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Review of Bohemia

Californian Stack at Bohemia in Brighton

I vaguely recall the opening week parties of Bohemia, writes Nick Mosley. I say vaguely because it was back in 2012, and there’s been a lot of Chardonnay under the proverbial bridge since then.

At the time, Bohemia was a bit of a game changer for the bar scene in Brighton. Offering a somewhat more grown-up and sophisticated space than that available anywhere else in the city centre, the over 25s door policy met with some consternation from some camps, but there was no doubt this was a much-need evening refuge for those of us who’d perhaps had enough of being elbowed out of the way and shouted down at the bar by kids who’d had far too much to drink than they could handle. That’s what the seafront bars and clubs are for.

Its been a while since I dropped by but I must say that the space has matured rather well. Save for the occasional scuff, the decor is much the same as it was back then yet doesn’t feel in anyway dated. Perhaps – in terms of aesthetic – Bohemia was actually Brighton’s first ‘speakeasy’ bar, long before The Plotting Parlour in Steine Street and the umpteen new pretenders that have popped up, and in many cases popped or rather dropped off, in recent years.

In my mind, Bohemia has always been renowned for its excellent cocktails however having scanned their website, it was the food offering I was interested in so Thursday lunch it was.

I was only person dining – in fact I was the only person in the building other than the very hospitable staff – which was a bit of a shame because during the daytime at least Bohemia offers space to breathe. Then again, having rubbing my nose up against the windows of a lot of other restaurants in the city centre on the way in, I can’t say any of them were particularly busy and some named notables in the Lanes were unexpectedly closed which is concerning on the run up to a summers weekend. I guess that’s simply reflective of the cost-of-living crisis and obscenely high cost of running a hospitality business at the moment; it may also have something to do with the dismal state of the city – echoed by witnessing a passerby trip in a pothole at the end of Meeting House Lane whilst I perused the menu.

Bohemia’s menu card could read – and be presented – somewhat better. I think the ship has sailed from the days when a wooden clipboard and a slightly creased, greasy sheet of A4 printer paper was acceptable. It certainly doesn’t reflect the venue, nor the food when it hit my table.

There are around a half dozen small plates ranging from £6-12 and large plates in the £15 range. The dish descriptions are rhetorically functional, rather than well-crafted wordplays that would get tummies rumbling. With any menu, I like to taste the dishes in my mind before I order and the paper-based presentation was definitely lacking.

But stay with me dear hearts, because when the food arrived both of the dishes I ordered knocked my little cotton socks off.

The plating is a rainbow of colour, with exemplary use of layered structuring and abundant, beautiful edible flowers: it’s an Instagram influencer’s paradise. Both dishes on my order were genuine works of art that I’d expect from 5* hotel restaurants in Sussex but perhaps not from a venue better known for its nightlife offering.

But the proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and I’ve got to say that Bohemia’s chef has utterly bloody nailed it.

My small plate starter – the ‘Californian Stack’ – of chargrilled king prawns, smooth avocado, tangy pineapple and dashes of chilli oil was a veritable cornucopia of flavour and texture. It also wasn’t that small; this would easily make a deliciously affordable lunch or early supper in its own right.

Sea bass at Bohemia in Brighton

The main course of sea bass was next level. When I visit venues, then I oft think of my end-of-the-year round-up of great dishes, and this is going to be one of them. A fleshy fillet of supremely fresh fish with skin cooked to within a crispy inch of its life. The accompanying new potatoes and tenderstem broccoli drizzled in an outrageously good olive oil that added delicious depth of flavour without even an inkling greasiness. Exceptional cooking made only better by the stunning presentation.

I was surprised by what was, and what wasn’t on, the wine list but I had a rather jolly Spanish white that genuinely complimented my dishes.

There are vegetarian and vegan options, and a full breakdown of major allergens is available on request to help guide you.

Hands-up, I don’t know what the evening drinking and partying offering of Bohemia is any longer. Unless I’m being paid to party, I’d rather be slumped on the couch with a bag of crisps and re-runs of Jane MacDonald on Channel Five. But the team clearly genuinely care about standards of service and the food on the plate. And that food is genuinely exceptional. Next time I’m in the Lanes and need a relaxing and affordable lunch then I’ll be heading back to Bohemia for their utterly superb sea bass dish. It was exquisite in every way.

Nick Mosley

Bohemia, 54-55 Meeting House Lane, Brighton BN1 1HB

01273 777 770 •


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