Oh, I do like to OSB be­side the sea­side

TA­BLE FOR TWO A Bib Gour­mand lures Kathryn Flett to a tiny Ital­ian in a con­verted garage CIN CIN £ 90 8/ 10

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - The Sunday Cook -

Ihave, over the years, of­ten thought that I should be liv­ing in Brighton, and that the only rea­son I’m not is down to a teeny-tiny tricksy lit­tle quirklet of fate. Hav­ing de­camped from Lon­don to Hast­ings in 2005, three years later I was newly sin­gle with two small chil­dren and look­ing to leave.

My think­ing: if I were to be a sin­gle and (at that time) salaried home­worker with young kids, I prob­a­bly needed to be liv­ing some­where with a bit more ur­ban in­fra­struc­ture, some­where a bit more cul­tur­ally in­y­our-face, per­haps a more man­age­able and af­ford­able ver­sion of my home­town – Lon­don – with added sea­side jol­lity. Oh, and lots of shops. Plus, it pretty much goes with­out say­ing, plenty of de­cent restau­rants.

I’d even nailed the spe­cific lo­cale: fam­ily-friendly, close to a de­cent pri­mary school and a park with plenty of spa­cious fixer-up­pers at the right sort of price.

And then, just when I was booked in to view a house I’d stalked on­line, some­thing en­tirely un­ex­pected hap­pened: I met some­body (on a train) whom I felt in my wa­ters, bones and mar­row (al­beit on pretty scant ev­i­dence) might turn out to be a Keeper. Thing is, freshly di­vorced, he’d lit­er­ally just bought a house… in Hast­ings. So, I stayed put.

And here’s the thing. When­ever I do get to Brighton these days, I in­vari­ably find my­self be­com­ing stressed. It’s the park­ing, for a start (you may as well be in Lon­don), and the num­ber of peo­ple (you may as well be in Lon­don) and the fact that so many restau­rants that look as though they should be great of­ten turn out to be rub­bish (you may as well, etc…). Plus, for decades – lit­er­ally, from the Eight­ies through to about three or four years ago – I had never had a great meal there. Though back in March of this year, I was de­lighted to be­stow four stars and a rave on Hove’s Lit­tle Fish Mar­ket (“it turns out that all you have to do to eat quite fan­tas­ti­cally well in Brighton is… go to Hove” I crowed. Ho-ho! What did I know?

Then came the news that Brighton’s Cin Cin had just landed a Bib Gour­mand. Hav­ing started life as a pop-up serv­ing pros­ecco and an­tipasti, it now bills it­self as the “neigh­bour­hood Ital­ian restau­rant you have been wait­ing for – the au­then­tic food and drink ex­pe­ri­ence you wish you could bring home from those sun-drenched Ital­ian hol­i­days…” It’s also – some­what con­fus­ingly – opened a branch in Hove.

Re­plete with a Roux-grad head chef who clearly hopped hap­pily over the Alps while re­tain­ing some of that Fran­cophile rigour, the BN1 mother ship has all the Brighto­nian charm one could wish for… or at least it looked as though it did, on­line. We’d booked for 1pm on a Sun­day and by the time I’d parked, Google-mapped and been told, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, that we were four miles away from our desti­na­tion, it was 1.15pm and I was shout­ing “Liar!” hangrily at my phone, which is rarely a good – or even sane – look.

Cin Cin is tucked away ad­ja­cent to the touristy Lanes. It’s a no-frills con­verted MOT garage with a Ushaped bar-and­stools af­fair made from OSB (ori­ented strand board; that over­sized wood­chip par­ti­cle-stuff you see on build­ing sites), while the in­spec­tion pit has very clev­erly been re­con­fig­ured as a cheese/salami/wine cave. Easy-go­ing and in­for­mal as this sounds, Cin Cin is not a pizza-and-car­bonara joint, so I was slightly sur­prised to see that the only other din­ers in situ at Sun­day lunch (on what seemed to be an ab­surdly ex­tended sum­mer’s Sun­day but was in fact mid-oc­to­ber) were a fam­ily of five, cel­e­brat­ing a 10-yearold’s birth­day.

My kids are pretty good with food, my part­ner less ac­com­mo­dat­ing. How­ever, there is no way we would have both­ered to per­suade any of them near this, aged 10. Starters: a plate­ful of four ar­ti­san sa­lumi (in­clud­ing a quite glo­ri­ously fen­nelly sausage) and a smoked had­dock aran­cino with saffron aioli and pick­led sul­tanas ( tex­tu­rally and taste-wise eas­ily the best aran­cino I’ve had this decade); nor in­deed would they have touched my stu­pen­dously de­li­cious main course: reginelle (slightly frilled pasta rib­bons) with a one-two porcine jab of less-is-more Tus­can sausage and pork ragù – much less my part­ner’s sub­tly salty black tonnarelli with mus­sels, sal­sify and gre­mo­lata – though I guess they’d have been OK with the fo­cac­cia and olive oil, sim­ply be­cause when they were 10 the el­dest hadn’t yet de­cided that they were wheat-in­tol­er­ant.

Mean­while, our so­phis­ti­cated small neigh­bours were de­mol­ish­ing the lot. Which, of course, is al­most cer­tainly what would have hap­pened with my kids, had I moved to Brighton in 2008.

But I di­gress. Over my cheese­board (a very fine ta­leg­gio, in par­tic­u­lar) and his tremu­lous panna cotta with black­berry and ap­ple – as pleas­ingly crum­ble-y as it was wob­bly – I de­cided that I re­ally love Cin Cin; the food is cooked right there next to you qui­etly and un­fuss­ily in a non-suf­fo­cat­ingly-hip­ster man­ner that demon­strates only pas­sion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism; the ser­vice is im­pec­ca­ble, the room is cool and re­laxed – and re­lax­ing (and I say this as some­one very much stool-averse).

No longer stressed nor hangry, we or­dered a third Moretti to share while I texted a friend in Hove, sug­gest­ing cof­fee on the beach. “Cin Cin? Don’t they have a place in Hove?” “Yes,” I replied, knowl­edge­ably, “though that’s not the one with the Bib.” Yup, this week it turns out that the very best place to eat in Hove is… in Brighton.

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