Nick Mosley talks to Benny Sullivan, chef and co-owner of mid week pop-up restaurant Chard near Preston Circus.
What’s the concept behind Chard?
To create a fine dining experience which touches on nostalgia and warmth in a relaxed setting.
What kind of dishes can diners expect to enjoy?
As the menu changes monthly, there are no typical dishes. The options vary with the time of year. From our November menu, a three course meal could include whole roasted John Dory with anchovy butter and crispy capers to start. Pan roast rabbit, pumpkin barley risotto and walnut cavolo nero as main, and prune bread with P.X. Sherry raisin ice cream for pudding.
How important is your vegetarian offering to you?
It is as important – if not more so than the other offerings on the menu – as there is only one vegetarian option. It is generally the most popular dish too, even among meat-eaters. We are always willing to create food for vegans and vegetarians off-menu too. If a guest trusts me to make something, there is always a space for all dietary lifestyles at Chard.
Do you think locality and seasonality are still relevant?
Yes, we try to support local businesses in every way we can. For me, supporting local is about being part of a community and I love starting the day having chats with my fishmonger and greengrocer, and actually selecting the produce by hand. In relation to seasonality, I try to avoid anything that’s travelled too far, with the exception of spices. I think it’s important not to confuse ingredients with style – generally anything not in season doesn’t suit the plate.
Chard shares the same space as Café Rust which runs during the day. What benefits and challenges have you found?
The biggest benefit is having met Karin and Barbaros Tanc – owners of Rust and the building we operate from – who have supported me since we met over a year ago. There are always challenges with kitchen cross-overs. Its certainly helped to cut my prep time in half.
What has been your chef journey that led you to Brighton?
Ten years ago, I was working front of house in a gastropub in London. I used to come into work and talk about baking bread so often that they threw me into the kitchen with a team of Mongolian chefs, and me without a word of the lingo! That started the journey which saw me learn my trade in various places in London, and most recently at home in Galway in the west of Ireland.
What inspires you when it comes to food and drink?
Having studied sculpture at university, I love to present an interesting aesthetic. I enjoy playing with food purely for the experience. When working as a pastry chef I always enjoyed recreating nostalgic classics, working on them until they were just right and seeing people enjoy them. What can I say, I’m a feeder!
What is your impression of the wider dining scene in Brighton & Hove?
Two years ago, I fancied a change of scene and I was torn between going back to London or trying somewhere new. Having heard so much about Brighton I gave it a look. My impression of the Brighton food scene is so high that I moved here to be part of it.
Chard operates Tuesday to Friday from 6.30pm – 10pm at Café Rust, 50 Preston Road, Brighton BN1 4QF. For more information visit www.chardbrighton.co.uk