Some say we ate & drank our way through lockdown. How VERY dare they! God knows how, but we did endure an agonising four months between dinner reservations. Though finally, with joy in our hearts, we’re dining harbourside at the wonderful Pier Brasserie.
Taking a seat on the terrace, we’re greeted by a wonderfully dry glass of champagne, gorgeous sea views, and Newhaven’s iconic lighthouse. It feels like heaven.
We’re also observing dozens of locals, very casually dressed, and eating fish & chips along the pier. But not even their synthetic fibres can spoil this moment. We are back in the world, and enjoying one of our favourite things in life: dining by the water.
Before long, we’re on to our second glass, closely followed by a third. We’re loving this feeling of freedom. Mind you, the critique of people’s fashion choices has now officially reached fever pitch.
Suddenly Mark, our gregarious host, reminds us we’re actually here to eat. Oh yes, of course! One final remark about a woman’s overly-stretched sports tights, and inside we pop [to the brasserie we mean].
Now this is a wonderful surprise. The decor is sophisticated but relaxed, and boasts a subtle retro vibe. Earthy tones, dark wood, and hints of black leather, teamed with the perfect lighting, create an atmosphere we are instantly in love with.
While a lot of restaurants this close to sea would be tempted to take a somewhat trad maritime approach to decorating, we are thrilled to say THIS is not that place.
Mark’s proud to point out he designed the decor himself. He’s done a first-rate job, we tell him, as we order a cheeky bottle of viognier.
We’re also ready – finally – to eat. So we begin our first post-lockdown dinner with the Steamed Scottish mussels cooked in white wine, garlic, shallots & soda bread.
Can we just say, we LOVE a Scottish mussel, and this dish does not disappoint. So soft, so fresh, so perfectly steamed. And there’s that wonderful sauce. Generous both in cream and wine, the rich taste is utterly divine.
As for the soda bread, it’s instantly confiscated by Isaac, who adds it to his Duck liver pate with pear chutney, dehydrated pistachio sponge & frisbee lettuce.
Clearly, he’s thrown by the removal of bread from this dish, but he loves it none-the-less. The pate is perfectly smooth, intense in flavour. The pear chutney, in particular, is exceptional, offering a highly addictive mix of savoury and sweet.
Meanwhile the dehydrated pistachio is an innovation worthy of applause. Designed to take the place of bread [ Isaac!! ] it brings both a sense of drama, and tastes just as great as it looks.
Mark returns, and we suddenly notice he doesn’t just walk between tables, he dances. Passionate about good food, clearly, he’s also happy to be open again. The brasserie launched just four weeks before lockdown, so already it’s been a tough year.
“My timing sucks,” he laughs.
Fortunately Mark’s taste in wine is much better. He suggests a Chilean Malbec to accompany our mains. It’s sublime. Fresh, summer fruits on the nose, and a smooth taste of cherries on the palette. Will one bottle be enough?
But the real treat is of course the food. The Slow braised beef cheek with bourguignon sauce, tenderstem broccoli & mashed potatoes is incredible. As you’d expect, it’s ridiculously tender, and bursting, nay, exploding with the richest sauce imaginable.
But even this great dish is soon surpassed by the Fillet Steak. Brushed with a honey glaze, it’s served with green leaf salad, gorgeous beef dripping chips, and a choice of sauce. Our choice, which should also be yours, is the red wine sauce. Beyond fabulous!
In fact, everything about this dish is amazing. It’s one of most succulent, perfectly cooked steaks we’ve ever ever eaten. So while the expression “melt in your mouth” is apt, it in no way does justice to the experience of devouring this magnificent steak.
Yes, we are ranting, but it is deserved!
We also manage, somehow, to squeeze in a couple of sides. They too offer similar levels of pleasure. The Haggis Friiters, thanks to the panko breadcrumbs and plenty of spice, are delicious. While the Creamed peas, leaks & bacon is mind blowing.
Pausing between courses, but maintaining our enthusiasm for excessive drinking, we ponder what the policy might be regards table-flipping. Some restaurants, given the new normal, now require the table back after just one hour, forty.
We check the time, and realise we’ve been here almost four hours, so quite possibly there’s nothing to worry about.
As the last drop of red quietly disappears, our thoughts turn to a cheeky glass or two of the late harvest muscat, and of course dessert.
Offering a classic brasserie menu, there’s all the usual suspects, from vanilla panna cotta to a rather tempting Scottish cheeseboard.
But while we very much enjoy the Sticky Toffee pudding, and the Chocolate sponge with its heavenly balsamic macerated strawberries, we’d love to see more of the adventure and clever twists that are so evident elsewhere in the menu.
Once again Mark dances over to our table, to see how we’re doing. Ready to burst, we ask for two espressos. His eyes twinkle, and he says: “Espresso, or espresso martinis?”
In what seems a typical Social Bitches response, we scream: “BOTH!!”
They’re excellent of course, but we’re even more excited when we eventually move on to Pornstar martinis. Not only does Mark use champagne instead of Prosecco [ thank god! ] he’s also added a sweet twist of mango. Total game-changer!
No wonder Mark’s dancing, we toast, Pier Brasserie is an absolute delight!
In a nutshell:
Lunch / dinner
Sides £6 – 9.50 / Mains £12 – 30 / £6.50 – 8
25B Pier Place
0131 552 5278