Why was it time to drop set menus at The Set?
We’ve been open for four years now. We want to remain fresh and we also noticed that the set menu concept was starting to make the restaurant less accessible (bookings were down Monday to Thursday). We unwittingly became a place for anniversaries and birthdays, which is not where we want to be now. There are also lots of places in Brighton and Hove that do set and tasting menus, there were hardly any when we opened. The new à la carte menu includes ember baked celeriac , pickled almonds, apple and salsa verde; short rib, bone marrow hashbrowns, mussels, smoked garlic, parsley sauce; and rhubarb and custard éclair.
Does the restaurant not take its name from set menus?
My girlfriend came up with the name. It’s set as in where badgers live rather than menus. We’d had a few drinks. So no relevance to the set menu, but it’s understandable that people think there is so I don’t make a point of correcting them. We are going to retain the set menu concept at our four-seater kitchen counter, though.
Tell us about that?
The menu is to be personalised to each customer. We ask about each customer’s dietary requirements and likes and dislikes. If there’s an ingredient they particularly like we will make sure we use it. That would be impossible for a whole restaurant but it’s just a couple of covers each evening so it’s doable. I’m not aware of anyone that does it in Brighton, or many other restaurants in the country. We’ll also be using it to try out new dishes and flavour combinations. Our previous set menus were priced between £40 and £45 but this one will be more of a tasting menu with 10-courses priced at £65. We’ve had to get our heads around different portion sizes, we don’t want people to leave totally stuffed.
And we hear you’ve just introduced a big discount on Wednesdays...
Yes. People in the NHS, education and the food and beverage industry get 25% off. We’re hoping it becomes a nice trade day and a small thanks to the hard working people in these sectors. Things are tight at the moment so hopefully this gives people the option to treat themselves mid week.
And you recently opened a pub too...
I used to do the food at The Brighton Beer Dispensary under my Dizzy Gull brand but I’ve now teamed up with some of the team from there to takeover a pub in Hanover. It’s a nice old school place with a community feel. It’s been setup with Brighton Bier and we do great beers but it’s not a craft beer place or tap room, it’s just a normal pub really. We recently introduced brunch menus and a curry night. We’ve also got a BBQ and a smoker for the outside area for summer evenings. I’m there a lot at the moment.
Why? Most would expect The Set to be your focus...
The Set is kind of established, I’m lucky I’ve got a good team throughout the building but especially in the kitchen. Without that the last couple of months would’ve been pretty full on, but that’s enabled me to concentrate more on Dizzy Gull. But as of this year I’ll be splitting my time more equally between the two.