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Wine List Confidential: etch. by Steven Edwards, Hove

Douglas Blyde heads to Hove to visit the restaurant of Raymond Blanc alumnus Steven Edwards. While there, he sees for himself whether the wine list really is at “the epicentre of the English Sparkling Wine Revolution”.

“At what point does the fact that Steven Edwards is a MasterChef: The Professionals winner (2013) cease to be the first thing one mentions?” posed The Good Food Guide, before answering its own question. “Not quite yet it seems. Etch is now well established as one of Brighton and Hove’s high flyers.” Accessibly priced tasting menus, said Michelin, are “tersely described” including wording as disruptive as “soup of the day”, while “Japanese loos (unnervingly) wash and blow-dry at the touch of a button” noted Square Meal.


Residential designer and friend of Edwards – even after the major refurbishment occurred – Akram Fahmi of London Design House has eschewed every colour of the rainbow. Spanning a former bank and beauty salon, the greyscale scheme is served by a tactile open kitchen characterised by veined tardigrade of materials, “Dekton”, rather than a stainless steel expanse. In the Scandi-style dining room, the glare from arched windows is allayed by tinted films. Their black frames, and the dark banquettes beneath, contrast the white walls. Art here is by Kim the Artist and Charlie X Edwards. Paying homage to the previous incarnation as a tattoo parlour is Ink bar below, as well as a private dining room with a firework-like lamp and a kitchen view – with both spaces featuring pieces by Ben Slow and Magnus Gjoen. From Apricots (Bicep) to Bonobo’s Age of Phase, the strident soundtrack is by sommelier, Sam Weatherill (#hovemassive on Spotify).



The inventory of liquid assets has swollen over time, often bolstered by surpluses from previous wine flights. It is overseen by the detail-oriented, Brighton-born and raised restaurant manager and sommelier Weatherill, who began as bar manager on opening seven years ago almost to the day. His wine list opens with the words of Stephen Fry: “Wine can be a better teacher than ink, and banter is often better than books.”

The by-the-glass selection ranges from a frisky Grillo from Feudo Arancio in Sicily’s gusty south (£6 per 125ml) to £55 for a tenth of a full-sized bottle of d’Yquem 1983 via the copper-coloured Semillon Gris 2021 from South Africa’s Thorne & Daughters (£21/125ml).

Only English sparklers are offered, introduced with the words, “We are situated in the epicentre of the English Sparkling Wine Revolution”. These include Sugrue’s The Trouble with Dreams 2018 (£20/125ml). Eight producers are hailed by the bottle, with bins often showing the benefits of age. Contrasting the mighty Nyetimber operation, where Edwards has cooked, is the miniature of holdings, Tickerage. The nearest estate to etch. by Steven Edwards is Ridgeview, 10 miles north, represented in magnums of Blanc de Blancs 2009, while the furthest is Langham, two counties east in Dorset. Just four rosés are included out of 26 options, with, perhaps surprisingly given Weatherill’s palate appears to favour dry wines, not zero dosage option.

All 525 still bins are priced highest to lowest, almost as a challenge to diners to trade up. Around 31 bins are priced at or under £50 per full-sized bottle, with 21 from £250, though the sweet spot for value occurs between £120 and £170. Hence, from the “fragrant and fresh” chapter, you can encounter one of 240 bottles uncovered by producer, Catherine and Pierre Breton of 1989 Vouvray demi-sec at less than double release price (£160). From “Rocky Road”, meanwhile, 2020 Clos Stegasta Assyrtiko, farmed amidst the substantial granite boulders of the salty wind buffeted, schist-rich vineyards of Tinos is subject to £40 mark-up (£120). Pedra de Guix Terroir al Limit Priorat 2017, starring Pedro Ximénez and Macabeo (£144), is filed under “Butter Bombs”. From “Pinot and Pals”, Domaine Saint Pierre Arbois 2020 Jura Trousseau costs £139, while Marjan Simcic’s Slovenian Merlot, Opoka, Goriska Brda 2016 (£155) is located under “Bordeaux & Buddies”. With decent age under its belt, JL Chave Selection “Farconnet” Hermitage 2007 (£150) is “Rhône and Rotundone”, the latter defined as “a sesquiterpene … present in the essential oils of black pepper, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, and geranium, as well as in some Syrah wines” by Journal of Agricultural and Food. Vega Sicilia’s 2010 Pintia from Toro’s galet-strewn landscape (£170) is slightly confusingly logged under “Malbec and Marvels” given it celebrates Tinto Fino, though marvellous it is. From “Gold and Glorious”, bins include a hard-to-find half of 2017 Niagara Riesling Ice Wine from Inniskillin (£125).

Given the irksome robustness of their stems, glassware is a little nursery slopes for this otherwise well-designed setting.

Creations in Ink include the “Cornstar” martini, inculpating popcorn-infused corn whisky with Capreolus chestnut barrel-aged apple eau de vie, though Weatherill also rates rye. “Coming from a cocktail background, I’ve always been a big fan of the resplendent aromatic spice of rye,” he says. Try the local, gluten-free lager Numb Angel from Gun Brewery on Gun Hill if you want a beer.


The kitchen is led by Steven Edwards who trained with Raymond Blanc OBE, before working at the pass at the vast culinary operation at South Lodge Hotel, its kitchen action communicated to diners via screens. He later took the helm of the venue’s Camellia where he gleaned “Sussex Young Chef of the Year”. In addition to etch. by Steven Edwards, he oversees “Tunnel Club”, a fine dining concept at Brighton & Hove Football Club where VIP guests watch the match from the comfort of heated seats after a meal. Sous chef, Joe Pinard was in the kitchen on our visit; the brigade also includes head chef, George Boarer (formerly of Restaurant Tristan, RIP). The menu changes six times yearly.

With canapés, including a seductively aromatic, one-texture mushroom truffle tart, Weatherill, who has a collection of seven ornate sommelier brooches rather than a conventional pin, poured unexpectedly youthful Nyetimber 2010 from magnum, which is offered as an upgrade at the time of booking, as well as the scallop, and cheese course, an etch. by Steven Edwards apron, and a signed Great British Chefs Cook Book. Served piping hot, Edwards’ visually compelling, unstoppably delicious, twice-glazed Marmite brioche ensued with lavish seaweed butter capped with a hairstyle of fried seaweed.

“Crossing the border into Kent”, Weatherill chose one of 850 bottles of Westwell’s 2022 wild fermented, steel and old Burgundy barrel aged still Chardonnay with “aerated” celeriac soup with lovage, celery, and walnuts, accompanied with a neat tart of excellent lamb tartare with punchy walnut ketchup. The unfiltered, notably saline, seemingly entirely sugar-free, cult wine offered a spiny counterpoint to the cosy soup, though it was our least favoured match.

Next, ten-year-old Kellerberg, a single-vineyard Austrian Grüner Veltliner from Pichler-Krutzler, brought subtle smoke to a circle of seasonal Norwegian Skrei cod and parsley mousse, with ornamental Chinese artichokes, sinewy Black Trompette mushrooms, and a vivid gel of preserved lemon.

“Dippy Egg” comprised slow-cooked duck ovum with nasturtium oil and, presented in a nest, perfect brioche soldiers. With this joyful dish, Weatherill selected Bodegas Cota 45’s Miraflores UBE 2022 from Jerez, so-named because producer, Ramiro Ibáñez believes the region’s finest blinding albariza soils occur at 45 meters above sea level. Despite playing tricks on the mind with its spirited feel, at just 11.5%, the nutty, oxidative, again saline style was, in fact, unfortified. Like a lawnmower driven across a university quad at midnight, the wine cut through the executive breakfast dish.

With pristine scallop basking in a shell bath of shrimp-pepped brown butter, with diced apple and supple Jerusalem artichoke purée, Weatherill applied the “miso” notes of a rare 2021 Merweh from pre-phylloxera, century-old vines encircled by a pine forest. The parcel is tended by “Sept”, billed as Lebanon’s first biodynamic winery in honour of producer, Maher Harb’s father, who, according to importer, Wanderlust, was lost to him “at the tender age of seven years old to the Lebanese civil war.” The intriguing wine broke the taboo on bringing politics to the dinner table, though such backstories certainly help etch memories in diners.

Comparatively, the next wine, a left-bank Bordeaux, felt conservative, a pairing with what some diners might feel was an overly gamey saddle of lamb with lustrous wild garlic and flickers of goose curd. Fortunately, the caper and white wine vinegar brought acidity to the kebab-like meat. Alongside, a “sidecar” of hash brown with lamb jam did rather have a face for radio. Château Lalande-Borie 2010, served in Burgundy glasses, had primary, rather than cigar box, notes and could have been enhanced if served a couple of degrees cooler.

Encapsulating pure saffron notes, Carl Koch’s antique gold, 1993 Riesling Auslese from Rheinhessen, was a treat, bearing the patina of over three decades of development. It accompanied a composed cheese course starring lightly torched Golden Cross goats’ cheese from 21 miles east in Lewes, nudging a surprisingly complimentary apple sorbet. Though making for a pretty Instagram picture, the accompanying marigold leaves were brutishly bitter however. The beautifully seasoned cracker alone justified the supplement.

Finally, celebrating forced rhubarb, a very pretty pink plate comprised a set custard capped in rhubarb scales, an ice-capped with astringent sorrel which tasted more like allotment lettuce, and a “yum yum” dusted in fennel pollen. Though we enjoyed the latter, our guest compared what is apparently an iced, deep-fried croissant, unfavourably to versions stocked at M&S which come, according to his gesticulations, in large packs. Bringing out ginger nuances from the dish, Arnaud Lambert’s botrytized Brézé Clos Bonne Nouvelle Chenin 2011 proved the most enjoyable pairing of the meal.

Last word

Though reserved in person, the majority of Weatherill’s still wine choices, which saw him select vintages from six countries, sometimes from well into the past, showed a boldness of character, as did his far-from-meek playlist. While the restaurant has etched itself into the hearts and minds of the locals, it will be interesting to see how Ink bar gains gravity alongside given the bar scene here already includes distinctive offerings such as Cut Your Wolf Loose, with Brighton’s legion of offerings fewer than three miles away. Perhaps the solution lies in stocking indie spirits with a backstory aligned to the sea, given the venue is but 600 or so steps to the beach?

Best for

  • Well-structured, meticulously sourced wine list
  • Baked goods
  • Distinctive environment, including Ink bar, and playlist

Value: 95, Size: 94, Range: 95, Originality: 95, Experience: 95; Total: 94.8

etch. by Steven Edwards – 214-216 Church Road, Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, BN3 2DJ; 01273 227485;;;

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