The festivities this year kicked off with the obligatory bubbly, exciting present-opening, and dressing up in our finest for the evening ahead - a six course culinary adventure at a pop-up restaurant, the Chateau Marmot, in the Artist Residence in Brighton.
I love this photo of Tora - the beautiful birthday girl!
The Chateau Marmot had set up in a large room lined with long tables, where the 50 or so diners all sat together, side by side. There was a sense of excited anticipation in the air - we were all coming together for a meal with a set menu, but up until this point, had no idea what it would comprise of (all we knew was that seafood would be featuring). It was so much fun sitting and observing, poring over the menu eagerly to see what was in store for us, and meeting new people on either side of us. It had a more sociable feel to it than a normal restaurant - something different and fun!
The first of the courses went down a treat. This was probably in my top three of the courses. Dehydrated fish "crisps", with herb salt, and served with a delicious mayonnaise-based, well seasoned, garlic sauce - incredible! I could have eaten the whole teacup full of them.
Course number two of six was a bit of a disappointment - described on the menu as pebbles, cockles, seaweed and sand, we weren't really too sure what to expect from this one. It looked very pretty on the plate, and consisted of (surprise, surprise) cockles, seaweed, some gelatin-like substance, and potatoes made to look like pebbles. Probably through some kind of dehydration method (they seemed to like that a lot). This one just didn't do it for me - it kind of had a salty, watery taste, the cockles were tiny, and the potatoes a bit bland. With four more courses to come though, we were not worried!
Course number three was delicious - hay smoked scallop (smoked fresh that morning!), radish, daikon, and roe. It was a really delicate dish. We hoovered it up in minutes! Again, delicious, but I think we could have all eaten double the amount! For once, not because we're all little piggies, but all of the dishes were just tiiiiny. To be fair, it was a tasting menu, but we'd all tried to eat as little as possible during the day in anticipation of the tasting feast, so we were probably hungrier than usual as well!
Up next was cuttlefish, squid ink, pine nuts, and Sussex sea herbs. This was another firm favourite. The cuttlefish had a meaty texture, and with the salty ink and pine nuts had some lovely textures and substance to it!
The chefs and waitresses talked us through each course, and the specially selected drinks that had been chosen to go alongside each course.
Course five of six was Eastbourne Brill, anchovy, nettles, and burnt onion. This was another good'un, served with some delicious froth! I've never had froth before. It felt fancy.
Last up was Montezuma cocoa, fennel, mussel, and sea salt. I wasn't expecting this to be so dessert-like when reading the description on the menu, but it was essentially a piece of chocolate cake, ice cream, and fennel. You could barely tasted the dehydrated mussel powder dusted over it. Holly and Tora loved this course. I felt like I'd had better chocolate cake before, BUT, serving it with the fennel was just genius! The hint of aniseed was delicious, and complimented the cake and ice cream perfectly. I think I'm going to have to try serving this at some point, with my delicious, rich, gooey chocolate cake recipe!