On a surprisingly quiet Friday evening in Brighton last week, while desperately avoiding restaurants we’d already been to, my Mum and I came across this unassuming Italian café-restaurant-cum-food shop. It wasn’t our first choice on the street, but rather our realistic choice since our first choice was the vegetarian restaurant Terre À Terre, which from one past experience we already knew would tell us they were fully booked even as we looked at a restaurant with the majority of its tables empty.
But for its visible popularity with early-evening diners like ourselves and its Latin name, we would have easily passed Edendum by. But any doubts about the place that I had were soon quashed by the friendliness of the waiter, who welcomed us in with a smile and offered to hang up my coat on the coat pegs on the other side of the room as I looked bemusedly at the coat pegs directly above our table, and by the delicious food. We shared a seafood-laden Pizza Gennaro (£13.95) and a salad (£13.65) with a mouthful of a name – Spinaci freschi, arancia, melograno, caprino e salmone marinato – and my Mum had a Peroni Nastro Azzurro beer (£4.00).
I liked how the menu tried to be exciting without being unpretentious. By that I mean the dessert menu had a seriously tempting Gelato caldo (lit. “hot ice cream”), which I suspected was less innovative that it sounded but still marked it down on my eat-list, and yet the salad that we ordered was advertised in the menu as Chinese dishes often are, where what you see is what you get. And now, in the process of reviewing the restaurant, I’ve also discovered that the San Marzano tomatoes used to make the pizza base are, according to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, “considered by many chefs to be the best of its kind in the world”. Edendum is as quality-conscious as its wall-printed brand concept blurb claims to be.
The squids, mussels, mini octopus, and crevettes atop the pizza were cooked to juicy tenderness, and the only drawback was the inability to eat the pizza after cutting it into slices without the aid of cutlery. But if you think of the pizza as a seafood dish with an edible plate, then by Jove that plate is tasty! I am not a fan of pizza crust nor a fan of salad with fruit in it that isn’t fruit salad, but the gutsy flavours of the salad – the saltiness of the capers and marinated salmon, the tart orange slices, the sweet pomegranate seeds, and the hint of bitterness from the spinach – when eaten with the pizza crust served to liven up my mouthfuls of plain pizza dough.
I liked the simple and considerate décor and space-saving layout of the place. Besides a modern bar dining-area the restaurant was also brightly lit by what looked like torches covered with transparent candle-extinguishers. I don’t like dimly-lit restaurants where you find it difficult to make out what you’re eating and feel like it’s bedtime, so this aspect of the restaurant scored an instant “like” from me as I took my seat. Our table had a small bright orange vase with a small flower bouquet arranged by the students of St. John’s School and College, a school for autistic children. This was my first encounter with one of the institutions my agency sponsors, and I was happy to see Edendum supporting it too. A few wooden steps at the back led to the toilets, one female one male, sharing two sinks outside and the male cubicle entered by a wooden screen door. The toilets were kept clean, airy, and odourless – they were not just a semblance of cleanliness created by overpowering air fresheners. The only improvement I would make is to fill up the shelves a bit more – they are too vacant at the moment to look inviting.
To sum our evening up, it was spent in a well-thought-out area for people to enjoy a good meal in, which filled up quickly as the evening progressed. When we arrived the other diners were seated near the front door, at the bar area or at the tables by the street-facing window. By the time we left, several more groups had entered, including a large group with children occupying several tables at the back. It was an animated atmosphere that we left, and one that we would be happy to rejoin in the future.
Find Edendum at: 69 East Street, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1HQ