I was planning to write my review of December’s wines today, but last night six of us dined at Plateau in Brighton and it was such a good meal that I thought they deserved an unashamed plug.
Plateau is in Brighton’s Lanes, maybe a fifteen minute brisk walk from the station, and just a couple of minutes or so from the sea, right opposite Brighton Town Hall. They are best known for what must be one of a handful of natural wine lists worth travelling out of London for. This is no secret, and it was good to see the place reasonably full on a Monday night in January, when other places, especially the chains, looked empty.
The six of us ranged from vegan and vegetarian to carnivore, and Plateau is well able to cope with any requirements. It’s the sort of place where the chef will tweak a vegetarian dish to make it vegan without any suggestion that it’s awkward, and the result is always very good. Of the three sharing small plates we began with, based on shallots, butternut squash, and carrot, it was the last of these which had been tweaked to vegan that was actually my favourite.
For anyone who doesn’t know Plateau, the food is really quite similar to what you find in quite a few of the Parisian natural wine bars which aspire to something a lot more sophisticated than charcuterie and cheese. I know that most people reading this will be heading there primarily for the wine, but the food is actually some of the most appealing in Brighton. For me, it compares favourably to some of the city’s more vaunted eating places. There is little fuss over pretty plating, but the flavours range from delicious to sensational, at least in my opinion.
Our main courses ranged from bavette steak, bream and chicken to the most amazing cauliflower dish with toasted hazelnuts, hazelnut purée and kale. Most of us went for a cocktail for dessert, cocktails being something of a speciality at Plateau. My Bridgetown comprised Doorly’s 5-y-o rum, antica formula, yellow chartreuse and angostura bitters, quite boozy but pretty delicious. My heart (and soul) said order a second but my head said no! Those of us who went for sesame seed ice cream (non-dairy, as it happens) with a salted caramel sauce didn’t regret it. Cold ice cream and unctuous alcohol is rarely a poor match.
But perhaps the important bit is the wines. With two diners sticking to cocktails, four of us drank a couple of crackers. Petr Koráb is one of Czech Moravia’s natural wine pioneers. Plateau list a good few wines from Petr’s UK importer, Basket Press Wines, but this is one of the best on the whole Plateau list if you want an interesting sparkler to kick things off.
Future Sekt is a skin contact wine, and one where the term “orange wine” is very apt. Skin contact here does add texture, for sure, but it doesn’t taste tannic. The plentiful bubbles froth in the mouth, and the flavours lie somewhere between orange citrus, with ginger, a whiff of nutmeg and a few more tropical-type notes.
Choosing a wine to accompany both red meat, white meat, fish and that cauliflower dish might not necessarily be easy, but a not too structured Gamay seemed the consensus, another good choice. Jean-Claude Lapalu Beaujolais-Villages Vieilles Vignes 2017 is pure fruit juice. It’s very fresh, not heavy at all, yet the juice is pretty concentrated. The perfect freshness completely hides 13% alcohol. The old vines add just a little complexity. Should it be aged? I think it’s brilliant now, personally. Lapalu is perhaps best known for his Brouilly cuvées, but this Villages is always a gem.
Plateau is definitely worth the trip down to sunny Brighton, even in the depths of winter when the sunshine is limited, but the crowds of the summer months are absent. I did say that the restaurant was reasonably busy for a Monday night, but there were still one or two tables (it’s always a good idea to book rather than just rock up there). The other thing of note about a Monday is that the volume levels are lower. Some might like it loud, but it did mean we could hear the excellent choice of music quite clearly. They usually spin some decent sounds here.
Never leave without having a good look at the takeaway wine list. The prices equate to a 25-30% discount on the restaurant list, and there are only a small number of bottles that aren’t on it. I came back with a bottle of Anna and André Durrmann Pinot Blanc Nature 2017, at £18. I visited the Durrmanns in 2017. When I wrote about their interesting approach (see here) shortly after that visit they had no UK importer, but since then those excellent chaps, Wines Under The Bonnet, have begun to bring them in, and Plateau list a couple.
Plateau is at 1 Bartholomews, Brighton BN1. Call for reservations on 01273 733085, and check out their web site here.