Making my way through the icy cold streets of Brighton on a Tuesday night after work last month, my colleague and I took our famished selves down New Road for a bite to eat. We pushed open the door to The Courtyard to be instantly greeted by delicious wafts of hot food and the lovely smile of the head waiter.
As he showed us to a table, we were taken aback by the size of the restaurant, which from the outside looks quite small. We were led into the main room, with its open-plan kitchen format, and admired the surroundings. There were numerous trees scattered throughout, adding to the whole aesthetic, which – surprise, surprise – resembled… a courtyard. Now, The Courtyard prides itself on offering a contemporary British menu, with a core focus on meat and fish dishes. All of the ingredients are sourced locally, in season and although there is a strong focus on British dishes, some of them do appear to have a European twist.
While the waiter poured us a glass of perfectly cooled and crisp Sauvignon Blanc, we ordered a ‘Market Fish’ sharing platter (£14.95). The portion was incredibly generous and its arrival perfectly timed as we tucked into our abundance of fruits of the sea. There were succulent giant prawns bathed in a white wine sauce and perfectly battered fresh calamari, with breaded whitebait and a mountain of fresh shiny wild salmon strips.
Choosing the main was a truly difficult task, as everything sounded divine. Some items really jumped out at me, from halloumi and cajun-seasoned burgers with hand-cut chips to fillet steak and The Courtyard fish pie. Settling on the waiter’s recommended dish – which also happens to be the restaurant’s ‘signature’ plate – seemed like the most obvious choice. This was the Pork Belly (£11.95), with my colleague choosing the daily Chicken and Mushroom Pie with buttered mash and seasonal greens (£12.50).
When the food arrived, the chef once again didn’t hold back on portions. The pork belly on my plate was not being far off the size of a brick. It was tender and succulent, with the crackling being perfectly crispy and well-seasoned. It was presented on a bed of creamy cabbage and thyme jus, together with a fresh apple sauce. However I resisted the urge to gorge because I had already spied the dessert menu.
Dessert consisted of the homemade treacle pudding (£6.95) – served with a berry compote and double cream – while my colleague opted for the very festively priced Mulled Wine & mince pie (£3.95). Well it is Christmas! Both of us practically licked our plates clean.
Leaving the restaurant was a challenge, especially as I felt as though I’d expanded to the size of a small house! Overall however, The Courtyard is a strong contender on the scene for foodies who like unfussy, classic home-cooked dishes at a reasonable price. It’s one of those restaurants you’ve probably walked past a hundred times and never thought to take a peek. Well there is no time like the present.
The Courtyard is at 20 New Road, Brighton BN1 1UF