The Salt Room
Hilton Brighton Metropole

THE COAL Shed has been one of those comforting success stories.

Opening in the dark depths of recession in 2011, the “special occasion” restaurant best-known known for fine cuts of grilled beef has built up a fiercely loyal following.

The runaway success has come at a cost, with the relatively small Boyces Street restaurant forced to turn away diners in their droves. For the calmly assured owner Razak Helalat this gave him two options – either upsize The Coal Shed or open a whole new restaurant.

And for the benefit of variety, he has taken the latter option, seizing an opportunity to open The Salt Room at the Hilton Brighton Metropole as it undergoes a major multi-million pound refurbishment.

Simply put, The Salt Room aims to be to fish what The Coal Shed is to meat, offering diners a touch of luxury, with fine, simply cooked food and drink and a skilful but relaxed service.

On appearances alone, the new restaurant is one of the most impressive openings in recent memory.

Cocooned off from the main hotel, it has an unmissable presence, boasting 84 covers in the main restaurant, 60 at the bar and another 53 on the terrace.

The experience and welcome are just as important as the food, and the comprehensive drinks and ‘sailor’s tipple’ cocktail menu reflects this.

I enjoy a mai tai, a sweet boozy concoction made up of three-year-old El Dorado Rum, tarragon and almond syrup, citrus, icing sugar, and a traveller’s tip, a fruity punch of South American liquor aba pisco, with salted caramel dust, pineapple and citrus.

As a restaurant dedicated to the wonders of the sea, crustacean classics lobster, crab and oysters et al are all present on the menu. The Colchester native oysters are full-bodied and glossy, dressed with classic sweet and sour shallot vinegar, a spicy Japanese yuzu, and complimentary cooling Vietnamese cucumber.

Meanwhile the à la carte menu is based in classic cookery, but with plenty of modern twists.

For example the retro prawn cocktail is elevated to deluxe heights with the addition of tempura-battered lobster claw and various scrumptious shellfish. A simple bowl of clams are bathed in a pungent broth of dashi, lemon and seaweed. This Japanese influence is dotted throughout the menu, with cured salmon with miso, and raw beef with ponzu and sesame.

I zeroed in on the top placed dish for my mains course – roast halibut, braised oxtail, parsley root and mushroom tea. With the earthy roots, shrooms and flesh on the plate, this felt like more of meat dish but was delicious nonetheless, the firm halibut standing up to the strong savoury flavours.

My partner’s dish of Sussex cod, braised octopus, sea herbs and shellfish bouillon, certainly made for a fresher, taste of the sea. Rib-eye, fillet, turbot, monkfish and even surf and turf are all available from the Josper grill, a high-tech bit of kit which infuses everything with that elusive barbecued flavour.

A common pitfall of ambitious restaurants is to fudge the deserts, though not here.

The show-stopping Taste of the Pier is a platter of gourmet versions of nostalgic treats – candy floss, salt caramel and chocolate “99”, with rum and coconut marshmallows, doughnuts, “pebbles” and honeycomb.

I have the Sussex honey ice cream, with milk skin dumpling and toasted rice milk shake, an exceptional desert with expertly entwined strands of sweet, diary and rice flavours running over the palate.

Utterly different but equally marvellous is the blood orange jelly, rapeseed oil, marjoram shortbread and vanilla cream.

After just a few days of service The Salt Room is already ticking along like an old-hand under the experience of head chef Dave Mothersill and general manager Dariush Tamadon Nejad.

There’s already been a good old buzz building up to the opening of The Salt Room late last month, and if our visit is anything to go by, all the elements are in place for it to replicate the success of The Coal Shed, albeit on a grander, more ambitious scale.

The Salt Room
106 Kings Road
01273 929488