At Cin Cin, you are effectively eating Italian food in a kitchen that has a large breakfast counter. That’s great because, let’s face it, who doesn’t like spending time in a kitchen? At parties, guests always seem to gravitate there, maybe chit chatting over a drink, sharing a nibble or two. When I think about it, many a meal is enjoyed on a kitchen counter-top. Somehow eating in the same room the food is prepared is reassuring. Perhaps it’s a throwback to watching our mothers prepare our meals in anticipation of the satisfaction to come.
You can experience this again at Cin Cin restaurant but in a hipster rather than homely way. Owner David Toscano, a lawyer by profession had already spent a few years opening pop-up restaurants and bars before finally taking root in this tiny venue three years ago. It’s tucked away in Vine Street close to the famous Lanes hidden behind easy-to-miss dark blue doors. I passed it twice before I realised I had arrived.
There are only 20 seats – actually stools – for grabs and these are arranged around a U-shaped counter and bar from where you can see the chefs do their thing and throw a knowing smile at the person opposite. It’s a sociable vibe and easy to chat to the person next to you about the unusual Italian tapas being served. I guarantee you will want to in a camaraderie sort of way.
Food and drink
The bar may be small but it is abundant with a variety wines, cocktails and beers. We started with a cocktail of course – a Bolerno Spritz made up of Solemo blood orange liquor, campari and prosecco. It is as mouth-watering as the ingredients suggest. We then moved on to a glass of vino and a can of the zesty, organic Gun brewery pale ale (4.6 abv) – an American classic.
Dining here is a slow process starting with nibbles followed by a small selection of small plates before tucking into a pasta dish.
Our nibble choice was the vegetarian antipasti selection which comprised tangy yet sweet pickled baby onions, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke served on crispy bread, a bowl of fat, juicy olives and a flour pot focaccia served with Pugliese extra virgin olive oil.
Then onto the small plates. We chose the perfectly roasted cauliflower served on top of Bagna Càuda sauce, a traditional Italian dip is made with olive oil, chopped anchovies and garlic.
A plate of Italian salami arrived and so did the “Special: of the night a rabbit croquet with basil pesto. It seemed that everyone ordered the croquet and at one point it caused quite a stir around the table with varying mumbles of delight.
The main meal, as they call it – it seemed to me we had eaten oodles of food already, is a pasta dish. Between us we shared a Cap Fazzoletti, pasta with braised duck and pickled mushroom Cappelletti, pasta with smoked haddock parcels, celeriac and capers. When I cut into the haddock parcel, it oozed out in a creamy sort of way.
For those who don’t eat meat here’s also Gnocchi Sardi, a dish served with broccoli, almond and aged Pecorino – the latter is an Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk.
Dessert is pretty substantial with Banoffee pannacotta with candied pecans and the yorkshire rhubab, vanilla zabaglione and ginger biscuit.
There was also another item which caught my eye, the Affogato, Tosolini coffee liqueur which I had to order because Cin Cin donates £1 to the Clocktower Sanctuary for the homeless in Brighton and Hove.
Verdict: I loved the easy environment, the social aspect, and the way you can see your food being made. The anticipated satisfaction is delivered in so many ways including a palate of sensational tastes, textures and flavours. For an elegantly hipster night out, this is the place to go. Must book though as there are only 20 covers.
More information: Cin Cin