Knocking through into the former beauty salon next door will take the dining room from 32 to 42 covers, allowing for a much larger open kitchen. It will also allow for the addition of a reception area and a temperature-controlled walk-in wine room.
The ground-level space that currently houses Etch will be given over nearly entirely to restaurant seating while the reception, open kitchen and wine room will be in the new building.
Seating a little under 40 guests, the new bar will be in the basement of the newly acquired building and will offer high-end cocktails and bar snacks.
As reported by BigHospitality earlier this year, Edwards and team will take up residence at West Sussex hotel South Lodge for much of the build period.
The pop-up at the hotel’s The Pass restaurant will run from July to August with Etch expected to reopen in early September.
Taking Etch to the next level
Edwards – who launched Etch in 2017 shortly after winning MasterChef: The Professionals - says the changes are designed to take Etch to ‘the next level’ by providing a more complete and more luxurious restaurant experience.
“Initially I wanted a small restaurant that was very controllable in which to build my reputation and with that demand,” he says. “It made sense to start out at a lower level to where we wanted to end up, especially as that has allowed us to take our regular guests with us on that journey.”
The overhaul of Etch is also partly designed to get the attention of the Michelin Guide, which hasn’t seen fit to give a Brighton & Hove restaurant a Michelin star since the early 1980s.
“This is the first year I’ve been disappointed not to get a star. It’s something I really want for Etch. That said I’m happy with what we’ve achieved so far and feel we’re getting better and better year on year.”
Room for improvement
The redesign of the Western Road restaurant is being led by Akram Fahmi, a close friend of Edwards with extensive high-end hospitality and residential design experience.
“It’s great to be working with somebody I know so well. We went to school together and he was an usher at my wedding. He’s just struck out on his own (co-founding London Design House) so it’s good timing. This will be the agency’s first restaurant project,” says Edwards.
Etch's overall aesthetic is to change significantly. The exterior of the restaurant will be darkened with more subtle signage employed for a more discrete and exclusive initial impression.
The dining room will be lighter and airier than it was previously and will have a broadly Scandi aesthetic with light wood furniture contrasting with a black herringbone floor.
Materials will reference the local area. “We’re going to make a big feature of our surrounding geology through the use of rammed chalk. Chalk has a massive effect on what’s available, not least the stunning sparkling wine that’s made on our doorstep,” says Edwards.
The as-yet-unnamed downstairs cocktail bar will have a speakeasy vibe and a much darker and moodier look than upstairs.
Pushing the food forward
Doubling the size of the kitchen will allow Edwards to evolve his food but the format of the various tasting menus - which are notably for their unusually brief dish descriptions - the restaurant offers will remain as before.
“Our style will remain the same but at the moment we’re limited by a kitchen that’s very small and basic in terms of equipment,” says Edwards, who runs the kitchen at Etch with longstanding head chef George Boarer.
“The new kitchen will allow us to introduce new techniques and we’ll also have lots more options when it comes to plating – currently the pass is so small we can only have one chef working on the plates at a time, which is very restrictive.”
The walk-in wine room will allow Etch to further evolve its wine programme, which is already among the best in the city thanks to the efforts of restaurant manager and recent WSET Diploma graduate Sam Weatherhill.
Edwards acknowledges that the timing of the refit is not ideal – Brighton & Hove is extremely busy at the moment meaning that most of his peers are fully booked – but says that the opportunity to cook at The Pass will soften the blow.
“Clearly the best time to do this would have been last year but we only recently got the keys. But I live in Horsham and it’s where I made my name so it will be good to reconnect with people there and get people interested in what we're doing in Hove.”