Brighton is packed with independent, chain and speciality spots to suit every taste, and they all do good business among the area’s party-loving crowd. But while the DFL (down from London) daytrippers rarely venture too far from the famous Lanes and pier, those in the know head slightly further west. Hove was always the more upmarket, if somewhat staid, part of the city's dining scene. But in the last couple of years, new life has been breathed into it with the opening of Rockwater, a chic all-day cafe, bar and restaurant on the promenade. We just couldn't wait to try it out.
Rockwater is situated near the water’s edge - any further south and you’d have wet feet. That means glorious beachside views from the roof terrace, where the most premium of its three separate eateries is located. There’s an outside balcony to catch the rays and an enclosed glass, 100-cover interior section with a sliding glass roof. Tables there can be hard to come by on summer weekends, but the food and the 360° panorama from the sea to the Sussex Downs make it worth booking in advance.
We visited on a midweek evening and the place was buzzy but not too full, with the decor and vibe casual-smart-modern, in a Soho House-meets-The Ivy Brasserie kind of way. After admiring an achingly beautiful golden sunset over cocktails — a blood orange margarita (£13) to match the sky and a no-alcohol lemon-iced tea cooler (£8) — the serious business of choosing our food began. The set-up was mainly small plates and sharers; two each would suffice, but we’re greedy so ordered three.
Sadie, our server, knew the menu inside out and made useful recommendations that we accepted. First out was the potted white crab (£14.50) in nori butter served with sourdough, plus tuna tataki (£17) accompanied by seaweed, yuzu ponzu, ginger and wasabi mayo. They’re two of Rockwater’s most popular items and were certainly excellent, but nothing prepared us for the dish that was brought out next: possibly the finest scallops (£16) that have ever slipped down a human neck. Made with nori brown butter, umami and wakame, they were out-of-this-world sensational.
My friend wanted to order a second serving of them, but I told him to save space for the king prawns (£15) in avocado shells with radicchio and gochugaru remoulade that were coming next. A bavette steak (£19) sliced and served with shiitake mushrooms, teriyaki jus and kimchi arrived after, followed by a delicate miso cod loin (£17), cooked to perfection with spinach, chard choi and spring onion dashi. The house wine was a versatile and full-bodied Garnacha Blanca (£8.50 a glass) from northeast Spain. Our desserts didn't disappoint either: a deconstructed caramel carrot cheesecake (£8) for me, and a decadent chocolate pudding (£8) with avocado mousse plus strawberry and pistachio crunch for the friend, rounded off a superb meal with great service in an idyllic setting.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Sexy cocktails, sensational sunsets and seriously delicious seafood; there’s nothing not to like at Rockwater, really. The steak bavette and king prawns weren’t as jaw-dropping as some of the other dishes we ordered, but that's not to say there was anything wrong with them - simply just how outstanding everything else was.
💰 The damage: £156 for two plus service charge.
📍 The location: Western Esplanade, Brighton and Hove, BN3 4FA
👌 Perfect for: Everything from casual coffees and sexy sundown cocktails to date night dinners.
⭐ Need to know: Keep it fishy: crab and scallops are to die for.