For the man who headed up an empire in the Naples equivalent of the Ministry of Sound, with four restaurants, a nightclub and a fashion label to feed, buying a 40-seat restaurant in an English seaside resort might seem a little offbeat.
But having decided to return to the UK (he worked in London before at Bertorelli's in Covent Garden and later with the Red Pepper Group) Francesco Furrielo settled in Sussex because he loved the surrounding countryside and because One Paston Place in Brighton came on the market. "I wanted to get back to doing what I love best, which is fine dining," he explains.
Together with wife and business partner Rachel, the first thing he did was transform the menu. But changing the food, as well as the decor, proved a bit radical for some of the regular crowd. "We lost a lot of business," he admits. "But we're much stronger now."
He describes his food as a mix of Mediterranean flavours, but the Italian influence remains strong. There's a starter of potato gnocchi with smoked scamorza (similar to mozzarella), Italian cherry tomato and basil, or roast saddle of rabbit salad with robiola (a soft Italian cows' milk cheese) and a walnut and lemon dressing. "My techniques are French, though," he points out. "That's my training. But I try to minimise any evidence of that. If I do a jus, for example, it has a gentle, not strong, flavour."
A set-lunch menu (£16.50 for two courses, £19 for three) and an evening menu (two courses £32.50, three courses £39) are both available. Furrielo likes to put together a variety of flavours, textures and colours on the plate, as in the best-selling starter of John Dory with vegetable tempura, rocket and lavender seeds.
Slices of John Dory are breadcrumbed in lavender seeds and pain brioche to form a thin crust, then quickly seared. For the tempura, Furrielo blends Champagne with flour, seasoned with a little salt, into which he dips batons of celery, carrot and courgette before deep-frying immediately. To round off, he serves three slices of roulade, made with cured salmon rolled in goats' cheese, olive oil and flower honey from the Italian Alps, accompanied by a zingy lemon and rocket salad, "To cut through the tempura and John Dory flavours, the lemon dressing must be really sharp," he adds.
A trilogy of Sussex lamb, a main course top-seller, features a seared cutlet, roast cannon or fillet served with a fine herb mousse and pan-roasted loin, accompanied by two wedges of potato and a sweet onion marmalade made with red wine vinegar, Demerara sugar and port.
A popular lunchtime choice is chargrilled scallops with king prawn-stuffed courgette flowers, served with a Champagne sabayon sauce.
A local cheese supplier visits every Tuesday, with Golden Cross, a locally made soft goats' cheese a current choice, as is Camembert stuffed with truffles. Dashes of luxury can be seen in desserts, too, for example a terrine of Champagne and peach bavarois served with Muscat sabayon cream.
Much of the produce on the seasonally changed menu is sourced locally. Fish comes from nearby Littlehampton - "halibut, haddock, sea bass and blue lobster; whatever's in the Channel is in my fridge," says Furrielo - lamb comes from a village just outside Brighton and a nearby farm supplies beef. He also uses London-based specialist supplier Wild Harvest for guinea fowl, wild mushrooms and foie gras.
A year-and-a-half on from opening, Furrielo clearly feels more comfortable about how his cooking is being received. A Good Food Guide listing, praise from Jan Moir in the Telegraph and regularly full Friday and Saturday nights have all helped to boost his confidence. "It's taken time to be accepted, but we're getting there," he says.
What's on the menu
East Sussex BN2 1HA
Tel: 01273 606933