Bayside Social, Worthing: ‘Riotous colour and wake-me-up flavours’ – restaurant review

Bayside Social, 1 Beach Parade, Worthing BN11 2FG (01903 867050; baysidesocial.co.uk). Small plates £4-£13, desserts £7-£8, wines from £21

English seaside towns off-season are often said to be romantic places of sweet desolation and benign neglect. There is nothing romantic about Worthing today. Anziché, my relationship with the town feels hotly dysfunctional, like it’s strapped me to the wall bars and is calling me filthy names. A wolf of a gale attempts to strip the clothes off my back, the rain slaps me about the chops and, beyond the beach, an angry sea seems to merge with a sky the colour of the bags beneath my eyes after too many late nights. I came to Worthing for lunch; instead, I am now seeking refuge.

I find it courtesy of a handsome wood and glass pavilion with the kind of sturdy bifold doors that the middle classes perv over when they’re getting their kitchens done. I know this because I am that perv. I’ve got those doors. The restaurant is tucked in among sharp new apartment blocks and looks out defiantly at the wind-blasted Channel. Once in here we feel as if we have become spectators on the elements, rather than its victims. It is a good place to be.

Bayside Social is the second restaurant from 2018 amateur MasterChef winner Kenny Tutt, a former banker who ran away to join the circus. He has clearly decided just one ring won’t do. The online menu at his first place, Intonazione, located further into his home town, is a grown-up affair offering confited salmon with aerated hollandaise for £10 and local venison with pommes Anna for £22. It is clearly a serious restaurant; the sort an amateur changing career to become a professional uses to make a statement of intent.

This new venture, which opened last September, is the confident, relaxed second child of a team that now knows what it’s doing. This sort of multifunctional operation, which has to be many things to many people at many different times of day, is harder to pull off than a traditional restaurant. It’s all about flexibility. Ahead of my visit, per esempio, I become mildly obsessed with browsing the breakfast menu: the shakshuka baked eggs for £8, the full English with its “old English breed” sausages, the three ways with eggs benedict and the option to add Ramsay black pudding or “homestyle” potatoes. I probably would add potatoes to my breakfast. That feels like me.

The general all-day menu is a modish parade of small plates priced at between £6 and £8. Only the few dishes involving showy ingredients, like scallops and beef, nudge into double figures. Outside the weather is a cacophony of blues and gunmetal greys; inside it is all riotous colour and wake-me-up flavours. The menu is pleasingly fish-heavy, as it should be this close to the sea. Dopotutto, if the doors were open you could lob a Riedel glass from your table and get it in the surf.

A greaseless stack of white fish tempura, so vaguely named because the fish involved might change depending on the available catch, is today made with haddock. It’s bound in a bright yellow lacy batter. On the side is a cheerfully rough and ready tartare, which is exceptionally light on binding mayonnaise and big on all the chopped gherkins and capers. The fish cookery, as with almost everything we try, is on point.

Slabs of salty smoked haddock arrive on a foamy hollandaise, and glazed with a toasted layer of tart cheddar. It is lunchtime, but it feels like the table has been invaded by a moment from an old-fashioned high tea. Then we’re off to the northern shores of the Med, courtesy of a piece of hake, the skin crisply roasted, the flesh pearly white, laid across a heap of a white bean cassoulet with salty nuggets of chorizo. There is a bowl of fat king prawns, so fresh they squeak a little beneath the teeth, in a steamy lake of garlic butter spiked with Aleppo chilli. On the side there is a hard crusted piece of olive-studded focaccia, which softens quickly in the deep swamp of melted dairy.

They make their own sausages here. The cumin-spiked lamb merguez have a dense, sticky quality, and come on a mess of stewed chickpeas dressed with the ludicrously vivid pink of quick pickled onion ribbons. A small dollop of labneh, or strained yoghurt, helps lubricate everything. It is early in January and pigs in blankets are still on the menu. I order them out of some misplaced wistfulness. They come with an overly sweet Cumberland sauce that, in the oven heat, has started to set and attempts to glue my teeth together. I know I will be picking bits of this out of my molars all the way up the train line home. It really is the only thing I can find to quibble over.

No worries. There is a plate of their crunchy and vivid long-stem broccoli in a miso dressing. This has the double benefit of making you feel like you are a good person who believes in the way of the vegetable, while also dislodging lumps of a cumberland sauce which has gone far beyond soft ball stage, and is now auditioning for a role as a denture adhesive. Florets of caramelised cauliflower rest on a thick purée of darkly roasted onion.

Given my whine about the cumberland sauce, it is obtuse of me to complain now that the pear tarte tatin is a little light on caramel stickiness, but only people who are desperate to please, cleave to notions of consistency. I won’t ever be one of those. I am however very taken by a Black Forest Eton mess, the bright purple cream given acidic vigour from black cherry. It is big on meringue and there are squares of a cherry kirsch jelly. After all that has gone before we do not need to finish it. We finish it.

At the end there is a deep, dark-roasted espresso with none of the acidic notes the young people seem to like these days. God is in the detail and the detail has been fully attended to. Looking about the room I can suddenly see how it will be in summer: all those doors thrown open to let in the light sea breezes and the breath of saline. It will be a place of louche afternoons and sunshine. Per adesso, anche se, the afternoon light is draining away and the wind is still cracking its cheeks. We must step outside. Ad essere onesti, I’d much rather stay in here and just start all over again.

Chef Nathan Outlaw, who closed his flagship restaurant at the height of the pandemic and opened the more casual Outlaw’s New Road in Cornwall’s Port Isaac, is expanding. He and his wife Rachel have bought the Stargazy Inn, a well-known pub with rooms boasting great views out over the coast, also in Port Isaac. ‘I’ve been gazing at the property from our restaurant Outlaw’s New Road, just a stone’s throw away, dreaming that one day we could get our hands on this property,’ Outlaw told Cornwall Live. ‘And now we have the keys.’ At outlaws.co.uk.

In other expansion news, KFC has announced plans to open 500 new restaurants across the UK, a massive expansion from its existing 900 outlets. A lot of the growth will, dicono, be through the opening of drive-throughs. Because what this country really needs now is more fried chicken. A grateful nation rejoices. Visit kfc.co.uk.

Friends and neighbours of Sugarcane, a Caribbean restaurant on the Wandsworth Road, Londra sud, have launched a fundraiser after it was broken into two weeks ago. Windows and shutters were smashed, and cash, equipment and stock were stolen. While insurance has covered some of it, owner Chef T is still down thousands of pounds which he does not have and without support will have to close. You’ll find the fundraiser Qui.

Email Jay at jay.rayner@observer.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @jayrayner1

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