The challenge of a hotel restaurant is that it has to be all things to all people. It’s an ongoing frustration to hoteliers – particularly in older properties – as to how to service solo business guests, informally dressed tourists and locals out for a celebratory meal all in the same space.
Add to this that unfortunately UK hotel restaurants, outside London and the super-premium spa hotels of the home counties, have also gained a reputation for mediocre, overpriced food and poor levels of service. You can thus see the problems for hoteliers: all we want to do is dump our bags and make for the door, whereas they want us to stay and play.
Now The Grand has seen its fair share of relaunches over the years – none of which particularly addressed the above issues – but with their restaurant Cyan that opened pre-pandemic but didn’t have the chance to shine, they’ve finally hit on a format that works.
In terms of the interior, it seems to have landed in the sweet-spot between effortless style yet kicked-back casual, which is a mise-en-scène that has clearly alluded many other restaurants on the seafront no matter how hard they’ve tried.
On my visit, Cyan’s huge oval central bar played host to a couple of eclectic groups of work colleagues and clients but the majority of diners were enjoying the sunset over the West Pier from the adjoining conservatory. It was a mixed bag of couples and families with a pleasant level of jovial conversation and inoffensive background easy listening music from the 60s through to today.
Overall, the menu features classic, trusted dishes that offer up a pretty good choice for all tastes. The plating is contemporary but the food is reassuringly familiar, which is no bad thing. And quite clearly a lot of thought has been put into sourcing good quality ingredients and equally levels of skill in preparing them.
To begin, we opted for crispy kale stems in a light, crispy batter served with sweet chilli sauce; it was a perfect example something very simple done very well. Equally the prawn and crayfish cocktail was packed with the good stuff – no scrimping on the shrimp here – and was also beautifully served with a mini Bloody Mary shot on the side which was a nice touch.
Our mains included a seafood linguine which looked a little disappointing on arrival as the pasta had been piled on top of the lobster and tiger prawns but no complaints from my dining partner once we got his fork twisting. I went with the cod accompanied with various peas and beans, minted potatoes and cream sauce with a satisfying toasted crumb. The fish was clearly top notch and the vegetables were exemplary, and that is high praise indeed as this dish makes a weekly appearance on the table chez moi.
Dessert was a shared pineapple tatin with coconut sorbet which had an impressive structure and filled the entire room with the most delicious smell. If I could’ve bottle the aroma and taken it home then I would have.
The drinks list is comprehensive with a really decent range of craft beers, cocktails and wine by the glass from a fiver. There’s a great nod to Sussex vineyards with Stopham, Bolney, Rathfinny and Nyetimber represented and – every Brightonian’s favourite spirit – Brighton Gin, topped the selection of gins.
Staff-wise, it was a joy to see a few familiar Brighton hospitality faces bringing professional yet friendly service back to The Grand. I was equally impressed by our young table server Sarah who clearly had a thorough understanding of all aspects of the menu and wine card and provided exceptional service. We definitely need more ‘Sarahs’ in Brighton.
In terms of price-point, the menu is variable. Decent sized starters range from £7.50 to £12 with mains beginning at a very reasonable £15 through to a somewhat eye-watering £58 for a whole local lobster but most dishes sat around the £20-30 mark. Note that sides are priced separately which is personal bugbear of mine; I know in this day and age that the every penny counts when it comes to margins but a fiver for mashed potato? Just plate the dish as a well-balanced portion and charge a couple of pounds more if need be.
All-in-all this was a really enjoyable evening and I can easily see returning with my parents or slipping in on my own for a sneaky second round of the cod dish. Without doubt Cyan is the best incarnation of The Grand’s restaurant I’ve experienced in my 20 years of dining in the city. It’s thrown the formality and pretensions out with the proverbial bath water and is now an inviting space with an approachable menu that offers something for everyone. Proof that there’s definitely a lot of life left in this Grand Old Dame.
Review by Nick Mosley
Cyan at The Grand, 97-99 Kings Road, Brighton BN1 2FW
01273 224 300 • www.cyanbrighton.co.uk