When the calendar ticks over to the 1st of December, the hospitality industry goes into overdrive. But what to do when you just want a good quality meal out that has nothing to do with all this festive cheer? Or what if you’ve got limited time before the rest of your evening’s antics? I’d suggest you get yourself down to The Coal Shed to check out their set lunch/ pre-theatre menu, available weekday lunch times (12-4pm) and Mon – Thurs evenings 6-7pm. A concise menu that works for those off to enjoy a show or just fancy some great no-fuss, quality cuisine, these dishes are the most alluring part of any given evening.

So forget the show, let’s have some star-quality food. Heading down on a particularly cold and damp evening, a colleague and I were seated in the window, amongst the restaurant’s plush curtains and polished wooden decor. Dim lighting and soft music made us feel at home as we scanned our menus. Happily accepting apéritifs of gin & tonic in elegant wine glasses with fresh lemon and grapefruit slices, adding a welcome twist to the taste, we sat back and admired the decor around us. Its soft greys are a nod to the name of the establishment and look classy and clean.

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Our starters appeared from the kitchen in a timely fashion as we notice the table next to us are also taking advantage of this pit-stop menu. Vaguely keeping an eye, we’re both surprised at how quickly this set menu can be demolished! The back and front of house teams clearly work in unison to keep customers on time for the rest of their evening plans. So, our starters. My dining partner opted for the guinea fowl and chestnut terrine, orange and brioche. The taste of the fowl was phenomenal – perfectly cooked, the gamey bird had a beautiful flavour that when combined with the chestnut, was elevated tenfold. The brioche added a crunch to the overall texture of the dish which was great next to the succulent meat. I chose the mackerel rillette, served with dashi and purslane. The pate-like rillette was divinely moist and was accompanied on the plate by a green jelly, which was so rich with the taste of the sea we fought over the last mouthful.

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Our G&Ts cleared, a caraffe of The Coal Shed house white arrived at our table. A lovely crisp and dry wine, it was served almost in unison with our mains. Continuing with our meat vs fish culinary adventure, my colleague opted for the flat iron steak with beef dripping chips and chimichurri, while Iwent for the pan-fried hake, charred broccoli, beetroot and sweetcorn. The Coal Shed’s method of grilling their proteins directly over burning charcoal locks in the taste, and heating up to temperatures of 500° you can see how this menu can be executed at such speed. The steak came sealed to perfection on the outer with a soft pink inner – a perfect match for my companion’s taste. Sharing the chips, I can be frank when I say that these were perfect. Chunky and crisp but with fluffy centres, they went really well with a chimichurri sauce which was clearly made in-house. The sauce complimented the steak so well that we were discussing coming back halfway through our meal. My hake dish was beautifully presented – the fillet of fish glistening on the plate before me, elevated by the vegetables that added more dimensions to the dish with each mouthful. The moist, succulent protein even now makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Now, broccoli isn’t usually something I get excited about but on this dish its texture was almost like a crisp kale and it tasted wonderful. The charring was carried off in the most amazing way. The components of the dish married together so well – the combination of tastes and textures really made it stand out for me. The beetroot puree added a punch to the dish but wasn’t overwhelming – aesthetically we were treated to a vibrant mix of colours contrasting with the pure white of the fish

Feeling a little more than full, we enjoyed our wine before deciding to go all out and get a dessert. We went for the chocolate arancini, pistachio and cocoa nib. The former component of this dish was the star. A crisp shell came away to reveal an oozy chocolate filling, the flavour accentuated by a green pistachio cream of sorts. The cocoa nib gave us a hearty taste of pure chocolate which added an ever so slight bitterness too the dish. Content with our meals, we relaxed into the rest of the evening. The considerate portions are ideal for a lunch or pre-event meal, and at £15 for two courses or £17.50 for three it’s very kind on your bank account too – a greatly welcomed thing when Christmas presents have drained your resources.

The Coal Shed is at 8 Boyces Street, Brighton BN1 1AN

www.coalshed-restaurant.co.uk