An exquisite experience at Isaac At's Test Kitchen in Brighton

The term 'experience' is banded about a little too often these days but the Isaac At's Test Kitchen is well worth the description, and some...

Cured and torched mackerel, green pepper and Granny Smith broth, and a green pepper ketchup.
Cured and torched mackerel, green pepper and Granny Smith broth, and a green pepper ketchup.

It is a hugely impressive and enjoyable experience hosted by passionate professionals who are buzzing with enthusiasm, not just for the food and drink they have chosen but also for their brilliant independent restaurant.

The Gloucester Street venue is looking good after a lockdown spruce up which has seen sublte changes with a little reclaimed Sussex timber, and lot of creativity.

They've a made a cracking job of softening up the aesthetic of the kitchen and pass and created a really nice vibe.

Monkfish, chive and salted cucumber sauce

At the Test Kitchen you're positioned just inches away from the action at the recently improved pass and the culinary view couldn't be much better.

The menu begins as a mystery. An unknown pleasure.

Although one certain thing is that the ingredients haven't clocked up any air or sea miles, as Isaac At pledges 'Sussex on a plate', and similarly a taste of old Blighty in a glass with an all-English wine list.

The stated aim of the Test Kitchen is for the guests to engage with chefs and become involved in the process of their innovative menu development.

Braised Trenchmore ox cheek and heritage grains in a braised onion, beef jus

Newly created dishes which go down a storrm will then soon make it to the regular menu

On our visit chef Beth Collings, a relatively new face at the venue, was ably assisted by sommelier Alex Preston, with head chef Caspian Armani lending a hand and doing more rigourous cleaning than most people do in their kitchen over the course of a decade.

We started with a Midsummer's dream of a dish.

Cured and torched mackerel, green pepper and Granny Smith broth, and a green pepper ketchup. Wonderfully light and as green as a lush English lawn (or at least a pre-heatwave lawn).

Honey madaleines, Earl grey syrup, honey yoghurt sorbet and lemon balm.

The brightness of the apple and pepper was a perfect livener for the local fish, and was all the better for the addition of Alex's first bold English wine pairing which brought some floral notes to the garden party.

Next up was a superbly cooked and beautifully golden fillet of monkfish in a rather gorgeous buttery chive and salted cucumber sauce.

After two courses we were making rapid headway through the cutlery, after draining both bowls of the broth and sauce. Decorum be damned.

Post-poisson, Beth served up a absolute beast of meat dish.

Braised ox cheek, from Horsham's Trenchmore Farm, with heritage grains in a braised onion and a beef jus.

The slow-cooked beef was satisfyingly savoury and as umami as they come, and served with a spiffing side of buttermilk hispi, fresh apple and an ace relatively close-to-home smoked cheese in the form of the Ashdown Forresters.

Alex came up with another winning wine pairing, instead taking the predictable approach of choosing a full-bodied brute of a red to accompany the ox, he chose a lighter red from the Biddenden's vineyard in Kent, which instead of attempting to match the robust flavour was a more discreet partner.

Pudding was Winnie the Pooh's dream - honey madaleines, in Earl Grey syrup, honey yoghurt sorbet and lemon balm, and was equally alluring to your reviewer who started on the sweet before he remembered to take a snap.

The honey pud was served with a surprisingly subtle Mead from Loxwood in West Sussex. Winnie would presumably have taken a semi-delirious nap after both.

To book a place at the Isaac At Test Kitchen call 07765 934740 or go to