This might be the shortest article I’ve posted here but it serves the dual purpose of easing me back into typing after the festive excess, and at the same time helping me out with the internet being down for two-thirds of Monday (very nice of my provider to schedule non-urgent work for the day most of the lucky people go back to work). I wanted to share some photos of our New Year’s Eve dinner, and I’ve not got anything coming up that they wouldn’t appear incongruous tacked on to.
Wild Flor, in Hove, is shaping up nicely and right now it seems to inhabit that special place where a restaurant is still good value but the quality of the cooking is heading for firm recognition. Quality ingredients with a degree of innovation à la carte and good wholesome fixed price menus (they are also hot on accommodating dietary requirements) combine with one of the best wine lists in the city for those who appreciate both the classics and something a little less conservative.
You might think “Hove” is a bit niche, but half of London heads down to Brighton for the weekend, and people often ask me where to eat. It’s also no more difficult to come down for a night out than it is for me to pop up to London to dine with friends, which I do quite frequently.
We weren’t too sure where we were going to be for New Year’s Eve, but thankfully we found out in time to nab the last table for their set menu dinner, priced at £80 for a good selection of amuses bouches, four courses and a glass of Champagne. If you think £80 is not cheap, well it was always going to cost a bit more to eat out on this particular night, and yes, I do think £80 is good value for the quality.
Wild Flor always has decent Champagne by the glass. The first time we ever visited it was Pierre Peters, one of my very favourite Growers. On 31 December it was Michel Gonet “Les 3 Terroirs” Blanc de Blancs 2010 which was fresh and delicious. It was the second 2010 I’d drunk in a few days, along with a 2008, and it didn’t taste too young when served as an aperitif, but already had just enough development to take it out of the “young and simple” category. Not a Champagne I know well, I was impressed with the 2010. It’s an Extra Brut, with the 100% Chardonnay fruit sourced from Vindey (Sézannais), Montgueux (near Troyes) and Mesnil-sur-Oger (Côte des Blancs).
We also naturally ordered a bottle off the list. I have to apologise here because I had been craving Nebbiolo for a couple of weeks and when I spied Mascarello Barolo Perno (Vigna Santa Stefano) 2011 I had to grab it, especially when I discovered it was the last one they had left. I was lucky that I’d been chatting to someone I consider a bit of a Piemonte aficionado only a day earlier, and he’d mentioned the approachability of the 2011s.
In Barolo 2011 was quite a hot vintage, and if you check out the label you’ll notice 14.5% abv. But the quality which appears to make this vintage is its fragrance. There’s a certain richness, though I’ve tasted much richer Barolo. Perhaps the savoury quality of this lovely wine isn’t totally representative, I don’t know. But if the 2011s generally show a wonderful bouquet, this is an exemplar. The tannins are ripe and whilst I’d not say this is anywhere close to maturity (well, at home I’d leave it a few years), I had no regrets drinking it in a restaurant. It was exactly as I’d hoped, no, better than I’d hoped.
Although pricing it is pretty meaningless, as there’s no more left, I thought £120 was reasonable on a restaurant list. Wild Flor shares the approach I remember so well from the old Connoisseur’s List when 28-50 first opened in London, where relative bargains (or at least surprisingly fair prices) could be had.
The food photos below include dishes from the Vegan Menu (V) as well as the Set Menu for the night.
Westcombe ricotta, Jerusalem Artichoke with chestnut mushrooms in hazelnut dressing
Roast pear and Jerusalem Artichoke with chestnut mushrooms and hazelnut dressing (V)
Gigha Halibut, chive and caviar beurre blanc
Gnocchi Sardi, parsley purée, chervil root and white wine sauce (V)
Fillet of beef, truffled pomme purée, roast shallot & red wine sauce
Celeriac and wild mushroom pithivier, roast shallot & truffle mash (V)
The desserts, blood orange custard tart and baked apple, candied walnuts and pear sorbet didn’t get photographed, but after the wine maybe I’ll be forgiven. My tart was exquisite though.
There was an additional supplementary cheese course for those determined to see in the New Year, and with an Aviet Vin Jaune on the list it was tempting, but then my wife would have had to sit there and watch, and anyway, the VJ would have rendered a thirty minute walk home, all uphill, close to impossible. But it was a great night and an equally great atmosphere.
Wild Flor is at 42 Church Road, Hove BN3. Check out their web site for menus, wine list, opening times, etc, or to book here. It’s about ten minutes by taxi from Brighton Station and less than five minutes from Hove Station (via a Littlehampton train from Victoria).