Brighton is a town awash with chains and I’ve found it hard to find a really good place to eat which is exciting whilst still being in my student budget. However, lots of restaurants do a fixed price lunch menu, which is a great way to eat for three reasons: they are affordable, they offer a taster of what the restaurant has to offer and they change often so whenever you go back you can have something different. For students into food, they’re perfect.
Riddle and Finns in the South Laines, certainly might not seem the obvious place for a bargain. I felt like a bit of an imposter when we walked into the small dining room decorated in classic oyster-bar style with white tiles on the walls and polished marble tables. But hold your head high, the fixed lunch is only £12.95 for two courses.
There are two choices for starters and two for mains. As they change the dishes daily what we had are only an example, but it should give a good idea of the kind of thing they offer. My first companion chose the creamy spiced mussels, which came heaped in a small bowl in a beautiful pool of deep yellow cream sauce. The mussels were small but plump, and the turmeric in the broth gave them a meaty depth of flavour.
My other companion and I had the smoked salmon with beetroot, rocket and a horseradish crème. Meaty, salty smoked fish with sweet beetroot and spicy, sharp horseradish is one of my all time favourite flavour combinations, but all the ingredients were a bit tasteless. Even the rocket was unusually bland for such a peppery leaf. Bizarrely, I could find no trace of horseradish, I think they must have forgotten to put it in (it’s hard to miss horseradish).
Two of us chose mackerel fillet with potato salad for our main. The mackerel was cooked perfectly with soft, firm flesh that came away in lovely flakes from the charred skin. The potatoes were tossed in olive oil with tiny shards of Granny Smith and finely chopped spring onion and chive. It was strangely complex for such a simple combination and complemented the fish well, along with a salad of baby leaf spinach and mizuna (a small leaf also known as Japanese mustard). My other companion had seared sesame salmon served on baby pak choi. The fish was also well cooked with the skin kept on and crisped. The baby pak chois were slightly charred and heavily buttered, which makes almost everything taste delicious.
The service was very good, despite us ordering the cheapest option and drinking tap water. The only thing, as always, is the bread, which is brought to the table without any hint that you’ll have to pay for it. However, £1 a head for thick slices of white and brown bread with little pots of fresh mackerel pâté, aioli, horserad- ish and a shallot vinegar is actually good value.