Wild Flor

42 Church Rd

Hove BN3 2FN

United Kingdom 


The Food:

Beef tartare

Nutbourne tomatoes, fresh goat cheese, caper pangrattato and Lambrusco vinegar

Aged sirloin beef, grilled gem, oyster emulsion with Pommes Anna and cheek croquette

Neal’s Yard cheeses

The Wine:

2015 Emrich Schönleber Riesling Lenz   90

I fell in love with Brighton in the early nineties. The coastal town is a countercultural mecca or a den of iniquity, depending on your liberal values. It is a crucible of alternative music and outré fashion, a colony of independent shops and the fug of humus around vegan cafés, sweaty basement nightclubs and all-night raves, not one but two piers (even if one is but a charred skeleton home to a million starlings), well-to-do seafront-facing Regency squares, an expansive pebble beach (partly sealed off for naturists), belligerent seagulls divebombing to your chips and all that lung-busting fresh sea air. In the intervening years, it has undergone gentrification, though the influx of bankers means they must cohabit with free-thinking members of society.

Brighton had one Achilles heel: There’s never been anywhere proper to eat. I’m not talking decadent wallet-busting posh nosh, but something that tickles the tastebuds.

After 30 years, there is. Rejoice!

Rumors that Wild Flor was worth a drive down the A23 persuaded me to book a table for a post-COVID catch-up with cousin Caitlyn, the same for whom I once cracked open a 1996 Chambertin from Rousseau as I needed a red for my spaghetti bolognaise. It was a chance to kill two birds with one stone, though I did cross my fingers that my cousin would not request the same bottle we drank with abandon last time. Rousseau’s escalated in price faster than Brighton real estate.

The Wild Flor interior

Wild Flor not only delivered – it over-delivered by some margin. It is precisely the kind of restaurant I dreamt would sprout up in Brighton, though locals are already remonstrating that it lies just over the boundary separating it from the more upmarket Hove. The restaurant is housed on two floors, the kitchen in the basement, and the décor is simple but cozy.

Beef tartare

“We opened in May 2019,” co-owner Robert Maynard later explained. “The three of us, Faye & James [Thomson] and myself, all grew up around the area and have worked in restaurants for our whole careers. After about 10 to 15 years of working for various groups, we got together and decided to open something that delivered the cookery we love: classic techniques with the best produce we could get hold of alongside a proper wine list - my area of expertise. All three of us come from a front-of-house background, so we’ve always had to find chefs to share our vision. Our head chef, Ali Munro, understands what classic cookery means in the modern day and fits in incredibly well.”

Nutbourne tomatoes, fresh goat cheese, caper pangrattato and Lambrusco vinegar

The menu here is straightforward, English seasonal fare without pretension. Yet what is served on the plate is supremely well-executed, dishes you immediately regret finishing as you take your last mouthful. The beef tartare amuse-bouche augured what was to come; the meat was full of mouth-watering flavour. The starter of Nutbourne tomatoes, fresh goat cheese, caper pangrattato and Lambrusco vinegar was stunning. Maynard told me that the tomatoes are specially sourced as they are the most delicious he can find. He’s not wrong. The caper pangratatto is brilliant: seasoned breadcrumbs that chef Munro blitzes with fried capers to lend a welcome punch and offset the smooth goat cheese. Starter of the year? It’s up there.

Aged sirloin beef, grilled gem, oyster emulsion with Pommes Anna and cheek croquette

As I had been well-behaved on a balanced diet, I treated myself with aged sirloin beef served with grilled gem, oyster emulsion with Pommes Anna and cheek croquette. The meat was tender, and amongst the best I’ve eaten in recent years; this particular beef was sourced from HG Walter and aged for 60 days on the bone. Maynard told me that the entire loin comes into the restaurant, the fillets parsed away for the aforementioned tartare, while the Sirloin is roasted whole, rested and carved. The cheek croquette was a morsel of loveliness with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

Neal’s Yard cheeses

We finished with some Neal’s Yard cheese, sadly, has nothing to do with this writer. This was a Beenleigh blue from Devon, and like all Wild Flor’s cheeses, they are aged at Neal’s Yard.

The wine list is superb, a fairly wide selection in price order, zigzagging between Old and New World with an assiduous range of interesting producers that are keenly priced. I particularly applaud the interpolation of tempting but affordable mature claret dotted around the list: Cru Bourgeois with 30 years on the clock. Maynard told me that their staff is WSET-educated, and their sound knowledge was evident. They also have a fairly friendly BYO policy, but I was so impressed with their list that I just chose one (due to last-minute complications, I had to drive home afterward, so I took it easy on the wine front…on this occasion). The 2015 Riesling Lenz from Emrich Schönleber offers wild peaches and apricots on the fragrant nose that retains admirable delineation and freshness. The palate is balanced, not complex or brimming with mineralité, yet delivers purity and articulates the grape variety with pride, and just a touch of oiliness to the texture on the finish. Delightful.

Wild Flor is an outstanding addition to Brighton’s dining scene. After years of coasting, Brighton is finally waking up to the fact that it can coexist with the proliferation of casual gastropubs and vegan eateries. It was refreshing to see a serious, thoughtful wine list whose accumulative costs are probably a little more than that 1996 Chambertin! I cannot wait to return.

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