In like Flint | Review: The Flint House, Brighton


Ben and Pamela McKellar of all things Gingerman have brought their small plates and smart wines to Brighton. The result is one of the best restaurants in the seaside city

In like Flint | Review: The Flint House, Brighton

I was in Brighton last month, just before Santa came, for my final UK restaurant meal of the year. Saturday night was louche and sinful, so the following day I needed comfort and a loving arm around me; proper warming Sunday grub, something to absorb the Jägermeister. I needed tender feeding while happily kicking the swirling, cluster shitstorm of 2021 into touch.

With Tom, an Aussie friend who’d seen the light way back and fled London for the bohemianism queerness and razzmatazz of Brighton, we made our way through the ‘Lanes’

With Tom, an Aussie friend who’d seen the light way back and fled London for the bohemianism queerness and razzmatazz of Brighton, we made our way through the ‘Lanes’, weaving between hungover zombies and navigating the narrow alleys to The Flint House. Opened in April 2019, it’s another development from Ben and Pamela McKellar, the duo behind the Gingerman Restaurant Group and several restaurants in East Sussex, usually with “ginger” in the title. This, however, pays homage to the flint-clad building, rather than any flame-haired pancake-flipper, hence the name, but you had guessed that already.

The Flint House, by Xavi Buendia

Upstairs is a dining room and cocktail bar, sponsored by local vintners Ridgeview Wines, looking out over the Brighton rooftops. Downstairs is counter seating, with views over an open kitchen and a brigade of chefs prepping and setting things alight. Seated here, we’re able to peer across the invisible line between chef and guest, seeing the boards and baths and small things popping on a yakitori grill.

The menu is helpfully divided into sections with headings like RAW/CURED and FRIED/TOAST/SNACKS. MEAT, FISH and VEGETABLES are split, respectively. Studying it, I can see a theme. Nods are taken from Spain and Italy with things like lardo and balsamic, ham croquettes with saffron mayo and squid ‘nduja. There is a focus on freshness and acidity, dishes with cleansing qualities – oysters, ceviche, beetroot, lovage, pomegranate. It’s impressive in its simplicity. Rarely does a description contain more than two or three elements, allowing the quality of the central ingredient to shine. There is nothing on the plate that shouldn’t be there. This kitchen understands restraint.

I won’t bang on about anchovies now, it isn’t the place, but I’m a fanatic for them

Take, for instance, a thin slice of toasted bread. It’s crunchy and delightfully oily, decorated with a squiggle of parmesan cream and laid with a single Ortiz anchovy. A pickled lemon slice crowns. It is that simple, £6.00 for two. I won’t bang on about anchovies now, it isn’t the place, but I’m a fanatic for them. The carbo-dairy-salty combo here was punchy and fresh. So good, I ordered another. Then another.

Roast halibut with chicken and butter sauce, by Xavi Buendia

There’s also steak on the menu from Peter Hannan in Northern Ireland. I’ve known Peter for a long time and was one of the first people to write about him and his beefy output back in 2012, declaring his Glenarm Estate steak “the best in the world”. Such a bombastic statement caused a stir, and carnivore readers sort out the product, only available at the time in Mark Hix restaurants but soon stocked by Fortnum & Mason. His Delmonico steak here is served as a 250g cut with béarnaise sauce for a more than agreeable £25.00 it’ll cost you twice as much in the capital.

The kitchen team, led by Tom Wright, are not bush scavengers or trudging the Sussex bog for pheasant or partridge, but they respect the seasonal shifts and emphasise freshness. The inclusion of Ortiz anchovies and Hannan meats on the menu is evidence of such respect for quality. This results in highly esculent food, a menu scattered with pickings from land and sea; anything but bland.

We order Aubrey Allen slow-roasted lamb shoulder, from their butcher’s shop in Coventry, that comes with a spiced aubergine marmalade, pickled peppers and yet more anchovy that’s fatty in all the right places, piquant from the spicing and pickling. Then follow this with a second dose of melting-meaty-rimed blubber and a grilled pork chop, also Aubrey Allen, served with refreshing white cabbage, a sweet burnt apple purée and notes of musk and mint from toasted sage leaves. Flavours are manifold and complex, but the ingredients are not.

Carrots and parsnips, by Xavi Buendia

Of the mains, we continued our exploration with roast cod and brown shrimps served with fennel and parsley butter. The cod is spankingly fresh, direct from Brighton & Newhaven Fish Sales at Hove Lagoon, and made sweeter by the shrimps. Jerusalem artichoke agnolotti cooked in brown butter is sprinkled with pickled girolles and is full of dense earth and rustic pepperiness. We drink a stonking bottle of Barbera d’Alba 2018 Trevigne from my favourite wine-producing region and the limestone-clay soils of the Langhe. It’s a steep £52.00, but the cherry and red fruit notes are a perfect fit for lunch, washing away all traces of the previous night’s trauma.

Desserts, too, follow a restrained assembly. Why make something complicated when it doesn’t need to be? Take a doughnut ball (pictured top), pour-over sticky salted caramel and festoon with roasted peanuts. I break into it and discover a warm banana custard within. Then there’s a cheesy crumpet; the Cashel Blue almost blistered black to that perfect point between toasted and a runny river of melting dairy. This Irish farmhouse cheese from Jane and Louis Grubb in Tipperary is pasteurised and has a rich and full flavour at three months of maturation. When toasted, a new character of buttery, almost spicy complexity emerges. Tom is friends with my dining buddy Tom, or rather, their kids are in the same class at school. So while they chitchat about class reports and which is the sexier teacher, I slid in unnoticed for the final mouthful of cheesy crumpet. Just wonderful.

Before settling the bill, we ordered a final anchovy on bread, making the total count eight, or was it twelve? Then we’re off, outta there, lost in the Lanes, my hangover banished, obliterated by anchovies and buried in the hazy memories of yesteryear. C


The Flint House, 13 Hanningtons Lane, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1GS
01273 916333;