Taking over where Graze, the old Hove restaurant left off, MARKET opened in late summer offering small plates, classic mains, brunches and Sunday roasts. We visited on a Friday evening as a party of six to find out how their market themed menu stacked up. The atmosphere was spot on – it was busy, if a little chaotic and the retro rich green tiling and rustic menu boards are a nice mix of Brighton cool and homely Hove. This is the place to come for a bustling market vibe not if you want a quiet dinner for two. It was also swelteringly hot so wear layers, otherwise you’ll be sweating into your Malbec (which was really tasty, so best to avoid that).
The concept of small plates isn’t a novel one for the UK restaurant scene but it’s still worth helping diners understand how the nuances of your specific menu work upfront, to avoid any ‘how much should I order/what’s the deal here?’ confusion. This wasn’t done particularly well at MARKET. The menu is split into market stalls – greengrocer for veg dishes, fishmonger for fish and the butcher for your meat etc. Price points of approximately £4 for nibbles and anything up to £11 for a small plate were confusing and even when we asked how many plates would feed our mini army of six we didn’t get a straight answer.
That said we loved the market concept and are very happy sharing diners (we don’t tend to take a ‘Joey Tribbiani’ attitude to sharing food unless we’re hungover) but as a bigger group it felt hard to understand how to get the best from the menu. We weren’t shy though and tackled it with enthusiasm, ordering scallops (up there with some of the best we’ve ever tasted), beer braised ribs with chorizo (so tender we ordered another straight away) and crashed eggs with padron peppers (everything a Spanish egg medley should be) to name a few of the eleven small plates we ordered.
A recurring theme which was slightly off putting was the small portion size. Crispy fried baby artichokes were tasty, but £4.50 for only a handful of tiny hearts felt paltry. Their cheese menu was impressive, and the Epoisse from La Cave à Fromage was gooey, smelly heaven for cheese lovers but only two tiny slivers for £5 didn’t go very far. The same could be said for the padron peppers and the macaroni cheese. All perfectly formed, but definitely on the measly side.
By way of contrast their main courses are very generously sized. The burger with copious chips was a bargain and the shin of beef was faultless both for flavour and portion. It’s true you’d expect a main course to be bigger than a small plate for sure, but some of the small plate prices are edging into main course territory and the portions don’t go any way to reflecting this.
We cannot fault MARKET for their ingredients, concepts and flavours. We must have covered approximately 50% of the menu within our group and didn’t come across one dud dish, literally everything was delicious. If you’re into the small plate philosophy it’s definitely worth a visit but be prepared to accept their ‘small but perfectly formed’ approach. We’ll be back again perhaps for a roast or a brunch and potentially with fewer friends to avoid the chaos. Given the flavours we experienced at dinner, we’ve got high expectations.
42 Western Road, Hove, BN3 1JD.
Words by Anna Hardman