep as overwhelming in taste and aroma. This delicious course consists of two fillets of delicate, wonderfully grilled, crispy skinned mackerel perched atop a crunchy salad. It is fragrant and mouth watering and would make an excellent light lunch choice.
Peter is keen for us to understand the hard work the team has put into locally sourcing the menu: Shoreham fish, Hailsham reared lamb, Sussex Scrumpy cheese – even the gin in our cocktails is produced by local award-winning spirit suppliers Blackdown.
“We’re giving people what they are asking for,” says Peter – and perhaps that hasn’t been easy when dealing with an international brand (sounds like there have been mountains of paperwork to get through) but Waterhouse are adamant that they will provide a unique, Brighton experience amongst the Hilton chain.
The main is a juicy lamb burger with smokey cheese, bacon, tomatoes and green peppers in a soft, sweet brioche bun. The bun itself has a satisfying crinkly top and I’m pleased to find it does not suffer from ‘soggy bottom syndrome’. It’s a simple, straight forward burger; meat that is not over-seasoned or overwhelmed with sauces and a choice that makes it different from the influx of trendy beef burger joints that have been popping up around town.
I ask Peter about his choice to not include a dressing on the accompanying salad (that may not be to everyone’s tastes). For him, this is about cooking that is simple and allows diners to enjoy great ingredients that are cooked well – without too much interference. I find Peter to be passionate and proud about what he is doing here at Waterhouse and he has managed to create a menu that is very accessible.
Now for the really fun bit… the dessert course, aka Brighton Rocks. It’s a pink cheesecake with Brighton Rock whizzed into it, topped with toffee popcorn and candy floss. Bring on the sugar high! It’s very sweet but the accompanying cocktail cuts through that sweetness perfectly.
We browse the afternoon “tea by the sea” offering (also available in “Mad Hatter” kid size portions). Stacks of seaside inspired sandwiches, savouries and sweet treats. It’s the spirit of a trip down the pier with mini doughnuts and a smaller version of the Brighton Rocks dessert. I try a mint chocolate macaroon and a mini toffee apple before admitting defeat. Unfortunately – although the spirit is willing – our bellies are full.
Bear in mind that there is a much larger menu than that outlined above; including sandwiches, grazing plates and mains. It isn’t cheap. I loved that burger but in all honesty at £15 a pop it wouldn’t be a regular choice for me. However, what The Hilton is aiming to offer is something a cut above in terms of atmosphere and service. Don’t get me wrong – I love Brighton’s many laid-back eateries and relaxed vibe in general – but that just makes what you get at the Waterhouse a little more unique: it’s old fashioned superb service and a portion of posh.
Quiet enough to work or have a business meeting – I even spot a yummy mummy having a peaceful coffee. It springs to mind that this is the perfect place to bring that desirable business client, relaxed enough to be pleasant, yet with staff who are attentive and in surroundings that will make you feel special. The menu is fun and by the end of 3 courses (and 3 cocktails) it will be hard for anyone not to feel they have been well and truly treated. For the same reasons this is a venue where you could take someone for a special occasion. I imagine refined hen parties, birthday luncheons and mother-daughter days out.
Whatever the occasion, Waterhouse is bringing a bit of Ritzy style with a Brightonian twist to town.
Laura’s food and drinks were complementary courtesy of The Hilton Waterhouse Bar & Terrace