With the exception of the eyesore of the boarded up former Lloyds Bank, Kemp Town ‘village’ is looking and feeling rather buzzy at the moment and that’s in no small part to the number of food and drink led businesses that have popped up in recent years. Driven by passionate hands-on entrepreneurs, these eateries thankfully appear to have weathered the storm of Covid and the cost-of-living crisis. I for one say: long may that continue.
Earlier this month, I visited one such restaurant – Arissy Kitchen at The Kemp pub on St George’s Road. Back in the day, I had an office a few doors down from the then Thomas Kemp and I think it’s fair to say that a lot of our more ‘creative’ thinking was done there. Times have changed somewhat – and they’ve most definitely had the cleaners in – for what was once what you’d call a boozer is now a light and airy bar-come-restaurant that’s clearly reflective of a sizeable change in the increasingly sophisticated demographic of this once – depending on your perspective – shabby or bohemian area of the city.
Arissy Kitchen is the brainchild of partners Isobel Hinchliffe and Arianna Salenius. Isy trained at the University of West London before going on to hone her skills in vegetarian fine dining at Rasoterra in Barcelona and at Ottolenghi’s flagship restaurant in London. Ari complements with her background in hospitality operations and marketing alongside a passion for all things food from her Greek-Cypriot heritage.
They began their enterprise during lockdown, delivering set menus to local residents before popping up at Café Rust. Recently – with their move to The Kemp – they were joined by Isy’s cousin, Benji Hinchcliffe, who you may know from his many years heading up the kitchen at Brighton’s La Choza Mexican restaurant and I’ve personally had the pleasure of working with on numerous one-off food events in the past.
It was starting to sound like the dream team, and from a scan of the menu it was also looking that way too.
So, as you may have gathered from the Arissy team’s background, the menu is Mediterranean inspired with more than a hint of Spain and a good dollop of Greece. There’s a pretty decent selection of snacks, small plates, larger plates and sides plus daily specials; around 20 to choose from in total including plenty of dishes to keep vegetarians, vegans and gluten-intolerant diners happy.
Having chatted with Benji, for the first time in a very long time I delegated our choices to the kitchen. The first snack to arrive was a refreshingly sharp dish of chicory, apple and anchovies. Now I adore anchovies – fresh, pickled, salted or in oil – so I know I’d be easy to please on this one but these were exemplary. Also from the daily specials, a delightfully soft pork loin with herby yoghurt and cut-through of sweet and tangy baby tomatoes; it was surprisingly simple yet sophisticated.
From the regular menu, the two stand-out dishes were the Manouri cheese with baba ghanoush of roasted aubergine and sprinkling of candied walnuts, alongside an utterly astounding bowl of braised squid in a sauce of Morcilla blood sausage and butter bean that the word ‘moreish’ was made for.
I have to admit for two reasons, I rarely opt for desserts. Firstly, I’m typically full after a couple of courses and, secondly, my sweet tooth is pedantic. My dining partner stuck with the savoury option of a soft blue cheese with pickled fig served on a delicious looking mini flatbread, whilst I dived into a bowl of sour cherry ice cream with honeycomb that was a flavoursome, palate cleansing end to my meal.
Price-wise, with such a flexible menu, if you’re hungry then I’d say you can eat well for around £30 per person. Equally, if you’d just like a glass of wine or beer with a snack then you can pay much less. As the drinks are from The Kemp’s bar there won’t be any shocks on pricing.
I’m always intrigued as to whether restaurants are sourcing locally and seasonal whenever possible and I can happily report that Arissy ticks that box by using local meets from Brampton’s Butchers over the road from the venue and south coast seafood from Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales in Shoreham harbour. But equally to ensure the authenticity of their dishes, they use quality importers who specialise in Mediterranean produce – including the utterly delicious Manouri crumbly soft goats cheese that is now firmly implanted in my brain as a go-to. The mantra of using local when and where you can but looking elsewhere when the menu requires is not lost on the talented kitchen team.
If you’re on the look out for great, well-priced food in a friendly and relaxing dining environment then a visit to Arissy at The Kemp pub should be high on your agenda. It’s genuinely one of the very best places to eat to the east of the pier.
Arrisy Kitchen @ The Kemp, 8 St George’s Road, Brighton BN2 1EB