Restaurant review

Bayside Social, Worthing: ‘Brilliant colors and uplifting flavors’ – restaurant review | Food

Bayside Social, 1 Beach Parade, Worthing BN11 2FG (01903 867050; Small plates £4-£13, desserts £7-£8, wines from £21

England’s off-season seaside towns are often seen as romantic places of sweet desolation and benign neglect. There is nothing romantic in Worthing today. Instead, my relationship with the city seems very dysfunctional, like it has tied me to the bars of the wall and called me dirty names. A wolf with a gust of wind tries to undress my back, the rain slaps me on the chops and, beyond the beach, an angry sea seems to merge with a sky the color of the bags under my eyes after too many late nights. I came to Worthing for lunch; instead, I now seek refuge.

I find it thanks to a beautiful wooden and glass pavilion with the kind of sturdy folding doors that the middle classes pervert when they do their kitchens. I know because I’m that pervert. I have these doors. The restaurant is nestled among spiky new buildings and looks defiantly out over the wind-ravaged English Channel. Once here, we feel as if we have become spectators of the elements, rather than their victims. It’s a good place to be.

Social by the bay is the second amateur restaurant of 2018 Chef winner Kenny Tutt, a former banker who ran away to join the circus. He clearly decided that one ring would not be enough. The online menu in its first place, Ground, located further afield in his hometown, is an adult affair offering confit salmon with airy Hollandaise sauce for £10 and local game with Anna apples for £22. This is clearly a serious restaurant; the kind an amateur changing career to become a professional uses to make a statement of purpose.

‘Glazed with a layer of tangy grilled cheddar’: haddock. Photography: Alex Lake/The Observer

This new venture, which opened its doors last September, is the confident and relaxed second child of a team that now knows what it is doing. This type of multifunctional operation, which must be many things for many people at different times of the day, is more difficult to achieve than a traditional restaurant. It’s all about flexibility. Before my visit, for example, I become slightly obsessed with reading breakfast menu: the shakshuka with eggs cooked in the oven for £8, the full English with its “old English breed” sausages, the three ways with Benedictine eggs and the possibility of adding Ramsay black pudding or “homemade” potatoes. I would probably add potatoes to my breakfast. It looks like me.

The general all-day menu is a fashionable parade of small plates priced between £6 and £8. Only the few dishes with showy ingredients, like scallops and beef, hit double numbers. Outside, the weather is a cacophony of blues and gunmetal grays; inside, there are vibrant colors and uplifting flavors. The menu is pleasantly fishy, ​​as it should be so close to the sea. After all, if the doors were open, you could pull a Riedel glass from your table and put it in the waves.

A fat-free stack of whitefish tempura, so loosely named because the fish involved can change depending on the available catch, is today made with haddock. It is bound in a bright yellow lace paste. As an accompaniment, a cheerfully rough and ready tartare, exceptionally light on the binding mayonnaise and big on all the chopped pickles and capers. The fish cuisine, like almost everything we try, is on point.

“A dense and sticky quality”: merguez and chickpeas.
“A dense and sticky quality”: merguez and chickpeas. Photography: Alex Lake/The Observer

Slices of salted smoked haddock arrive on a frothy Hollandaise sauce and glaze with a grilled layer of tangy cheddar cheese. It’s lunchtime, but it looks like the table has been invaded by a moment of an old-fashioned tea party. Then it’s off to the northern shores of the Mediterranean, courtesy of a piece of hake, crispy roasted skin, pearly white flesh, placed on a heap of white bean cassoulet with salty chorizo ​​nuggets. There’s a bowl of king prawns, so fresh they squeak a little under your teeth, in a steaming lake of garlic butter spiced with Aleppo pepper. On the side is a piece of hard-crusted olive focaccia, which quickly softens in the deep swamp of melted dairy.

They make their own sausages here. The cumin lamb merguez have a dense, sticky quality and come on a medley of cooked chickpeas dressed in the ridiculously bright pink of ribbons of quick pickled onions. A small spoonful of labneh, or strained yogurt, helps lubricate everything. It’s early January and cover pigs are still on the menu. I order them out of misplaced melancholy. They come with an overly sweet Cumberland sauce which in the heat of the oven has started to harden and is trying to make my teeth stick. I know I’ll take pieces of it from my molars all the way down the train line to my house. That’s really the only thing I find to quibble about.

“Caramelized bouquets”: cauliflower and onion.
“Caramelized bouquets”: cauliflower and onion. Photography: Alex Lake/The Observer

No problem. There’s a plate of their crisp, crisp long-stem broccoli in a miso vinaigrette. This has the double benefit of making you feel like a good person who believes in the veggie way, while also dislodging the bits of a cumberland sauce that’s gone well past the softball stage and that is now auditioning for a role as a denture adhesive. Florets of caramelized cauliflower rest on a thick mash of black-roasted onions.

Given my groan about the cumberland sauce, it’s obtuse of me to complain now that the pear tarte tatin is a little light on the stickiness of the caramel, but only people who are desperate to please will stick to notions of coherence. I will never be one of them. I was, however, very taken by a mess Black Forest Eton, the bright purple creme given acidic vigor from black cherry. It’s big on the meringue and there are squares of a cherry kirsch jelly. After everything that happened before, we don’t need to finish it. We finish it.

“Acid Vigor”: Black Forest Eton Mess.
“Acid Vigor”: Black Forest Eton Mess. Photography: Alex Lake/The Observer

At the end, there’s a deep, roasted espresso without the sour notes that young people seem to love these days. God is in the detail and the detail has been taken care of. Looking around the room, I can suddenly see how it will be in summer: all these doors open to let in the light sea breeze and the salty breath. It will be a place of shady afternoons and sun. For now, however, the afternoon light is fading and the wind is still cracking her cheeks. We have to get out. To be honest, I would much rather stay here and do it all over again.


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Email Jay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jayrayner1

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