NEW VIDEO:'Tasting menus give us the ability to utilise more ingredients and give more of a journey and an experience'

The Staff Canteen

Tom Stephens is the chef and owner at Dilsk restaurant in Brighton, based in Drakes Hotel, which opened in April 2023. Chosen as one of the Michelin inspectors' favourite new restaurants after just 5 months, the restaurant takes its name from a regional variation of dulse seaweed.

Tom explained that the name was an obvious choice as ‘it’s super natural’ and found on the south coast where they are based.

“We originally wanted to call the restaurant Dulse but that was already taken,” he said. “So, we settled for Dilsk and I actually prefer it.

“We wanted something which reflected the whole ethos of the restaurant which is natural, and we want to use as much wild food as we can.”


Tom always knew he wanted to do something creative, he worked part time in a kitchen when he was in college and fell in love with it.

He said: “I was really lucky early on in my career that I worked with some great chefs. They took me under their wing and taught me to respect the produce. That really worked for me and my creative vibe.

“I went to eat in some great restaurants and I aspired to work in those restaurants, places like Claridge’s and Pied a Terre; I ended up working in them later down the line.”

He added: “My goal was to get to that level - as a young chef, find out what type of food you enjoy eating, what food you enjoy cooking and then push to get in to those restaurants.

Learning techniques and working in great restaurants

“Learning techniques and working in great restaurants is so important as a young chef. Having that base knowledge and understanding the balance of cooking and creating great dishes. Then you can really start focusing on the actual product itself and how you are going to make that taste to its best and how you are going to deliver that to the customer.”

As a new business owner and starting a restaurant from scratch, Tom says his focus was on ‘building a reputation’.

“We didn’t throw a load of money into a PR agency; we really wanted it to grow organically and build that reputation for ourselves.

“Getting bums on seats at the minute is the hardest part but that is coming, and we are looking forward to the business building.”


The 24-cover restaurant offers two menus, a full tasting which is 12 courses and a short tasting of five.

He said: “We offer the short menu because we want to be accessible, and we don’t want to price anybody out.

“Tasting menus give us the ability to utilise more ingredients and give more of a journey and an experience. A la carte, eating two or three dishes, doesn’t really give you the opportunity to appreciate all these amazing ingredients we have on our doorstep.

“There needs to be a bit of trust from the customer and building that trust is really important.”

He added: “For us the wine flight and drinks pairing is also very important, it elevates the food and goes hand in hand with the meal.”


The food ethos is Modern British, and the menus revolve around the produce Tom and his team can get.

“We have some amazing growers and farmers based in Sussex; they are on our doorstep so we really want to showcase their products.

“The menu is super seasonal, if something comes in and we want to use it then we’ll work a dish around that product. We use some amazing suppliers and really, they do the hard work for us. They have the best ingredients, and they tell us what is at its best at what time.”

A typical dish on the menu at Dilsk is the monkfish which comes in from the day boats from Brighton Newhaven fish sales, just down the road from the restaurant. Served with a patty pan squash and spider crab.

Tom explained: “There are a few side dishes which come with that which are made from waste product from the main dish – a hollandaise made with brown crab meat and the monkfish cheek.”

Diners can also currently expect a dessert of apple and celeriac tarte tatin. Tom said: “Apple and celeriac are bang in season and it’s our take on a classic, everyone loves it, so we don’t mess around with it too much.”

Looking to the future, Tom wants to build on what he has already achieved.

“It would be great to get some more bums on seats and with that will come consistency. Knowing how many covers we are doing every week means we can plan a bit further ahead which will really help us.”



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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th December 2023

NEW VIDEO:'Tasting menus give us the ability to utilise more ingredients and give more of a journey and an experience'