For those who know – or perhaps are ‘in-the-know’ – Plateau has been a long-established wine bar–come-eatery in Brighton’s Lanes. Having started their entrepreneurial journey with Mange Tout on Trafalgar Street, friends Vincent Lebon and Thierry Pluquet got their hands on a small but perfectly formed, light and airy retail unit on Bartholomews facing Brighton Town Hall about a decade or so ago and haven’t looked back.
Whilst still firmly at the helm of Plateau, Vincent and Thierry are now back in their native France making wines, leaving the day-to-day operations of the venue to their former head chef, Jake Northcote-Green.
Now keep it to yourself, as I’m going to share a little secret. I’m not sure if it’s a particularly well-kept secret but Plateau has long been a favourite of those of us working in the city’s hospitality scene.
I can think of a fair few reasons for that: a fantastically interesting wine list dripping with natural wines and a good choice of easy-osey yet top notch small plate dining that means you can snack or dine depending on your mood. But, for me at least, I think it’s also due to the talented and friendly staff, and never-ending stream of bon-vivant customers.
I’ll start with the drinks list, as to be honest that’s the main reason for my visits whether for a cheeky mid-afternoon sharpener or a midweek evening pitstop. They do a great cocktail menu of ‘proper’ short cocktails for serious drinkers – don’t expect to be offered a Cosmopolitan or Porn Star Martini. There are few bars in Brighton where you can slug back a bacon-washed vodka with coffee liquor and espresso, but this is one and mighty fine it is too.
Plateau’s wines fall squarely into the increasingly broad camp of organic, skin-contact, bio-dynamic and natural. They are minimum intervention, letting the grapes and natural yeasts do the work resulting in a surprising breadth of flavours. Most natural wines are also vegan as they don’t use fining agents – such as milk extract, egg white or the wonderfully named ‘isinglass’ that is a substance made from the dried swim bladders of fish – that clarify the grape juice you’ll find in most wines.
Anyway, enough of the technical schizz, I can hand-on-heart say that Plateau’s wine list is one of the finest on the south coast and I’d highly recommend a glass of owner Vincent’s ‘Francment’ cabernet franc whilst you pick over the menu.
I last popped by in February with a chef mate for an early lunch on a damp Tuesday. We pulled up our stools at the bar in an already buzzy restaurant and had the urge for an oyster or two. As we chatted with the bartender, we were collectively inspired to go off-piste and rustle up an oyster gin martini and – boom – there it was. Pokey, just as I like it, and – well – deliciously oyster-y with a healthy squeeze of lemon.
Other small plate sharing dishes made for a perfect informal lunch over a vino or two.
The whipped cod roe, zhoug – a spicy paste of coriander, garlic, chilli and spices in olive oil that originates from the Middle East – accompanied by pickled vegetables and cooling crème fraiche offered up a myriad of flavour and texture: silky saltiness, crunchy acidity, biting spiciness.
Personally, I can give or take beef tartare. For me, it’s not a dish I find particularly interesting but I have to admit this was a good example and I dare say the egg came from a well-kept chicken as it was particularly rich.
My hero dish was the burnt leek over smoked cashew ajo blanco, presented as a rich paste. Sweet yet earthy in body, the crispy charred edges added a whole new depth to my favourite spring vegetable.
Although we nibbled for lunch, price-wise for a supper – if you’re hungry – I’d say you’d probably want to order three small plates per person which will set you back a maximum of £30. You can, however, also be selective and eat for a lot loss. There are plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options so no-one is left out. Wines start at £6 a glass, with all cocktails coming in at a very reasonable £10 each.
I genuinely can’t recommend Plateau highly enough. Drop by for a vino and snack next time you’re in the Lanes and you’ll see why.
Plateau, 1 Bartholomews, Brighton BN1 1HB
01273 733 085 • www.plateaubrighton.co.uk