Thursday, July 09, 2009

An Extravagant Pleasure Palace and Chicken Liver for Dessert

'The Banqueting Room' from Views of the Royal Pavilion, by John Nash, 1826.

I took a day trip to Brighton.  I went to Brighton to see the sea, and what did I see?  Besides the sea, I saw the Royal Pavilion, an extravagant palace of ostentatious Orientalism built by George IV when he was Prince Regent, surrogate ruler for his mad dad.  It's over-the-top Orientalism, the Orientalism of the 19th century English imagination, a hodgepodge of fanciful renderings of many corners of the mysterious East.  A stroll through the pavilion is a trip, in the true sixties sense of the word.

I took a stroll by the seaside and visited Brighton Pier, which is mostly occupied by a tacky amusement arcade.

And I lunched at Due South, by the beach.  Due South may be Brighton's only destination restaurant, having been dubbed the best seaside restaurant in Britain by the Observer Food Monthly.  The kitchen works mainly with locally sourced ingredients.  I decided to make a meal of starters, as the most interesting items are often found at the tops of menus.  

The fish soup was a bit of a disappointment.  The broth itself was fine, but for some reason the langoustine, fish filet, cockles and mussels were surprisingly lacking in flavor.  

I enjoyed the grilled Sussex mackerel on soda bread toast with horseradish sauce--the mackerel from those waters being somewhat sweeter and less oily than what we're used to in the U.S.

But the dish that made the meal truly memorable was the chicken liver parfait with gooseberry chutney.  Now when I hear the word parfait I think of a dessert, and in particular a layered one.  But chicken liver parfait seems to be common parlance in the U.K. for what I'd be inclined to call a mousse.  Most of the recipes I've found are made with brandy or Madeira or port or all three, butter, cream, shallots and black pepper.  Due South's parfait was incredibly rich and slightly sweet, with a seductive consistency that bordered on the forbidden.  This wasn't chopped liver.

When the waiter asked me whether I wanted any dessert I told him the chicken liver parfait was my dessert.


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