I’m a big fan of the whole brunch thing, primarily because I never eat breakfast as I can’t stomach food first thing in the morning but I do like breakfast-y foods such as poached eggs, bacon butties and the like as they are so familiar and comforting. Secondly, it seems far more socially acceptable to have a glass of bubbles or cocktail with a brunch.
The Lost in the Lanes concept is very confidently built purely around breakfast and brunch. It quietly opened around five years ago and quickly gained a good reputation for quality produce and cooking. I recall dining there when chef Ian Swainson did a weekend pop-up but – what with the dramas of the past few years – it hadn’t really stuck in my head as a go-to place.
Nonetheless I eagerly anticipated my review when I visited last month for a long-overdue catch up with my mate Marie from Stopham Vineyard. Now I have to admit I walked past the venue twice because I thought it was on the other side of Nile Street. Perhaps too many brunch cocktails have addled my mind over the years.
But no, my confusion arose due to the fact they’ve had a recent renovation and expansion so they now have a double frontage and the dining room is now at least twice the size of the previous incarnation. Despite only doing a Monday to Sunday daytime service – they aren’t currently open in the evenings but I hear that changes may be afoot – the decor and overall ambiance is a lot more restaurant than café. The bustle of the huge open kitchen and background chatter of diners is pleasant, creating an informal feeling, with tables sufficiently spaced to offer privacy without compromising on the cosiness.
The menu offers up a decent but predictable range of breakfast classics that you’re likely to find at numerous cafés in the hip-and-happening Lanes and North Laine. French toast, avocado on sourdough toast and traditional hearty cooked breakfasts. I had a good old nosey at what the girls on the next table were tucking into, and I must say the Smoky Beans looked and smelled amazing and would have brought great joy to this cowboy’s heart.
However, it was the lunch menu that was on the cards for us. I can’t say I wasn’t at least a little surprised by how complex these plates read and I did genuinely wonder if they would fulfil their rhetorical promise. Beetroot cured chalk-stream trout, gooseberry compote, rye bread, wakame curd, caperberry; red pepper fregola, courgette, whipped feta, parmesan crisp, sweety drop peppers; salt beef hash, dill pickle, kale, poached egg, brown butter… these are the kind of descriptions I’d be expecting from the city’s big name chefs not on a lunch room menu.
So, after much debate and a glass or two of amazing Assyrtiko wine from Greece – owner Natalie’s family herald from that neck of the woods – Marie opted for baharat cauliflower, aubergine, baba ghanoush, pomegranate, harissa and preserved lemon with naan bread and I – due to my magnetism to all things Asian cuisine – went for Korean pork belly, stout and XO black beans, kimchi, panko and black sesame egg.
Hands-down, both of these dishes were faultless. Desperate as I am to find at least one little point to nitpick over – this is a review after all – I genuinely can’t think of a negative thing to say.
Marie raved about the bursts of Levantine flavours mirrored by the visually exciting mix of textures and colours provided by the jewel-like pomegranate and seeds over perfectly cooked roasted vegetables. She assured me that the Greek wine was the perfect bedfellow; and she should know as wine is her business.
The Korean-style pork knocked my little cotton socks off: a hearty slab of melt-in-the-mouth meat in a rich - but not overpowering - umami glaze matched alongside a sharp and refreshingly tangy kimchi salad. Happily, I also did get my beans and mighty fine they were in a deeply flavoursome stout and XO Hong Kong fish sauce.
This kitchen is fearless in its use of big, punchy flavours and is clearly accomplished in how to ensure the multitude of elements effortlessly work together in harmony rather than having a punch-up on the plate.
There’s no scrimping on portion sizes and the quality of the ingredients is clearly demonstrable in every mouthful. Vegetarians and vegans have plenty to choose from, and if you’re avoiding gluten – which I currently am – then around half the dishes can be adapted. In terms of pricing, Lost in the Lanes isn’t the cheapest in the ‘hood with breakfast at £10-14 and lunch plates £14-19 but now I know how high they’ve set the bar for themselves it represents incredible bang for your buck.
Lost in the Lanes serves up unashamedly confident cooking with a capital C. I won’t find myself lost ever again for lunch in central Brighton.
Lost in the Lanes, 10 Nile Street, Brighton BN1 1HW
01273 525 444 • www.lostinthelanes.com