Brighton chef Dan Kenny on rethinking hotel breakfasts and his plans for The Set

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Brighton chef Dan Kenny on rethinking the hotel breakfast menu and his plans for The Set

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The Set chef patron Dan Kenny is to take responsibility for the Artist Residence Brighton hotel’s breakfast offering, introducing an ambitious dim sum-style tick-box menu of small plates that runs right the way through to the afternoon.

Kenny - who parted ways with fellow chef and business partner Simone Bonner earlier this year - says the changes will simplify kitchen operations and allow him and his team to put more energy into The Set’s three regularly changing set menus. The Set will close for a refurb early next year. 

Small plates at breakfast?

Why not? The hotel team was serving breakfast but we’re taking it over early next year. I want to do something interesting and high quality but that does not interfere with the three more ambitious menus we currently offer at lunch and dinner. It’s a much more ergonomic solution as having a different team working in the kitchen in the mornings can be problematic. With that said, I will run breakfast with a largely new team because I can’t expect my current staff to work early in the mornings because it’s not what they signed up for. I’m well aware that a lot of chefs hate breakfast.

What’s on the menu?

It’s split into dairy, bakery, meat and fish, and fruit and veg. It’s mostly stuff you’d associate with breakfast but with an added element or twist. The launch menu includes mackerel taco, beetroot and horseradish; homemade black pudding with mushroom ketchup, avocado, seaweed, shallot and peanut salad; and crispy hen egg, Marmite hollandaise.

What’s the attraction to the dim-sum-like ordering system?

I like the simplicity of it and I also wanted to keep the amount of interaction with front of house low to create a clear difference between the two offers. It’s appropriate for the price point too, most of the dishes will be £2 to £4. There is an element of risk but I didn’t want to do a basic breakfast menu. Brighton has a busy breakfast market so hopefully there is room for something a bit different. 

And what about the drinks menu?

We’re working on it at the moment but we’ll be serving a lot of natural juices, ferments and kombuchas. We are also investigating low alcohol wines and we already serve an interesting brunch-orientated cocktail menu. The plan for the latter is to use the same ingredients that are on our food menu to cut down on wastage and keep things seasonal.

Will the space change at all?

Yes. The Set is one big room with a more casual area to the front that is currently called The Set Café . We’re refurbishing that area and getting rid of that brand. The whole space will be called The Set when we re-open. We’re going to make the front space more cosy and relaxed and install an old fireplace. We’re also looking at creating an eight-cover seating area in our outside herb garden, which we setup earlier this year. We have some unusual stuff out there including a mushroom plant, which has leaves that look like bay but taste like a button mushroom.

You recently parted ways with joint head chef Semone Bonner...

Yes. We worked together on and off for about five years. He was my sous chef when I was head chef at The Gingerman (chef Ben McKellar’s Brighton flagship). We ran the kitchen as equals which is quite unusual. It worked well. Each of us had input into each dish and having two people heading the kitchen made it easier to maintain high standards as one of us was always there. There were a lot of rumours flying around about us falling out but he left on good terms and we’re still in touch.

Why did he leave?

Bonner left because being a restaurateur takes over your life. As we got busier he stopped enjoying it and it became clear that he just wanted to be a chef again and not have the worries that come with being an owner operator. Every chef dreams of having their own place but being an owner comes with a lot of paperwork and headaches. He’s now overseeing the food at M Restaurants working alongside executive chef Michael Reid.

How did The Set come about?

It happened by accident. We did a few pop-ups at Artist Residence. One night Justin Salisbury (owner of the boutique hotel group) came down and had a few dishes. A few days later he called and asked us if we wanted to open a restaurant there. Neither myself or Bonner are from affluent backgrounds so we had to open it on a shoestring. It was necessarily low key at first but it’s grown into a proper restaurant. There’s been a lot of reinvestment over the last year, we’ve put cash into kitchen equipment and staffing. I’m happy with where it is at the moment but I feel like I’m only at the beginning of the journey in terms of where I want to take it.

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