As Brighton icons go, they don’t come any more iconic than the Grand Hotel. Much loved by Brightonians in general and an old favourite of ours, it was exciting to be asked to take a look at their new restaurant offering – Cyan.
Exciting and a bit daunting – I mean, if it turned out Cyan was not up to Grand standards, what would I feel like trashing the old girl? On our way over there in the taxi I rehearsed a number of plausible sounding excuses for why the food wasn’t tasty enough, the atmosphere not warm enough and the service not sharp enough. I needn’t have worried. The old Grand restaurant, GB1, was pretty good but it fell behind as newcomers overtook it for style and quality, so Cyan could be seen as a necessary upgrade for the hotel’s guests, but to leapfrog the competition it would have to be done just right.
The Cyan experience starts on the street outside, where the Grand’s quirkily uniformed doormen greet you with a big beaming smile. You bathe in the warmth of the welcome and glide up the stairs into the lobby.
The entrance to the restaurant is a cavernous doorway leading straight to the bar which occupies the centre of the dining room. This bar is a great asset offering guests a place to hang before being seated, or a place to eat while you watch the chefs and bar staff do their thing. We chose the bar to give us a 360 view and an opportunity to scrutinise the staff’s efforts.
The décor is bold, with cyan walls and large white marble wall-panels that give the feeling of being in a beautiful underwater grotto. Surprisingly, the deep green-blue works well, it’s warm and rich and doesn’t intrude into the psyche as you settle into the most comfortable bar stool seats in Sussex.
The staff are with us in a flash to offer menus and drinks, followed by a small plate of light and tasty crispbreads complemented by a mild satay paste delivered with the obligatory nut allergy warnings. It’s a perfect filler to stop you eating your own arm whilst waiting for some real food. This is followed by a plate of breads and spreads, or oils if you prefer – all smoothly served by the waiter and swiftly despatched by us.
After ordering a couple of starter options we spend a while soaking up the atmosphere. Sunday afternoon means families and the layout works well for all, plus I get the feeling that this place will mutate into a cool chic dining room for couples as the sun goes down.
Whilst ordering a round of drinks we get a tour from our server of the changes made. It’s gratifying to hear that the place mats and wall coverings are all recycled plastics, that the focus is on locally sourced fare, that they have a herb nursery glowing purple in the corner of the dining room that will deliver their own herbs for garnish and flavourings and that they cure their own meats, cutting them to order on an old-fashioned charcuterie meat slicer.
As we chat, we see the chefs behind the bar are busy with our two starters, squid and ribs. The squid, not to be mistaken for calamari, is soft rather than crisp, with a breadcrumb coating and a rich oriental sauce – very nice, but not as nice as the ribs, which were simply amazing.
Onto the Sunday roast. The beef was lean and perfectly cooked whilst the pork was juicy. Add veggies done to perfection, big crispy Yorkies topped with a rich gravy and you end up with a Sunday lunch to rival any in town. By now we’re drinking red from a selection recommended by our server and considering a pudding. Treacle tart or sticky date sponge? Let’s have both – neither disappoint. What a great way to spend a cold winter’s Sunday afternoon.
Fine food, easy but attentive service and a warm glow coming from the wine, or maybe from the cyan walls, make this a totally successful afternoon. Cyan is certainly a major step up. I’m looking forward to taking friends and family back to try other items from the main menu.
You know, criticising the Grand would feel like kicking the cane out from under your granny when she’s using it to lean on whilst comforting a distressed child or petting a small dog. I’m so glad I got to dodge that bullet. Well done all at Cyan and see you soon.
Cyan is at The Grand Brighton, 97-99 Kings Rd, Brighton BN1 2FW
Wards by Neil St. John