Located on Western Road, Market Restaurant & Bar is a long-standing go-to for discerning Brighton diners who crave modern Spanish gastronomy sourced and cooked with passion. Nick Mosley pulls up a stool at the bar and enjoys the new Spring menu created by head chef Adrian Hawkins. [this story first appeared in the Brighton Argus newspaper 11 March 2022]
Now nearing it’s 7th year, Market has always been a favourite of mine although due to the ups-and-downs of the past couple of years, a visit for a proper meal - rather than a cheeky vino and snack - seemed long overdue. Taking inspiration from a Spanish bodega, Market is without doubt one of the most atmospheric restaurants in Brighton with its green tiled and mirrored walls, hunking legs of Iberico ham swinging from the ceiling and strings of dried chilli and garlic.
There’s no denying that the focal point is the copper-topped bar that spans the length of the restaurant. Although there are regular tables to choose from, the bar stool seating adds to the informal ambiance and is certainly my preferred choice as a perch to watch the bustling activities of the staff - pouring, slicing and plating - and a vantage point to have a good old nosey at other guest’s choices.
The restaurant serves up the Spanish kitchen; the offering includes generous boards of cheese and charcuterie alongside small hot and cold tapas and larger ‘raciones’ plates. It encourages you to ‘para picar’ – pick and nibble – so choose what you fancy, order at will and share – or not – as the case may be.
With this month seeing the launch of a number of new plates and dish revisions, my dinner guest [and esteemed colleague] decided to choose from those accompanied by a carafe or two of lively Verdejo white from a succinct but perfectly formed drinks list that also has a strong offering of vermouth, Port and Sherry fortified wines which is always nice to see as a personal fan of aperitivo-style eating and drinking.
Week after week I seem to be writing more about the rise of plant-based dining in Sussex so it was pleasing to be able to choose from a good selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes alongside the meat, fish and dairy based plates. I’ll eat pretty much anything but I’m increasingly excited by what chefs are rustling up with vegetables - it’s allowing those working the stoves to get creative and think out of the box. Market doesn’t disappoint.
The very first dish, a tapas of vegan smoked cashew nut croquettes with orange emulsion turned out to be one of the stars of meal – a dish of sheer beauty. Quite how so much flavour was crammed into a small package is testament to the undoubtable talent of the kitchen team led by chef Adrian Hawkins.
A further stand-out new dish was perfectly cooked pulpo - octopus with potato and smoked Chistorro cured sausage that’s typical of the northern Basque region of Spain. This was a memorable plate that was well balanced in both texture and flavour. Like squid, octopus is always one of those ingredients that can go horribly wrong when poorly prepared but this was melt-in-the-mouth.
Although perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing of the dishes, the Pedro Ximénez Sherry braised ox cheek with red cabbage on a mash of saffron potato was rich, hearty and almost a meal in itself. I could quite happily swing by Market once a week for a plate of this; I dare say it would eventually put hairs on my chest.
Clams and white
bean cooked in Sherry – a Spanish classic – more than met expectations with a further inspired vegan dish of smoked beetroot dressed with hazelnut, chilli and garlic a definite crowd-pleaser.
Although I rarely - and unfortunately - find room for a dessert when I dine out, restaurant manager Margo Henson twisted my arm with an obscenely delicious slither of rich chocolate tart and digestif of glass of sweet Manzanilla Sherry.
Although food and restaurant trends are currently in flux, Market continues to innovate and it shows, in a good way. The kitchen clearly cares about sourcing well and cooking honestly and creatively. The venue design remains relevant and there’s a genuine feeling of conviviality between diners and the front of house team. Happily, this is one Brighton restaurant that definitely isn’t resting on its laurels.
Market Restaurant & Bar, 42 Western Road, Hove BN3 1JD
01273 823 707 • www.market-restaurantbar.co.uk