Set in a boutique seafront hotel, this dinky little restaurant has built up a formidable reputation locally, thanks to the talents of chef Andrew MacKenzie. He has brought high levels of skill & refinement to the town’s dining scene, & his technical know-how is evident in, say, a main of English pork, comprising crispy head, braised cheek, roast loin & confit belly stuffed with black pudding. However, the regularly changing menu also keeps it plain & simple with the likes of chestnut soup or pepper-glazed duck breast. The cooking is matched by a sleek dining room that combines soft lighting, designer banquettes & exposed brickwork to stylish effect, while the high-powered wine list (by Brighton standards), culminates in a 2005 Gevrey Chambertin at £110. There's a decent selection of cocktails – plus sea views – in the bar upstairs.
With wines split up by style (‘Dry, Crisp and Refreshing’; ‘Aromatic and Floral’ for instance) and including helpful tasting notes and info on the grape varieties, the Drakes list conveys an awful lot in a painless, easy-to-follow fashion. Nice to see some local vineyards in there, but a few more suppliers wouldn’t go amiss. Shortlisted for the second year on the trot, Drakes offers a lesson in clarity.