Walking into The Set on Regency Square is what I would imagine it would be like to hop off the beaten track in New York into some sort of bistro bar. Having never actually been across the pond I can’t say for sure, though I can say it’s a fantastic feeling place that would sit happily in any major city around the world. We’re lucky enough to have it on our front door step. The Set is tucked away in the back of the Artist’s Residence, the décor smartly mixed with a nod to a rustic style.
A set of saloon-type wooden doors off the set of The Walking Dead were definitely my favourite aesthetic. These mark the divide between the restaurant and its little sister, The Set Of Scales – a seafood ‘dirty diner’ equivalent, selling burgers and more.
We’re greeted by friendly front of house staff that make it their mission to ensure a relaxed and chilled out environment. At our pass-side table, we feel as if we’re sitting at a bar – quite a nice feeling for the end of our week. With just 20 seats, it’s a cosy yet classy place to spend an evening; a bustling vibe rising as a couple more tables are seated. The open kitchen allows for the chefs to introduce themselves and for customers to watch as they flicker from some serious chefing to hanging out as old friends. The two main players in the kitchen are Semone Bonner and Dan Kenny. Having years of experience in top restaurants, the pair eventually met through their positions as the head chefs at the local Ginger chain (Pig and Man, respectively). They’ve constructed three set menus with accompanying wine flights (£25.00 per head) and, naturally, we go for the whole shebang.
The seasonal menus are four courses each (ranging from
£27.00 – £35.00) with scarce wording, preventing customers from knowing what to expect. Bonner says that it gives him and Kenny space to play with the dishes and reinvent them at a moment’s notice. I can’t say I expected my ‘venison, mac n’ cheese, cabbage’ from menu three to appear as a weighty cut of venison atop a shallow pond of rich jus with a cube of macaroni cheese fried in breadcrumbs. It seems to be the goal of the kitchen to keep their customers guessing. My dining partner went for menu two, ‘leek, ash, smoked cheese, pecan’ as the wording for her main. Each component was present and correct but once again with a playful twist, the smoked cheese appearing like a hay bale. The generous number of courses means that the food can be nurtured as it’s cooked. By this I mean the flavours are the centre focus, the starters building up to something like a crescendo at the mains with a sweet ending by the time our desserts hit the table.
Soon enough the produce won’t get much more local as the outside space leading off from the restaurant is about to be transformed into an urban allotment, lending itself to Kenny and Bonner’s kitchen. The pair have created the perfect Brighton restaurant – top quality food with a jeans-and trainers atmosphere.
The Set is at The Artist Residence, 33 Regency Square, Brighton
Words by Freya Hughes