Now in their sixth year of trading, business partners Sam Pryor and Paul Morgan have firmly established Fourth and Church as a quality drinking and dining staple in the Hove food scene. Nick Mosley talks to Sam about their shared love of great wine and food and the ethos behind their restaurant-bar business. [This story first featured in the Brighton Argus]
What’s the concept of F&C and when was it established?
We opened Fourth and Church in 2015 with years of experience in the industry, endless enthusiasm but not a lot of money. We took a bit of a risk in Hove as there were not many interesting places to eat at the time. Since then we have seen this end of Church Road go from strength to strength.
We have always had really loyal customers who have been with us from the start of our journey, we really turned the corner when we decided to focus on what we do best, serving really different and leftfield food and wine in a friendly neighbourhood environment. We had a restaurant refit in 2019 which gave us space for counter dining as well as table service. This really helped define who we are and our brand. These changes have been well received and we have recentlty had two amazing reviews in national newspapers.
Tell us about the food you serve...
We serve small plates with intense and exciting flavours and a multi-course tasting menu on Friday and Saturday evenings. Vegetables, meat and fish are sourced locally in most instances. Spicing and special flavours are drawn on from our travels around the Levant, South America and the Far East, through a very British lens. We build layers of flavour through traditional and modern techniques including an extensive fermentation program.
How many on your team and who are they?
We have a fantastic small team. Consisting of some very skilled chefs with experience in multiple Michelin starred restaurants and other more casual establishments from London to Australia, the USA, Brazil and beyond. Our front of house team has extensive wine knowledge, both from advanced qualifications and many years working within the industry. Their passion for wine and food is unbounded, and nothing gives more pleasure than talking this through with our guests.
We are extremely lucky to have the people we have within our team, particularly as it is getting more and more difficult to recruit post-Brexit and the effect of the recent lockdowns. We are always looking for great people to join us, especially those with a passion for wine, cocktails and a mission to learn.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I met my business partner Paul Morgan the best part of 25 years ago while working in restaurants and we always managed to stay in touch. We met up again in 2011 working together briefly and both thought it was the right time to open somewhere on our own.
This was 10 years ago and certainly at the time perceptions of wine offerings in many restaurants was either basic or seen as unattainable and stuffy. We loved wine and wanted to bring some more unusual bottles to a wider audience. Besides this, we talked extensively about the restaurants we loved. The common theme was definitely one where you could choose a lot of different dishes and tastes across the menu. This always seemed like an adventure as well as a meal, although some might call it greed on our behalf!
We shared the excitement of going to tapas restaurants throughout Spain, particularly Seville and the Sherry towns, all with their own specialities. In addition, late-night drop-ins to different places around Brooklyn for exceptional food and wine, or a particular meal enjoyed in the Camargue, with vegetables from their sun-soaked garden and local fish brought in at regular intervals. We wanted to create a casual environment but offer a wonderful experience for our customers to explore exceptional wines and food with us.
How have you coped/adapted during the pandemic?
We have continued developing our wine retail business, which has been really exciting. We have recently increased our supplier base, and with our presence online, this enables us access to unusual wines not available in other restaurants. We now have well in excess of 350 different wines available to drink in or take away. It is quite a job to keep on top of tasting and understanding them all, but it is always fun! We have also been able to concentrate on developing some of our specialist areas including Sherry, a category we are hugely passionate about.
What would you like to tell people about your business? What are your USPs? Where do you source from?
There is a dichotomy in the wine world between ‘beanie-hat wearing’ new school sommeliers who dismiss all but the most agricultural tasting wine fermented in clay pots and the ‘blazer and chino set’ who focus on a small number of historied regions. We really enjoy drinking bottles from both these worlds, where small passionate producers are making excellent wine at different price points.
It has always been our mission to help our customers enjoy really exciting pairings of food and wine. When we taste wine from our suppliers and wine producers, we often try the food at the same time. We know we have succeeded when the hairs on the back of our necks stand up and we get a rush of dopamine. The intensity of flavour of both the food and wine is increased by their combination. We try to bring those experiences to people both in our recommendations in the shop and through our multi-course wine tasting Sunday events.
What are your plans for the future?
Fourth and Church in Hove will always be the hub for our experimentation, tasting and developing new products and exciting dishes. Over the years we have developed many firm favourites and have some very special wines and signature dishes that we would like to bring to a wider audience. We are always on the lookout for different locations, you never know, we may be opening up near you soon!
Fourth and Church, 84 Church Road, Hove BN3 2EB