WHILE the city of Brighton and Hove has had something of a fine dining explosion in recent years, it is still very much a sector that is finding its feet.

It’s refreshing then to find a restaurant that seems so sure of its identity.

Tucked away in the winding narrows of Gloucester Street is Isaac At, a fine dining restaurant of 20 covers with an open kitchen.

So far so familiar, it may seem, however Isaac At has quickly made a name for itself as something of a destination restaurant, sourcing every ingredient from across Sussex, showcasing only the best that the county has to offer.

In short - they’re putting Sussex on a plate.

It’s something Isaac Bartlett-Copeland and his team have been passionate about since opening in March 2015, after a short stint as a pop-up.

He told The Argus: “I believe everything should be as locally sourced as possible.

“A lot of chefs make the mistake of cooking for other chefs but your average customer isn’t going to recognise a certain technique - they’re more concerned about flavour - so we try to focus more on putting fresh and vibrant flavours on the plate.

“It should be all about the ingredients, really championing the flavours that are in season in the best way possible.”

Working up from kitchen jobs when he was just 15, the Lewes-born chef went full time a year after, working in various venues around Brighton - including the Grand Hotel.

But his food at Isaac At takes a huge departure from his background.

Where he was trained in classically French-inspired kitchens, Isaac has found it liberating to not be bound to using so much dairy and flour on his plates.

He added: “Those two ingredients really numb the flavour.”

Instead, over the winter, diners will find the best Sussex brassicas - such as cabbages and broccoli - cooked in a number of ways to bring out different elements of the ingredient’s flavour.

Each plate has the opportunity to also be paired with Sussex wines in the restaurant’s wine flight - a smart move as the English winemaking industry sees its popularity soar.

That’s not to say that leaving everything to what’s readily available in nature doesn’t come with its own challenges - but according to Isaac, that’s when the team comes into their own.

“When things go wrong that’s when you get inspiration - that’s when you have to work out a new dish.

“Something good always comes out of having to be a bit more resourceful - you’re forced to be more creative.

“It’s a challenge we love when there’s a dietary requirement we hadn’t considered, or an ingredient isn’t available in the quantity we had expected. We improvise.”

The 24-year-old told The Argus that sourcing everything locally - the menu even includes a ‘mileage sheet’ to show diners how far their ingredients have travelled - has forced them to completely rethink the way they develop their menu.

“We don’t write the menu first now. Whereas before the menu was led more by what we wanted to cook, it’s now dependent on what we can get a hold of - that way we can ensure we start everything with the best quality, freshest ingredients as a base and start from there.”

The restaurant has come a long way since it opened almost three years ago, having built from exclusive Friday and Saturday openings.

With September 2016 came renovations as the team had learnt what worked and what didn’t, as they expanded the kitchen and minimised their seating area from a 32-cover to 20-cover.

Before that, the arrangement was a ‘nightmare’ to work with.

He said: “It’s been about a year and a few months ago now that we’ve done a full restaurant format from Tuesday to Saturday which we’ve found actually works a lot better.

“It was nice to just have the weekends to start with so we could establish what we were doing, and work on development in the week, but since we’ve been doing it all week there’s so much more flow.

“When we were doing Fridays and Saturdays before the renovation, it was a nightmare - we just didn’t have space for anything.”

The restaurant now features a bigger pass with space for diners to sit, offering a much more intimate experience.

And where some would struggle with the pressures of having their work on show, the chefs at Isaac At deliver it as an almost cinematic experience; there’s even live CCTV footage of the kitchen available for diners as they wait for their next dish.

“It’s a much more intimate experience, that’s for sure,” he said.

At £50 a head for the food alone, Isaac At puts your money where its mouth is. Its concept is divisive - those who eat for quantity will likely leave scratching their heads while foodies will come away feeling spoilt - but in a city where hefty plates come a dime a dozen, a dining ‘experience’ is a welcome change to the scene.