By day Matt Gillan's two-in-one Brighton venue is a café, by night Pike & Pine is a fine-dining restaurant
With its betting shops, charity shops and pawnbrokers, St James's Street in Brighton is not the obvious place to open an ambitious restaurant with an unusual concept. But that's just what Matt
Gillan, who previously held a Michelin star at the Pass at the nearby South Lodge hotel, and his business partner, Mike Palmer (who also runs Lucky Beach café on Brighton's seafront), have done. In February this year they launched a 50-seat space that doubles as the fine-dining, evening-only restaurant Pike & Pine, and the daytime Redroaster café.
"Everyone we spoke to thought we were mad. It was a massive risk, but it's paying off," says Gillan, whose CV includes Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, the Vineyard at Stockcross and Midsummer House. "Cafés don't really run into the evenings, while a high-end restaurant would be quiet during the day, so it seemed to tick a lot of boxes."
Designed by Hana Hakim of Stella Collective in Melbourne, Australia, the stunning room has an impressive marble counter, a theatre-style lighting gantry hung with abundant foliage, and a sizable open kitchen.
"Dinner will lead what the ingredients are, and we'll utilise them in the daytime as well," says Gillan, who opened with a brigade of seven in the kitchen that he plans to increase to 12 plus himself to cope with the 250-300 covers a day in Redroaster alone. "Day will remain as seasonal as dinner, and we can double up on prep and halve the space we're using because we're using the same ingredients. It also means if the brigade is prepping asparagus for dinner they're prepping asparagus for lunch, so the standard's the same."
One aim is to raise the profile of the Redroaster coffee brand (Pike & Pine is named after the cross streets in Seattle that are at the hub of the city's influential coffee scene). The hand-roasted coffees are not only served in the cup, but also incorporated into some dishes, including Goosnargh duck, carrot and coffee.
"The duck breast is pan-fried, roasted in the oven and then cooked in a sticky oyster sauce and espresso glaze. We braise the leg in brewed coffee, pick it down and pané it so it's like a little duck-leg nugget, and there's a little bit of our strong Botanical Punk coffee blend straight from the grinder thrown on the plate."
The dish is finished with chicory that's water-bathed for 40 minutes at 85Â°C in orange juice, coated in sugar and caramelised, along with purple carrots, Chantilly carrots and carrot purée, orange juice reduction and duck sauce.
hough already established as a Brighton dining destination, Gillan says there is a lot more potential in Pike & Pine/Redroaster. "The original plan was to do a completely separate offer at the counter and treat it as a restaurant within the restaurant. Because it's just for 10 to 12 people, it would be the limits of our imagination and creative and physical abilities. In my mind, it's along the lines of what Grant Achatz is doing at Alinea, or Nucleus at Restaurant Sat Bains - a limited number of covers where you can totally go to town. We thought we'd be able to walk in and do it two weeks after opening, but it will have to wait."
Gillan and Palmer are hoping to acquire the large garden next door, which would give them about half an acre of secluded outside space with 25 to 30 seats - perfect for the large groups they can't currently accommodate.
Something missing from the menus is goat, an ingredient Gillan has become synonymous with since serving it at the final banquet of the 2015 Great British Menu TV series. "I don't have the space to prep whole goats; I don't have the luxury of walk-in fridges. It will feature at some point, just not at the moment."
- Pike & Pine/Redroaster, 1d St James's Street, Brighton BN2 1RE
- Lobster bao: steamed bun, poached/grilled lobster, mango, spiced red pesto, rendang breakfast radish: £10.50
- Ox cheek, egg, celeriac (on the six-course menu): from £55
- Tea-cured salmon, matcha waffle, semi-dried tomato, yuzu cream cheese, calamari: £12.20
- Venison, blood orange, leek (on the eight-course menu): from £65
- Pork, parsnip, mustard (on the six-course menu): from £55
- Punk tiramisu, orange and coffee syrup, botanical punk espresso: £6.40
- Lemon, thyme, oats (on the six-course menu): from £55