By Henna Malik
It was 6pm on a Tuesday evening, and after weeks of gorgeous sunshine the heavens finally opened. Luckily for us, we were able to take shelter in the charming establishment that is Pascere.
Welcomed by owner Amanda, the warm atmosphere and elegant design immediately made itself apparent. Well-placed lamps cast a glow across the teal and golden ochre colour scheme of the restaurant’s interior. Cosy velvet seating and unobtrusive, perfectly set tables left me feeling as though I’d stepped into the combined classiness and quirk of a Wes Anderson movie.
Between a cosy corner by the window (perfect for date night) or larger tables in the centre (perfect for a dinner with friends and family), Amanda also offered us seats upstairs – tall, luxury velvet barstools at the pass – how could we refuse the best seats in the house? Glancing around, it was easy to see how well thought-out Pascere was, every single minute element of the space used in the best way possible.
We began with an organic Spanish white, Gran Cerdo (£25), recommended by our server, Rosie. Fresh, fruity and zesty, we enjoyed this one with a couple of small plates to whet our appetites. First was a dish of butternut squash served three ways: butternut crackers, butternuts remoulade and butternut purée. This imaginative dish was a joy to eat. Second, we enjoyed stout and treacle breads accompanied by butter whipped with muscovado sugar. Soft and warm, the breads were a delight to devour with butter melting atop.
When my starter of pan fried scallop with burnt silver skin onions and smoked roe (£11) arrived, I realised immediately just how much attention had been paid to composition and colour, a detail in every dish that made enormous impact. In its rustic, roasted colours, the scallop was juicy and delicious, the bed of braised baby gem tucked underneath soft while retaining its satisfying crunch. Every element worked in perfect balance and no ingredient overpowered another. A lover of all things cute, I particularly enjoyed the tiny baby onions. My dining partner’s beef cheek tortellini with mushroom purée (£10) was equally delicious. Light and dainty, with ox cheek consommé and delicate wafer-thin radish garnish, it was a gorgeous dish.
My main of pan fried stone bass with roasted onions, wild mushroom and sea vegetables (£18.50) was cooked to perfection. It was a beautiful, juicy hunk of fish, and the ideal size too. The vibrant green seaweed was incredibly fresh; I enjoyed the unusual texture and it felt so healthy. My partner equally enjoyed chicken breast and roasted leg with baby carrots, carrot fregola and hay mayonnaise (£17.50). The tiny, bead-shaped fregola pasta really stood out – something I’d never tried before.
We watched the chefs prep our desserts, torn between peeking or keeping our eyes shut in excitement for the finale. These carefully composed works of art stole the show for me. My lavender curd (£8) with shards of blueberry meringue disguised a blueberry and parma violet sorbet nostalgia-bomb – cracking the meringue open revealed that unforgettable violet explosion. My partner’s chocolate mousse with malted milk ice cream and chocolate tuile (£7.50) shone a chocolatey sheen, hiding a tasty biscuity layer underneath.
In front of the open kitchen, every dish presented to us by Head Chef Johnny, sitting on the pass made the whole experience feel so intimate and authentic. Pascere’s ambitious and talented team of chefs produced an array of impressive dishes of which I only wish I could have tried them all.
Pascere have done particularly well to spot a gap in the market where not many restaurants sell every wine by the glass (notably sparkling wines). Owner Amanda says diners should be able to pair wines with dishes to get the best from both – something I absolutely stand with. Pascere also offer small plates and tasting menus, as well as an exciting brunch menu offering much more than the usual avocado on toast. It’s great to see something different and for this reason I believe Pascere will thrive. Based in the pedestrianised area of Duke Street with a fantastic outside terrace, it’d be all too easy to while away a summer afternoon here with good friends, an assortment of small plates shared and a chilled glass of something bubbly. Perfect.
Find Pascere at 8 Duke St, Brighton, open seven days a week.
Call 01273 917949 to book your table today.