North Laine offshoot Vine Street is now home to one of Brighton’s most loved Italian eateries. Beginning life as a pop up service, Cin Cin has gone from entertaining parties and festivals to finally finding a permanent home in the centre of town. With a focus on real Italian cuisine, it doesn’t serve pizza and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I’m really glad it doesn’t. The space has been completely overhauled since its past life as The Coffee Counter and is minimalistic and unique – much like its menu. Walking in on a freezing, foggy night, I met a friend to see what all the fuss is about, entering to a quiet restaurant and taking our seats around a near-circular bar/service area. It soon became a buzzing hub of activity as more and more people came into the warmth, quickly filling the horseshoe seating arrangement. As soon as the first group entered we quickly realised we weren’t just at a restaurant for dinner, we were part of a unique family for the evening.
This is an immensely tight operation conducted by owner David, Fabrizio and Jamie (front and back of house, respectively). Settling down in what felt like someone’s home kitchen, we were given a blood orange sbagliato (£7) each. The blood orange gave the drink a wonderful sweetness that, paired with the addition of Prosecco (a mistaken take on the drink dating back to Venice years ago) instead of gin, gave a nice dryness to pair with. As we looked to the gastronomic delights on offer, the front and back of house came together like a well-oiled machine – these guys are clearly tight-knit and work majestically together to create such an atmosphere.
Speaking to Fabrizio, we opt to try some of their cured meats. The team work hard to source ingredients their customers may not have tried before – some we’d never heard of at all. Usually served in the form of lardo di cinta sinese & pane carasau (£6) on the menu, we get specialist advice to try what was essentially pork fat. Though to touch it was a little odd, the taste was creamy and gentle – almost a cheese-like cut of meat. Adorned with preservative seasoning before it’s cut, the flavours really do speak for themselves. Adding to the experience, the fat was cut in front of us for an authentic twist. Second up, we opt for burrata cheese, balsamic reduction and olive oil (£6). If you’ve not tried it, think mozzarella but a whole lot creamier. The balsamic and olive oil add extra dimensions to the dish and a nice salty kick.
Naturally, wine provides a very important aspect of any given meal, especially in an Italian. We tested out their house wines, as they usually give you a good feel for a place. I ordered the white – a familiar pinot grigio with a great dryness. My companion chose the red and was happy with the smoothness. Versatile choices, both worked really well with our dishes.
Making our way down the clear menu, we pick a small plate and a pasta dish next. The former was a beautiful soused (pickled) squid, Castelfranco radicchio, capers and tapenade (£7). The mild form of radicchio left plenty of space for the tart pickled favour, while the tapenade added a softness in texture and a salty kick from the capers finished it all off. The latter came in the form of a vegetarian ravioli bigusto, Jerusalem artichokes, truffled ricotta and greens (£9). Soft parcels fell apart with the touch of our forks to reveal an explosion of flavour. Soft textures and strong flavours made this a winner. Mixed with the truffle and artichoke, the pasta was brought to life. The greens added a nice earthy edge to it all and became one of our favourite parts of the meal.
Feeling rather full, Fabrizio convinced us to try a dessert with a cheeky smile. Chef Jamie chimed in when we ordered the blood orange panna cotta, pistachio crema inglese (£5), telling us that the layering of the ingredients mirroring an Italian flag was unintentional… Yeah, right! These layers kept the dish interesting, with the standout for me being the candied pistachios sprinkled across the top. Washed down with a very sweet dessert wine, we were ready to sit around with our newfound dinner family and while the evening away with good conversation. We quickly remembered that we were in fact in a restaurant and should probably get out of the way for the next wave of hungry diners. Heading into the cold, damp evening, we were already planning our next visit to la casa di Cin Cin.
Cin Cin is at 13-16 Vine Street, Brighton, BN1 4AG