What: A food hall on Brighton Beach set within an impressive 15,000 sq ft Victorian building that has been carefully restored by the local council. The venue launched last summer as Shelter Hall Raw with a largely different line-up of traders and a more basic look than initially intended due to the pandemic striking just as fitout commenced. Given the difficult and unpredictable trading environment the project faced a drastic rethink was required, with the venue needing to be delivered quicker and for less cash.
Who: Former Deliveroo managing director Dan Warne is leading the project, and has surrounded himself with a large and experienced team. Key people include former Sourced Market CEO Ben O’Brien; former Soho House CFO Ian Banks; and recently appointed head of special projects Abbey Hughes, who has managed a number of high profile hotel F&B projects involving top chefs. In addition to this, Luke Thomas - who was the subject of a documentary in 2012 when he became “Britain’s youngest head chef” - has joined the team as creative culinary director. This is clearly overkill for a single site, but Warne has big plans for Sessions Market with further sites in the works.
The vibe: Gone are the chipboard and corrugated plastic dividers - the space now has a far more finished and premium feel with fully-fitted and carefully tiled cooking stations and modern looking furniture. Totally out of bounds for the moment, the mezzanine area will feature intimate balcony tables with stunning sea views and a private dining room. Ordering at Shelter Hall Raw is still almost exclusively digital, but diners are now required to pick up their food from the different kitchens. While it’s not quite as convenient as having it delivered to your table - as was the case at Shelter Hall Raw - it’s still a far smoother ordering experience than that offered by most other food hall-style venues.
The food: Just one trader from the original launch remains, Lost Boys Chicken, but the strategy is comparable with the line-up generally made up of established and well-regarded local players: the Brighton and Hove-based VIP Pizza and Sugardough patisserie and the Worthing-based CrabShack and chef Kenny Tutt. The one exception to this is Hanoi Kitchen, which is well-established on London’s street food scene. Tutt’s Ox Block concept is the most gastronomically ambitious, showcasing high quality meats cooked on a robata grill. The Masterchef winner's prices are fair, with 45-day-aged hanger steak clocking in at £10 and a wild boar hot dog priced at just £7.50. The pricing is just as accessible at the other kitchens, with few dishes north of £10.
And another thing: A slight - and perhaps unfair given the circumstances - niggle when the venue first launched was that it was not offering much new food wise, with nearly all the kitchens offering condensed versions of their regular menus. This issue has now been at least partly addressed, with all six concepts now billed as being exclusive to Shelter Hall and carrying distinct sub branding - for example Amalfi by VIP and Pan by Lost Boys Chicken. Ox Block in particular is a great example of Sessions Market fulfilling its ambition to provide a platform for up-and-coming local talent.