Gastronomes can often see London as the centre of the food universe. Just look at Giles Coren’s comments last week that Birmingham’s restaurants are “just a bit rubbish”, adding: “Honestly, if I’m going out of London to eat it’s more productive to leave the country.” But our UK survey is annual proof that there is restaurant life outside of London – particularly in seaside resorts like Brighton. To gather some insider tips we’ve teamed up with esteemed food writer and local resident Andy Lynes – author of new e-book Kingdom of Cooks – to bring you the best of Brighton…
From the folks behind Brighton’s “great burgers and steak” joint The Coal Shed comes a seafood grill spot with an impressively lengthy cocktail list. Salt Room will open on the seafront, in Kings Road, on 20 February. On the menu: cuttlefish, oysters, sea bass, lobster and dry-aged Scottish steaks – all cooked Josper grill. The restaurant boasts one of Britain’s largest terraces with uninterrupted sea views and a large bar serving around 40 cocktails.
Ollie Couillaud, an alumnus of The Lawn Bistro in Wimbledon (and former head chef of the Dorchester Grill, Tom’s Kitchen and La Trompette) has taken over the kitchen at Sam’s Of Brighton where the food is now absolutely stellar, says Andy. The restaurant will also host Dan Doherty (of Duck & Waffle fame’s) Chefs of Tomorrow event on 13 April where four young chefs from Brighton will collaborate on a four course menu with Dan. Chefs of Tomorrow is a personal project of Doherty’s created to showcase some of the rising young British talent in the culinary world today.
Semone Bonner, formerly head chef of The Ginger Pig is opening his own restaurant, The Set, in March at the Artists Residence overlooking the West Pier. The hotel, which also has a sibling in London’s Pimlico (housing the big smoke version of Brighton’s small-plates smash hit 64 Degrees), hosts travelling pop-up restaurants like Chateau Marmont and already boasts a cafe/deli and cocktail bar.
This March sees the opening of Brighton’s first specialist beer shop, just off the seafront on East Street. The Bison Beer Crafthouse will offer an eclectic range of beers, with over 400 different varieties sourced from around the world. Bringing the fruit of the recent craft beer revolution to Brighton, the shop will sell draught ‘growlers’ – a two litre sharing container originally from the US. The venue will also host ‘Meet the Brewer’ evenings and plans for a brew-school are in the pipeline. Beer fans will even be able to jump on the iPad in-store and match beers with what they’re having for dinner.
With its “well-judged, utterly reliable cooking”, this “tiny side street restaurant” – the original member of the Gingerman chain – has just undergone a major refurb. The Gingerman re-opened in late January after a three week closure with a brand new look. On the menu: mackerel, escabeche, Scotch egg, fennel purée, peppers, tomato chutney & olive; beef fillet, bone marrow bon bon, confit potato, baby spinach, salt baked carrots & Béarnaise sauce and popcorn pannacotta, peanut butter powder, banana crisp.
ANDY’S INSIDER TIPS
Husband and wife team Orson and Linda Whitfield couldn’t try harder to make their newly opened neighbourhood bistro that’s tucked away off London Road a more attractive proposition. Everything is made from scratch including bread and ice cream and the short menu includes great value modern British dishes like salted cod, squid and mussel stew with squash and saffron potatoes. All bases are covered with thoughtful veggie options, a cracking Saturday brunch menu and traditional roast on Sunday.
This city centre modern Indian bistro specialising in South Indian street food is run by several Chilli Pickle alumni and it lives up to the high standards of its alma mater. This is a fun and funky sort of place with a bright orange and green colour scheme and bare brick walls and an accessible and affordable menu of delicious things like whole spicy sea bream cooked in the tandoor served with lemon rice. There’s a great list of craft beers too.
Housed in a Victoria warehouse in the boho North Laine area, Brighton has embraced former St John Bread and Wine chef Douglas McMaster’s radical zero waste, pre-Industrial food vision with tables and chairs made of chipboard and plates fashioned from recycled plastic bags. Home made is taken to the extreme here, with butter, yoghurt and curd all made in house and they even mill their own flour from rare ancient varieites of wheat for the superlative sourdough. Most importantly, dishes like venison haunch, lentils, fermented ramson and scarlet kale are delicious.
Former Fat Duck chef Duncan Ray’s high quality restaurant does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s little, about 20 seats or so, they serve (mostly) fish and it’s near Hove’s Old Market. You’ll need to bring a fat wallet as the five course tasting menu costs £50 a head and its a cash only operation, but for that you are getting some of the best cooking in the county with dishes like monkfish, pork belly, potato anna, pickled apple and sage.
If you’re after authentic ramen noodles, look no further than Shogun, a few street up from Brighton’s seafront. With just a counter and a few stools, you may have to wait for a seat but it will be worth it for generous bowl of curry udon, tonkotsu and spicy chicken ramen.
KINGDOM OF COOKS
Food, drink and travel writer Andy Lynes – who contributes to many national newspapers, magazines and publications like Where Chefs Eat – has published his first e-book. Kingdom of Cooks: Conversations with Britain’s New Wave Chefs contains a series of in-depth interviews with some of the UK’s most exciting chefs, including Simon Rogan (L’Enclume and Fera at Claridge’s), Mary-Ellen McTague (Aumbry, Manchester), Neil Rankin (The Smokehouse, Islington) and Gary Usher (Sticky Walnut, Chester).
The interviews take the reader behind the scenes of some of the most famous kitchens in the country to show what it’s really like paying your dues working for chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver. Each chef has contributed a recipe so readers can create culinary magic at home.
“I’ve been passionately interested in food and drink for more than 30 years and writing about it for a decade. In my experience, there has never been a more exciting time to eat out in this country,” says Andy, who journeyed over 1,200 miles to visit restaurants in the name of research. “Although London is the accepted capital of food in the UK, I’ve literally gone out of my way to prove there is something gastronomically exciting happening in every corner of the country.”
Kingdom of Cooks: Conversations with Britain’s New Wave Chefs by Andy Lynes is now available from Amazon’s Kindle store, priced £2.99.