What: A wine-focused bistro on Hove’s main drag, an area that is becoming popular with independents that can’t stomach the heady rents and premiums 10 minutes or so down the road in central Brighton (other fairly recent arrivals to this stretch include Cin Cin and Fatto a Mano). Wild Flor is on the former site of Skyfall, which initially specialised in lobster and steak before relaunching with a focus on burgers. It’s fair to say neither iteration set Brighton & Hove’s restaurant scene aflame. Wild Flor is not to be confused with Flor, the upcoming Borough Market wine bar, bakery and restaurant from Lyle’s founders James Lowe and John Ogier.
Who: A young foursome that are well known on the city’s restaurant scene having all worked for Ben and Pamela McKellar’s Gingerman Restaurants Group. Owners James Thomson, Faye Hudson and Robert Maynard work front of house and former The Gingerman sous chef Oliver Darby oversees the kitchen as head chef.
The vibe: The team have retained Skyfall’s layout; a mixture of free-standing and banquette seating that backs on to a small bar area to the rear of the 36-cover restaurant. The space has been stripped back - Skyfall was a pricey fit-out with modern features - and repainted in muted hues to create a simple but attractive restaurant, with Hudson taking the lead on design. A private dining room will open upstairs within the next few months.
The food: Darby’s short à la carte menu is fairly classic and chimes nicely with Wild Flor’s positioning as a relaxed yet professional bistro. The menu includes chicken and smoked rabbit terrine, parsley, mustard and girolles; veal sweetbreads and cauliflower with almond and sherry cream sauce; tranche of brill, breadcrumbs, asparagus and wild garlic hollandaise; and rhum baba, pineapple gazpacho and vanilla cream. Wild Flor’s more traditional approach stands out in a city now dominated by small plates in the middle market and short tasting menus at the higher end. Starters average out around £10 and mains cost between £15 and £18.
To drink: Wild Flor may take its name from the film of yeast that gives some styles of sherry much of their character, but there’s a lot more to the wine list than that. Maynard leads the wine side of the business and has created an eclectic list that stands out from anything else on offer in the city. Much of the 120-bin list is supplied by Maynard’s nearby former employer Butler’s Wine Cellar, but he is also using several other more specialised suppliers (he has one solely for riesling, for example). Nearly all the wines have at least a few years in the bottle, with prices on more premium bottles kept in check by a cash margin policy at the mid and top-end of the list. Entry level prices are competitive, at £5 by the glass and £22 by the bottle (still wine tops out at £120 per bottle).
And another thing: Wild Flor certainly does takes its wine as seriously as its food (Bloomsbury’s Noble Rot was apparently a big inspiration). 2019 looks set to be a vintage year for this newish breed of specialist wine restaurants with the curiously-named Gezellig set to launch later this month in Holborn.