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Q&A with Alex Preston of Meat Bread Wine

Alex Preston of Meat Bread Wine in Brighton

On the opening week of the new Meat Bread Wine deli in North Laine, Nick Mosley catches up with co-owner and Brighton hospitality familiar face Alex Preston.

Tell us about yourself…

I’m Brighton born-and-bred and have worked in the city’s hospitality sector from the age of 14. Having worked in fine dining and Michelin level restaurants for most of my career, I recently was involved in the opening of Embers restaurant in the Lanes. My latest project is converting the space that was formerly home to the acclaimed Isaac At into a deli and wine bar.

What initially piqued your interest in wine?

I studied catering and hospitality at Brighton Metropolitan College and fell in love with the latter. My third year focused entirely on hospitality and during that time, I experienced a wine tasting class with local vintner Henry Butler; something clicked that I could make wine a full-time job.

On my 18th birthday, I had a bottle of Ridgeview sparkling wine produced outside of Ditchling and the blinkers – literally – came off. But it wasn’t until I joined the team at Isaac At team that I realised just how many Sussex vineyards I had cycled past when I was younger. I just couldn’t see them before as I didn’t know I needed ‘wine goggles’!

You were ranked by Harpers as one of the UK’s top sommeliers last year…

It was completely unexpected recognition for me. I’d spent a lot of time working at Isaac At but hadn’t engaged with the national scene outside of a handful of collaborative events. To be named in their top 25 last year was a massive wake-up call and acted as a catalyst to show me what I could achieve.

Meat Bread Wine is taking over the former space that Isaac At operated from in Gloucester Street, North Laine. What has the transition been like?

To say the past year has been the busiest of my life would be an understatement – to anyone reading this who has emailed me, all I can say is I’m sorry and I will get back to you.

Following the public announcement of Issac At’s closure, there have been months of planning. The advantage of being one of the team who helped build the physical structure of Isaac At, I knew how I could take things apart to reclaim and use it again. We’ve had a complete redesign of the kitchen and built a new shop front. The seating area has a new look, including plans to put memorabilia up on the walls commemorating the time my dad spent as a greengrocer in the local area.

What is the concept of Meat Bread Wine?

From the get-go it has always been a deli first, owned and operated by myself and my good friend Maria. The site has a deceptively high footfall of people walking past and the majority of those are people heading to work or coming home from it.

Any good wine place becomes a deli in how they curate their charcuterie board selections, so why be one when you can be both? When we are open you can expect delicious sandwiches, snacks, sauces and finish-at-home meals. On the wine front, England will remain at the fore but also expect to discover wines you’ve never thought to try before from oft-overlooked regions and countries.

Can people take away as well as enjoy your offering in the venue?

Take away was built-in from the start. Whilst some people have time to kill many of will want to grab-and-go. Once we are up-and-running then we’ll also be looking at offering a delivery service.

We’ll be open Monday to Saturday from 10am and close around 6pm on weekday evenings but later on Fridays and Saturdays. While I’ve been building, Maria has been making sure we have the produce and recipes ready to roll. Due to licensing, wine is available for takeaway through membership of our ‘MBW Club’ – which includes 10% off food – with a rotating hand-picked selection available to enjoy by the glass or bottle in the deli itself.

In a challenging economic environment, will your entry level offering be price sensitive?

We are focused on our local community and – as a Brightonian – I wanted to create a space that I’d find attractive and accessible. I certainly don’t want anyone to feel priced-out of the venue; I’ve been to enough places myself only to turn around and leave again because of excessive prices.

Will you be serving up any special events?

Absolutely yes with the caveat that we’ll do it when the time is right. We would love to go in all guns blazing with events, however we don’t want to dive in with too many things only to fall short. Our ears will be open to what our regulars want to see first and we’ll take it from there.

You must be excited about your pre-Christmas opening…

Yes and I really want to say a big thank you for all the supportive messages I’ve already received; I’m looking forward to what this next chapter brings. Anyone that would like to keep updated can follow us on instagram @MeatBreadWine.

Meat Bread Wine, 2 Gloucester Street, Brighton BN1 4EW


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