I have been wanting to check out Semolina since it opened over two years ago but due to the restaurant’s well-earned popularity (and my disorganised Brightonian trait of never booking a table until it’s too late), this month marked my inaugural visit to the little restaurant just off London Road. Neatly tucked away on Baker Street – which I had anticipated being a much longer walk than the 10-15 minute stroll from St Anns Well Gardens – our expectations for Semolina were extremely high as the restaurant came recommended by many well trusted sources. For those who take note of TripAdvisor ratings, it also sits firmly in Brightons Top 20 on the site, ranking 14th of over 900 restaurants with a full 5 out of 5 – meaning that before I even arrived I knew they had to be doing something right.
We were greeted warmly as we entered by Linda, one half of the husband-and-wife team that own and run the restaurant. We were shown our seats, and then she proceeded to take the time to talk us through the seasonal, monthly changing menu, offering recommendations as she went. We were told that everything from the bread to desserts and ice creams are made in house, which made our decision to kick off with my favourite Nocellara green olives and some of the ‘bread of the day’, which comprised mini milk and poppy seed loaves served with a deeply golden and full-flavoured olive oil and delicious truffled butter.
We decided to treat ourselves to a pre-dinner cocktail to accompany our nibbles. I opted for the ‘Cocktail Of The Month’ – a melontini – which was a refreshing combination of Blackdown vodka, watermelon, cucumber, mint and lemon. Natalie meanwhile went for a Passion Bellini – Prosecco mixed with St. Germain and passionfruit purée. In my opinion the menu is perfect: not too overwhelming with five carefully put-together starters and five mains offering options for vegetarians, pescatarians and meat lovers. Unusually both Natalie and I ended up going for two fish courses – I decided on squid to start and brill to follow, while Natalie went for the trout salad followed by wild bass.
Our starters arrived shortly after we’d polished off our bread and olives. My squid was perfectly tender, pan fried with salty bites of pancetta, bright green broad beans with a light Gremolata dressing. I managed to steal a mouthful of Natalie’s cured trout and crab salad which was served with thin shavings of radish, cucumber and grapefruit segments and was the ideal starter – light, fresh and well balanced.
As for my main – I have struggled to stop thinking about it in the week since my visit, and am almost salivating at the thought, writing this review. The brill was perfectly cooked, the white fish flaking apart beautifully served with the most incredibly sumptuous buttery sauce with homemade herb gnocchi and minted peas. The dish was incredible, and paired wonderfully with my cold crisp glass of Pasquiers Sauvignon which really cut through the richness of the decadent sauce. Natalie was equally delighted with her bass, served with a handmade crab raviolo, braised fennel and topped of with one of our favourite sea vegetables – samphire.
Despite the two courses being generously sized, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving without trying one of the tempting selection of desserts. We decided to share the apricot frangipane tart served with pistachio ice cream, which we enjoyed with a glass of Monbazillac and an espresso – my favourite way to end any meal. I must have told at least ten or more people about this meal in the week since my visit, it truly is a hidden gem and is absolutely one of my new favourites. To conclude, I should note the meal came to under the £100 mark including the nibbles, three courses, cocktails, wine, dessert wine and coffee. What a steal.
Semolina is at 15 Baker Street, Brighton, BN1 4JN.