Sussex Business Times has teamed up with local businessman and founder of Yelo Architects, Andy Parsons for this months restaurant review. Here in these pages, he gives us his thoughts on the famous Gars Chinese restaurant in Brighton
I’m often looking for venues for a business lunch to take a client or a consultant we’re working with or hoping to work with, and it doesn’t take long to establish a list of favourites with the right combination of food, service and an ambiance that is lively but still allows you to hold a conversation easily.
Every three months I host a property networking lunch for up to 20 people and that really takes some organising. Not only do you need a restaurant that can take that number of people in a dedicated area, but you’re also looking for a venue that is easy to deal with. We’re a group of business owners and its a lunch club that has been going for a number of years, so we’re reliable, although its amazing how some restaurant managers don’t understand that.
Recently one well-known Brighton restaurant asked us for a £1750 deposit, demanded every meal ordered up front and took 5 weeks to provide the menu, which then didn’t include a single fish or vegetarian dish, needless to say we didn’t book.
So with only a couple of weeks until the date I reverted to an old favourite that I knew would deliver on ease of booking, availability, food and service – Gars Restaurant in Prince Albert Street, Brighton.
Gars is a lovely restaurant to go to and I’m sure many SBT readers have been there for a romantic or family meal. I must add though, it’s also great for business functions. As well as the main restaurant, they also have a function room downstairs that I’ve been a few times for a drinks and buffet event. I recently attended the launch of the SO Legal Brighton office (which featured in last month’s Society pages) and they booked the main room upstairs, which worked particularly well for a larger party.
So on a Friday lunchtime in December twelve of us from the Mates in Business lunch group rocked up at Gars after a warm up beer in The Cricketers. Minky and his staff were pleased to see us (we were a little late after the beer became beers; plural… They had a table for us in the main upstairs room of the restaurant.
A circular table for a networking lunch is great as its so inclusive for all of the conversations, although typically we were so wrapped up in talking we’d completely neglected the menus in front of us! Fortunately the Gars staff recognised this and subtly suggested they just bring a selection of dishes for us all to share.
However I’m a bit of a pain in restaurants, as for 15 years, I’ve been gluten intolerant. I’ve had some terrible gluten free meals over the years, particularly with large organisations that really should try harder – airlines I’m looking at you here… There’s a very well known Brighton seafront hotel that seems to be hopeless, so I always avoid any function there – three sprigs of plain asparagus was once one of their starters, which I think speaks for itself…
Fortunately Gars are very allergy aware and said it was no problem and they would bring me my own selection. Everyone else on the table tucked into Sesame prawns on toast, quick fried chicken in salt and chilli, tempura vegetables and barbecue ribs. Whereas my gluten free starters platter had crispy seaweed, quick fried squid in salt and chilli and Vietnamese spring rolls. The starters were great and helped to take the edge off the warm up beers we’d devoured.
Mains were another banquet of dishes and the staff highlighted which ones were gluten free. If I recall correctly we had Kung Po style chicken, sizzling fillet steak in black pepper & soy sauce, fillet of seabass steamed in ginger and spring onion, roast belly pork with pak choi, Fried shredded chilli beef and aubergine hot pot toban style.
All of the food was absolutely faultless, I can’t think of any other restaurant in Sussex that I’ve been to multiple times and yet have always thought the food was amazing.
Per head we paid £70, which bearing in mind it was one of those Friday afternoon four hour lunches with plenty of wine, is good value.
So in summary I’d highly recommend Gars for any business function from a two person business lunch through to larger events.
Since opening in 1983, the family-run Gars Chinese restaurant turned out to be an institution in Brighton. The Gars family moved from Hong Kong to Brighton in 1955, bringing with them traditional values, a great working ethos, and a desire to create something that reflected both their journey and their new home.
Gars Chinese Restaurant
19 Prince Albert St, Brighton