Food, Days Out and Travel stories from Brighton, London and the Rest of the World


Fun fine dining for music lovers in Kooks, the North Laine's boho bistro

Feed me shots of Toblerone and play me tunes that I love such as Alt-J and I'll keep coming back for more.

That's how I felt after a night of fabulous food artfully presented and normally to be found in the kind of establishment that uses white tablecloths as a mark of fine dining.

Kooks restaurant, Brighton photo by modernbricabrac

Inside, Kooks, the restaurant steers clear of such markers and instead makes a very different type of statement. This time about another great passion of mine (and many others), dance music.

Throughout the narrow, intimate-in-scale restaurant, the top sections of the walls are covered in blackboard paint where chalk-like images flow across the room as if frozen in the midst of motion.

Kooks restaurant, Brighton photo by modernbricabrac

The evening was warm when we arrived and I took my seat near to the bar at the front of the restaurant with one of my dearest friends for a birthday celebration.

It was so warm the door had been lodged open and outside the beau monde of Brighton passed by in that unhurried way that you find on a quiet week night.

Kooks restaurant, Brighton photo by modernbricabrac

Inside, tables filled with a broad range of ages, a group of twenty-to-thirty-somethings, an older couple and then another younger pair ambled in. The atmosphere seemed to accommodate all with ease.

The music, that all important factor played on quietly, not loud enough to take centre-stage (that's good, I rarely get to catch up with Al) and yet loud enough to make a chilled out impression.

On the walls were precious album covers too. I'd noticed these before when I'd popped in for the restaurant launch a few months before and was pleased to see some of my favourites included in the line up.

Music felt an essential element to it all, as important as the carefully crafted dishes and the interesting selection of cocktails on offer. The drink of the day was a bacon Bloody Mary.

Our meal started with smoked salmon, beetroot and horseradish on one plate and pork cubes with apple crisps and cider sauce on the other. Both worked well, the horseradish was light enough to add a contrast without taking over and the pork cubes, twice cooked were tender, the apple crisps crispy and the dish tasted sweet and hearty.

Kooks restaurant, Brighton photo by modernbricabrac

For the main pretty much every dish appealed equally and I was torn between trying local, aged beef burger with vintage cheddar; risotto with roasted asparagus pesto or the rosemary salted pork belly with mascarpone mash. I could only choose one.

In the end, I went for gnocchi. Spinach, ricotta and parmesan gnocchi with goats cheese, courgettes, peppers and rocket. Although good, the gnocchi didn't stand out and the goats cheese felt a bit over-powering as a flavour.

Kooks restaurant, Brighton photo by modernbricabrac

My friend went for sea bass with egg noodles, spring onion, carrots and mango and loved it. She particularly loved the mango with sea bass and had never seen that combination before. It really did taste good.

Kooks restaurant, Brighton photo by modernbricabrac

To accompany this we shared a bottle Litorale wine from Tuscany. It was quite a light flavour and by the end of our mains, a mixture of good wine, good food and Alt-J streaming overhead meant I had stopped the main man, Owner and DJ Tim Healey for some talk on music. After launching into a panegyric on The Prodigy, I found out, to my delight that Tim had supported them at a 5,000 crowd gig in Luxemburg, (not to be confused with Lichtenstein).

Our desserts arrived and despite feeling full to capacity we felt it our duty to carry on. We solemnly chose from the pud menu. In for a penny in for a pound said I to Al with my very gravest face, as I tried to decide between rhubarb creme brulee with thyme shortbreads and the bread and butter pudding with orange cream.

Quite so, replied Al with a short nod of her head as her eyes spotted the chocolate brownie, cream and shot of Toblerone cocktail. For her, she could look no further.

Our desserts arrived and we both went straight for the cocktail. It tasted fab while the chocolate brownie was delightfully warm and fell apart invitingly.

Kooks restaurant, Brighton photo by modernbricabrac

My orange bread and butter pudding was also divine. It turns out that orange as a flavour works really well with bread and butter pudding, made with brioche. The only dilemma I faced was an internal one about how my love of puddings is turning me into one. Don't follow my example, enjoy this pud unashamedly, it deserves that credit.

Kooks restaurant, Brighton photo by modernbricabrac

With interesting flavour combinations and a list of cocktails to entice, Kooks is a fun place to take your friends for some fine dining.

If you've been or want to go and find out for yourself, please let me know and share your experience in the comments.

Click here to find out more about Kooks at 56 Gardner St, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1UN

Kooks restaurant, Brighton photo by modernbricabrac

With thanks to Kooks for providing a meal for two to review for this blog

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