Friday, 8 June 2012

Sam's of Brighton & Jim White at the Brighton Ballroom

On Wednesday my parents and I went to Brighton to see Jim White. Because we arrived quite early and the doors didn't open until 8, we had booked a table at a restaurant called Sam's, which my parents had been to before and really enjoyed. We parked at the seafront and tried to find the restaurant. After walking in completely the wrong direction, we found out the right way from a stranger, and walked back the way we'd come and another ten minutes in the right direction, and there we were. Sam's is a very tiny restaurant with simple decor and framed black and white photos all over the walls. We were the only customers other than a couple who got there before us, and we sat in a booth with sofas and cushions. The waiter was really friendly and talkative, and when he asked what we were up to this evening we took ages trying to explain who Jim White was, and we got as far as 'he's kind of like Nick Cave or Tom Waits, sort of American Gothic but not that kind of gothic...' It's actually really difficult to describe Jim White.

As soon as we sat down we were given water and a basket of fresh bread with oil and vinegar to dip it in. We ordered from a set menu which had a choice of two starters and two mains. The starters were rabbit liver parfait with toasted brioche and red onion marmalade, or crab beignet with kumquat preserve. I had the rabbit and my parents had the crab. The rabbit was lovely and gamey and went really well with the sweetness of the marmalade and the brioche. The only problem was the thing that happens every time with pate; there was a huge slice of pate and only two pieces of brioche, so I had to eat the last bit with my fork, which felt like bad table manners! But it was still really delicious.

The main courses were a choice of pork sausages with mashed potato, broccoli, and onion gravy, or risotto verdi with goats' cheese fritters. My dad and I had the sausages and my mum had the risotto. The sausages were lovely, dense and not too 'chunky', the potato was really smooth and creamy and buttery, and the gravy was rich and sweet. It was really delicious. I couldn't manage all my sausages so I gave the last one to my parents to share. My mum's risotto looked really good as well, and it was amazingly presented. When the waitress brought our meals out she asked if we wanted mustard, and then what type of mustard - it turns out they have a whole selection. We asked for English mustard and she seemed to have some trouble getting it for us - we said 'don't worry, we'll have whatever mustard you can find!' but she managed to track down some English mustard for us, hooray!

Finally we had dessert. We probably would have been full enough without it, but they sounded amazing on the menu. We all chose elderflower panna cotta with gooseberry jam and a raspberry shortbread biscuit. The panna cotta was really thick and had a lovely creamy cheesy texture, rather than the wobbly jelly texture they usually have. The shortbread and jam were also very good. We saw on a notice that they sold a lot of their preserves in jars, but we didn't buy any because we'd be carrying it around at a gig!

But it turns out that wouldn't have been a problem, because when we went inside the venue, the Brighton Ballroom (which was right next door to the restaurant), we were surprised by how small and cosy it was inside, and there were sofas and tables to sit at all around the outside of the room. So we quickly grabbed a table and got to sit down comfortably for the rest of the evening, which was just as well considering how much food we'd just eaten! The ballroom resembled a burlesque venue, everything was dark red and purple plush with chandeliers and a high domed ceiling, and the walls were covered in art and photos. There was Turkish music playing when we went in, and it all seemed really strange and dreamlike.

The support band was called Stanton, and Jim White performed with them as well. They were a two-piece band with a singer/guitarist and a double bass player. They also provided the music for Jim White's performance and the double bass player was particularly good. It was a much shorter time between the support and the main act than it usually is, perhaps owing to how small and simple this venue was. Between performances, Jim White and the band just wandered around with the audience. It was quite strange being so close to the stage and seeing the performers right there, rather than disappearing backstage somewhere.

Jim White performed in his usual laid-back style, stopping to tell stories in between songs. Often his introductions last longer than the songs themselves! Highlights of the performance included Still Waters and If Jesus Drove a Motorhome, both distinctively different to the album versions. There was a technical hitch halfway through the performance, when one of the amps stopped working properly and made a loud humming noise, but it was quickly sorted out, Jim made some funny comments about it and the audience was very patient. There was an 11pm curfew so it was one of the shorter gigs I have been to, but it ranks among my favourites because of how relaxed and laid-back the atmosphere was. It was a very enjoyable night all round.

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