Review: Cin Cin, Hove
While I’ll admit I’ve got a soft spot for a Anglo-Italian spag bol - the kind served covered in cheddar cheese with a massive hunk of garlic bread on the side - it just doesn’t have anything on authentic Italian food, something that Brighton has felt like it has lacked in the past.
Cin Cin’s original site on Vine Street in the North Laine has been part of the change against that, serving antipasti, small plates and pastas to share in a laid back bar atmosphere. It’s obviously been successful, as they’ve now expanded to a second site in Hove. Hungry for carbs, we headed to their launch night to see if it stood up to the original.
The Drinks and Atmosphere
We arrive overly early (okay, maybe we were a bit too excited) but are welcomed in and ushered straight to the friendly barman, who offers us an aperitif. Both of us opt for a vermouth and elderflower cocktail, which is refreshingly light and dangerously delicious.
The space feels buzzy and intimate, with low lamps giving the space a warm glow - while thankfully not being so low that there’s a risk of whacking your head on them. We grab seats at the bar, meaning we can watch the chefs busying away at the open kitchen and chat to the barman. This comes in handy when I accidentally drop some pasta in photographer Rachel’s drink, which is kindly and quickly replaced.
Delicious morsels quickly start arriving - we miss out on the impressive charcucerie platters but do get a taste of lardo on pane guttiau - pure indulgent pig fat on crisp sardinian bread - which is creamy and delicious.
We try two of the dishes from the “Small Plates” section of the menu - first come croquettes filled with mozzerella and spicy ‘nduja sausage and topped with blobs of parsley mayonnaise. They’re crispy, oozing, and impossible to eat in a dignified way, which only adds to the fun. I would have liked to have tasted the ‘nduja more, but I’m a spice fiend.
Next, there is crostini topped with grilled sardines and stracciatella (that’s the soft cheese, not the ice cream with bits of chocolate in) which pair well, balanced out with sour pickled onion.
We move on to the the pastas, which I’d been looking forward to the most. Sopresini served with lamb breast and a kale pesto is rich and herby, but is quickly overshadowed by the smoked eel carbonara served with a confit egg on top, which manages to balance creaminess with a whack of saltiness from the fish.
Best of all is the leek agnolotti stuffed with truffle and potato, a fun riff on leek and potato soup that tastes like a lovely warm wintery hug, the kind of thing I’d eat every day in January if it didn’t make my bank balance cry.
New to the Hove branch is the option of a “Secondi” course, and we get a taste of two meat options, roast lamb and pork porchetta. Both are beautifully prepared and cooked, getting “ooh”’s from us at the table - the lamb tender, the pork moist and wearing a crisp crackling jacket. I’d have been happy to have either by itself as a little mini roast dinner.
Starting to feel full but battling on, it’s on to desserts. As someone who thinks beetroot is an evil vegtable that tastes like dirt, I’m relieved it doesn’t come through strongly in the ice cream served with the rich warm chocolate mousse, although a beet-lover might have been disappointed.
Pleasing to all, though, is their “beer-imisu”, which swaps coffee for an espresso stout. It’s a good move that adds maltiness without messing with, let’s face it, an already great dessert. A drizzle of salted caramel tops it all off (yes, salted caramel is everywhere these days. Problem?)
Wobbling away full of food and vermouth, we’re happy to see Cin Cin have taken their winning formula and just expanded it. It’s a great casual addition to Hove’s food scene, a place to grab some plates and drinks with friends, perch with a date, or drop pasta on your colleagues. I’ll be back to do at least one of those soon.