One of the best things about Cin Cin is its size. Having lived a relatively nomadic existence since 2013 by popping up at events across the country, this Italian bar and kitchen finally has a place to call home. Albeit small, its new space on Vine Street in Brighton’s North Laine lends itself to attentive service and a friendly atmosphere. Lights are dimmed, and diners sit on stools around a simple bar surrounding an open kitchen.
Too much choice is never a good thing, so seeing Cin Cin’s short and simple menu when we arrived for dinner was something of a relief. It changes from time to time, featuring seasonal ingredients, and there are usually a couple of specials on offer. We decided to start off with the aperitif of the day. The bittersweet mixture of white vermouth and elderflower, complete with a sprig of rosemary and plenty of ice, went down extremely well – and worryingly quickly.
From the “nibbles” selection we chose Sardinian lardo ‘Balente’, a type of cured pork meat with a delicate salty flavour and a buttery texture. It was laid out in thin slices on a rustic wooden board and served with some shards of satisfyingly crunchy crisp bread.
We then moved on to the sharing section of the menu and chose the cheese board for two, which consisted of a wide selection of hard and soft cheeses served with pillowy focaccia. We’re biased because we’d choose a chunk of cheddar over chocolate any day, but we recommend the cheese board nonetheless.
Meanwhile, we were pleasantly surprised to see head chef Jamie subtly keeping an eye on how far along we were with our food so that he knew when to begin preparing the next course.
The next course was so enjoyable it prevented us from being able to hold a proper conversation for 10 minutes: Tagliatelle, Sussex lamb shoulder ragù and salted ricotta. The thick ribbons of handmade pasta still had a slight bite to them, while the ragù melted away with each slow-cooked, full-flavoured mouthful. A generous topping of sliced lightly pickled onions cut through the richness of the sauce.
We also ordered linguine with mussels and ‘nduja (or what we’ve recently heard described as “the sausage of the moment”). When we asked for this, we were told that they were out of mussels, so they were making the dish with salmon instead. At first we were a bit disappointed, but in the end it didn’t matter, because the alternative was great. We’ve often eaten seafood linguine dishes, but never combined with the spiciness of ‘nduja sausage meat. It worked extremely well, but still didn’t beat the ragù.
For pudding we had affogato, consisting of vanilla ice cream served with a hot shot of espresso to pour over the top. We also tried a wonderfully smooth seasonal blood orange pannacotta with an intensely flavoured pistachio crema inglese. Jamie brought the desserts over and we chatted to him for a couple of minutes, before reluctantly leaving the comforting smell and warmth of the kitchen to face a cold walk home.
Cin Cin has recently been voted sixth best restaurant in Brighton at the Brighton’s Best Restaurants Awards, and we’re not surprised. The service was excellent, and as for the food, we couldn’t fault a thing. Every dish was perfectly executed, with seasonal ingredients, local produce and plenty of exciting flavours. My only piece of advice would be to book in advance, because this place gets full fairly quickly.
Words and photos by Sophia Imeson