EVENT: Brighton’s Best Restaurants OctoberBEST, 17th – 30th October 2016

October brings us an unmissable new Brighton restaurant event that will save you serious money at some of Brighton's hottest tables.

From the 17th to 30th October 2016, the first ever OctoberBEST will see the city's top 20 restaurants offer special £20 menus and deals to diners. The list is a showcase of our dining gems that is putting us on the map as one of the UKs top restaurant destinations.

 “The restaurant scene in Brighton has really flowered over the last two years and there has never been so much quality and diversity as there is now,” says Andy Lynes, co-founder of Brighton's Best Restaurants alongside fellow Brightonians Patrick Mcguigan (food writer) and Euan Macdonald (co-founder, 60 second reviews). 

The 20 restaurants included are the winners from the first Brighton’s Best Restaurants awards, voted for by local experts with their forks to the ground, including food writers, chefs, restaurateurs, critics and bloggers. Born of a genuine love to celebrate local food business, it was a great first year and I look forward to the second one in February 2017. It didn't go unnoticed that the restaurants seemed to proudly display these trophies in particular, and only some of them in the loo (naughty Bincho Yakitori!).

I'm always asked for my favourite local restaurants and the list includes them all. If you haven't tried some of them or you've been thinking of a revisit then this is an ideal time to tick them off the list. Or dine out every day!

Examples of the £20 OctoberBEST deals are: 

64 Degrees — 2 courses and a rum bear with ice cream, plus a glass of wine or beer.
Moshimo —  Tasting menu of four bento boxes (usually £32.50).
The Salt Rooms — 3 courses and a glass of house wine.
Silo 3 starter vegetarian courses plus a glass of elderflower bubbly.
The Ginger Pig —  Food and drink pairing including 3 plates and 3 drinks.
The Set — 3 course menu. 
Isaac@ —  Set menu (usually £32.50).

Full list of participating restaurants below and details of the deals and times available can be found on brightonsbestrestaurants.com

  1. 64 Degrees
  2. The Chilli Pickle
  3. The Salt Room
  4. The Set
  5. Silo
  6. Plateau
  7. The Gingerman
  8. Terre a Terre
  9. The Little Fish Market
  10. Curry Leaf Café
  11. The Ginger Pig
  12. Semolina
  13. Bincho Yakitori
  14. Moshimo
  15. The Coal Shed
  16. Riddle & Finns
  17. 24 St Georges
  18. Flank
  19. Fatto a Mano
  20. IsaacAt
Images of food from Silo, Salt Rooms and The Set taken from their respective Twitter feeds. 

REVIEW: Giggling Squid, Brighton

The surroundings of Giggling Squid Brighton are charming, housed in one of those classically ramshackle fisherman cottages, that seem to narrow the further you go up, full of nooks, crannies and creaks. I visited on a particularly warm evening where the tables spilled out onto Market Street in the heart of the Lanes with live music and the bustle in the air. 

This was Giggling Squid's first restaurant, open in 2002 and is now part of a flourishing chain with 18 locations and growing. Not that you'd know it. Attention to detail and care is still evident, particularly in the immaculate menus, beautifully designed and written, with most dishes containing a personal narrative from the owner. It's lovely, food should tell a story and always tastes better with one too.

We are not exactly overrun with good quality Thai food in the city (argue in the comments please!) so Giggling Squid is certainly up there if you were looking for a Thai meal. There is plenty of choice with some good ol' classics like Thai-style fish cakes, Tom Yum soup, Pad Thai and your Green Curries as well as some specialist dishes.

For starters we tuck into sweet, succulent roast duck slices served in romaine leaves with plenty of fresh, zingy flavour from matchsticks of ginger, chilli and celery. This was an ideal light starter served simply with a chilli dipping sauce.

I would have expected the Salt and Pepper squid to have been a little better, namesake and all. Unfortunately I had recently dined at Senor Buddha, where I had the best squid dish of my life I think. This one here was more what I would expect, slightly chewy, the flabby batter not as fine or crisp as it should be. Still a good plate but a little disappointing.

I should mention the prawn crackers though. I usually ignore these, they normally remind me of packaging filler material. But no, here these were crisp, full of flavour and just seem more wholesome, with a little kick of heat. As the menu is so long, I'd get an order of these and settle in for a read.

My main of "stand-up sea bass" arrived in a more relaxed lying down pose, but was dramatic and thoroughly enjoyable none the less. Filleted off the bone, this was fried along with the head for presentation. The juicy fillets themselves had been lightly battered and then had it all going on with the flavour; fresh chilli, fish sauce, lime, ginger, lemongrass and fish sauce. I loved it and wasn't disappointed with the level of heat from the spicy option but you can order a less fiery version.

My gorgeous dinner date (you now who you are!) went for the Thai staple pad gra pao, a stir fry of chilli and fragrant holy basil. The chicken was tender and the dish had a good depth with plenty of texture.

I don't tend to do dessert and certainly not Asian ones after having too many green wobbly disasters in the past, so you'll have to discover those yourself. But sweet treats here are limited anyway. You will find a good selection of ice cream and sorbet from the mighty Boho Gelato, including their bespoke black sesame flavour for this restaurant.

I really enjoyed my meal here and wondered why it had taken me so long to return - it's been years since my last visit. I will certainly be back to make a bigger dent in the menu for sure. Service was friendly and relaxed but professional.

Although we have more statement eats in Brighton, Giggling Squid sits comfortably in the reliable, good quality bracket of restaurants that shouldn't be sniffed at. Dinner with friends, a low key date night or relaxed lunch in central Brighton full of vibrant, fresh flavour? Then Giggling Squid is your cephalopod.

Giggling Squid Brighton
11 Market St, Brighton BN1 1HH

(Also at)
Giggling Squid Hove
129 Church Rd, Hove BN3 2AE

I was invited to review Giggling Squid. Words and thoughts, as always, are my own.

REVIEW: MOD Pizza, Brighton

Admittedly I had arrived with a premonition I wouldn't like MOD and typically I turn down any review requests I have a feeling I won't like (the majority of the new Marina restaurants, I'm looking at you). But for the sake of the Brighton pizza review post and more than a handful of people excitedly contacting me about it, I shook off my chain restaurant issues. But before I did, I had a dramatic arse over moment in front of a very busy, and very glass fronted Pizza Express who I swear must have cursed me for my words on their comedy pizzas. I'm now sporting a 6 inch rainbow bruise on my knee. But I stand firm on one thing - my opinion. Their pizzas are revolting.

So then, Brighton Marina, fast becoming the mecca for back-lit menus and wipe clean surfaces. I almost couldn't believe the expansion of chain restaurants down here under the new apartment blocks. There is so much choice and I'll be amazed if they all make it through to next year. Hailing from Seattle, this chain was "inspired by their love of authentic Italian street pizza and the UK Mod movement of the 60s and 70s." Er, ok then.

You walk in to a chorus of happy, smiley, flip board trained staff with a bewildering choice of pizza toppings. Think Subway in a pizza format and I am totally out of my comfort zone. You can concoct all sorts of beasts. How about one with pineapple, Canadian bacon, chickpeas, feta and a BBQ swirl? What do you mean, no? Some crazy cats have even asked for EVERYTHING. Not recommended, apparently. I opted for one if their set recipes, the Dominic, which sounded a little more sensible; a white base with asiago cheese, sausage, red onion, tomato and fresh basil. The only thing I pepped it up with is some chilli. Most of their set suggestions seem a good bet and the pricing is great. Despite the number of toppings you choose it's always the same price and a small cost at just £7.47 for an 11". You can get 6" mini ones (great for kids) too at £4.47. Pizza prices are going a bit cray cray of late (no pizza should be £10+) so nice to see sensible pricing.

They also do salads or even a salad pizza, but I'll leave that to someone else to discover.

The base is unlike anything from my Italian motherland. No pillow soft Neapolitan dough and forget leoparding. The doughball is pressed and speed heated, essentially fried, at 180 which activates the yeast. It's then placed on a stand to prove. But unlike the Pressed Base Disaster of 2015 this was actually quite nice. Crisp, thin and well cooked straight on the stone of the fancy electric oven, it's an American style pizza - far more New York than Chicago deep dish, thankfully. If I get over the fact that this is nothing to do with Italy and is essentially some sort of topped flat bread, it's delicious.

The toppings seemed really good in terms of quality and quantity. It wasn't overladen and the favour combination was well balanced and tasty. Choose simple and you generally win in terms of pizza.

They don't have desserts that I could see but we were offered a sweet cinnamon pizza with dips. This wasn't the sort of thing I would order and the dips were too sweet so I think I'll stick to the pizza itself.

For drinks you can choose floats, Modshakes, sodas and home-made iced tea. I lived dangerously with the wine as I don't do soft drinks really and again, it was gluggable stuff. 

But I ate my hat that night and would happily go back. My kids would love it along with all the pre cinema and bowling crew that the Marina attracts. And it's so different from anything in Brighton, or the style of pizza we currently have (a handful of really good Neapolitan style pizzerias and a lot of Anglo-Italian crap ones) it could do really well. 

Now let's not get crazy. Pizza like this will never be in the same category as real soughdough Neapolitan style pizza. That's the stuff of craft. But for a fun, family friendly meal or just fast food at the enjoyable end of the scale, then MOD is a really good shout. As chain pizza goes, this is one of the few I'd put in my mouth.

MOD Pizza Brighton
Brighton Marina

I was invited to review MOD Pizza. Thoughts and words, as always, are my own. 

REVIEW: Señor Buddha, Brighton

I've always had a problem with the "F" word. No, not that one, I'm taking "fusion". For me it smacks of naff, dated ideas or worse, really confused, gimmicky flavour. But I think my issue is just the word as tweaks, twists and inspirations from other cuisines are often to be subtly found on our plates. Señor Buddha has always worried me though. The name, the Spanish and Asian tapas concept, the brash type on the logo (yes REALLY this affects me) and the location. But as Bincho Yakitori has recently taught me, I need to get over location issues pretty sharpish.

This is also one of the smallest restaurants in Brighton with just a handful of tables. At 5'1", I could easily have the shortest legs in Brighton but sat at the bar overlooking the compact open kitchen, even I wasn't the most comfortable. But this is where the action is, so just side saddle up and enjoy the cooking front row.

And straight from the off, I knew I'd got this place all wrong. The dishes were refined, exciting and enticing.

I order the cauliflower steak and pineapple just to see what bonkers turns up on the plate. Hat eaten, this just works. The previously sous vide cauliflower is charred and served with lightly cooked pineapple and a subtle yellow curry sauce. I'm still thinking about it a week later as I still don't understand how the flavours were in perfect balance, but they were indeed. If they still have it on, you must order this.

The dramatic dish of salt and pepper squid sat on top of a squid ink and romanesco sauce was outstanding. This was the best squid I think I have ever eaten, superbly tender and sweet with a light, seasoned cornflour coating to give it that delicious crunch from the fry.

My dining companion was slightly horrified at the thought of the blood sausage mocilla, but soon polished it off after tasting how good it was. Served with scallops, this classic combination was given a new dimension with a cauliflower and coconut puree.

Good ol' patatas bravas that we all know from our Spanish holibobs had Asian inspiration very much alive and kicking in a fiery ginger and shallot sauce. Most of the other dishes were quite subtle but this one had all guns blazing and luckily I adore spicy food.

The crispy confit duck leg was another great dish full of textures, served with a subtle Asian pear, pea and coconut puree.

Lastly the beautifully butterflied, grilled sardines (top image) were the perfect summer dish perched on top of a light, fresh papaya, chilli and onion salad to cut through those glorious fish oils.

Desserts here are minimal but I'm not one for them anyway. They do stock my favourite Boho Gelato who I'm sure will have have come up with a perfect flavour for them.

Señor Buddha is casual and affordable—amazingly so—and you would expect to pay a heck of a lot more for the same food in a fancy fit out with a more premium location. I'm not sure if it's a shame or not that it is due to find a second home in a more central spot. It will do amazingly well, but there is also something nice about it feeling like a hidden gem off the beaten track. Even though there seems to be a huge influx of restaurant chains invading the city (luckily all going down the Marina by the look of it), it's these small, off-beat indies that have made Brighton the dining destination it has become.

The food is far more sophisticated than the concept initially reveals, with a lightness of touch and very clever flavour working. Forget everything you may know about typical Spanish tapas - this is a different perspective on familiar dishes and makes for very unique dining in Brighton.

Señor Budda
9 Preston Rd
Brighton BN1 4QE 

I dines as a guest of Señor Buddha. Words and thoughts, as always, are my own. 


No, not the name given to fans of the kale peddling blog by Gwenith Paltrow, Goupie is in fact very much on the naughtier side of the food spectrum.  A family recipe that has been made by Janet Simpson’s family for over 50 years, it is essentially a very posh puffed rice treat available in some really nice flavour combinations like Cherry and Almond, White Lavender or Lemon Meringue. 

The base is chewy and crunchy and who doesn't like that? They say "devilishly moreish" and I'll have to agree. Both packs lasted 48 hours in the home and I think that was being reserved. 

The warming cardamon version I tried was really nice flavour with a fine white chocolate topping. I love all things coffee too so the Espresso Goupie with dark Belgian chocolate and Arabica coffee beans was right up my street. 

And can we talk about the packaging? How gorgeous is it? I love it when some time and effort has really been invested in compelling packaging and they have been shortlisted for the UK packaging Awards this year too. The unusual format and quality finish would make this a really nice gift for someone. 

If you love sweet treats and want something different, definitely pick some up. Locally you can get them in Mulberrys, Bolney vineyard or Grasmere in Hove. Or online of course at goupie.co.uk

I was sent these products for review. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.

REVISIT AND REVIEW: Little Fish Market, Brighton and Hove

It's has been a good old while since my last visit to Little Fish Market, yet I still have some strong food memories from that meal, which is always a winning sign of good food. But the LFM has evolved since those days, now offering a single five course menu. Even the place seems a little smarter but is still relaxed and pleasant in an upmarket beachy way. One thing that hasn't changed is that Duncan Ray is still the sole chef at work in the small kitchen, and I suppose this restaurant's success is down to his ability to control and set the creative direction of the food.

It was actually a real bonus not to have trawl through a menu on the night (lazy me, I know). If you did have any dietary requirements I think they are happy to assist with notice, but for us eat-alls, it was nice to sit down and and relax from the offset. And if you can't be bothered with the wine list either, there is also a wine flight available to match the foods. At £25 per person it is well priced too.

From the starter you knew you were in for a special meal. A miso glaze is ideal for the smoke and strength of flavour of mackerel and the spring onion added a sweet element with the yuzu a little lift.

The food has simplified and even though it has always been of an exceptional quality, the cooking feels more self-assured. There are no flourishes and certainly no reliance on the smoke and mirrors of trendy processes or edgy accessories on the plate. The slip sole in seaweed butter, becoming somewhat a signature plate by the look of things, is exactly that. Being used to pretty garnishes and the like, it does feel a little stark but kudos for that confidence. And when you delve into the dish there is no need for any more at all, it's exquisite. Firm and sweet flesh flaked easily from the bone and the seaweed butter added depth and richness. Perfect.

Even thought the focus of LFM is, obviously, fish, the meat dishes are also very good. The pork belly was perfectly rendered so you had all of the flavour delivered in a soft, succulent texture. I loved the freshness from the pea puree and broad beans and the decadent, sticky reduction of the sauce.

Back to fish, a generous portion of halibut was served with pillow soft Parmesan gnocchi, pickled mushrooms and crisp Parma ham. This was the most complex course and I would have loved to have seen it stripped back like the other dishes, but was still hugely enjoyable.

We finished with a light strawberry mille-feuille with wild strawberry sorbet, perfect for the warm evening and to cleanse the palate. This is exactly the fresh dessert I prefer really over anything sweet and chocolate based.

So a pretty faultless meal and at £50 for all the courses, I would say exceptional value for money. The attention to detail and pure focus on the food makes me really struggle to think of a better restaurant in Brighton. This was actually my birthday treat from the husband so eating out as much as I do, I want somewhere really special and was so pleased we chose Little Fish Market, for an occasion it's an absolute must.

Most people with his talent would be shouting it from the rooftops, but Duncan works diligently and quietly at mastering his craft here, and the location, tucked away in the residential streets of Hove, suits it perfectly. But if you haven't already, do go and discover it for yourself.

10 Upper Market St, Hove BN3 1AS

REVIEW: New food products round up, Bloggers Hangout

New food products are always enticing us right? As consumers, we are a lot more demanding and the powers that be behind food innovation are certainly giving us lots more options on the store shelves. Here I review quite a few brand new products - from pea-based crisp alternatives to charcoal salt in collaboration with The Bloggers Hangout's Foodie Must Haves Box.

Let's tuck in...

Yushoi Snapea sticks - yushoi.co.uk

I'm normally quite good junk-wise but I am weak for crisps or savoury snacks. WEAK! Once I pop I really can't stop, so to my husband's dismay, I have a household ban on snacks (I won't tell you what he calls me - terribly politically incorrect). I have seen these Yushoi packs on sale but any "healthier" crisp alternative  pretty much tend to be a disappointment. However these, made with about 70% of green peas (yes really), are rather delicious. They are a puffed stick and don't taste too much of peas really. The seasoning choices - Sweet Chilli and Lemon, Salted and Soy and Balsamic Vinegar were very nicely balanced. I'd 100% buy these again.

Jim Jams Chocolate Spreads - jimjams-spreads.co.uk

Who doesn't like Nutella right? So naughty though. Whichever way you look at it, the ingredient breakdown is pretty scary, essentially sugar and palm oil. So being the Mama Killjoy I am, I think my kid has had it a couple of times in his 4 years on Earth.

But what do we have here? A jar of chocolate spread with a great fat 83% less sugar flash on the jar front. So, lets analyse the ingredients. Number one - Maltitol. Sounds like a foot fungus treatment so not off on the right er, foot. I started to look into it but science hurts my head and I don't think food should be difficult to understand. It is, unsurprisingly an artificially produced sweetener. Yes, it is kinder on teeth, less calories than sugar and possibly not that bad for you (other than a laxative effect) but I don't know. Processed foods scare me and I'd rather steer my kids free of them full stop. Both Nutella and Jim Jams Spread contain "sustainable palm oil" and the natural emulsifier lecithin.

Taste-wise the Hazelnut Chocolate Spread version is pretty close to Nutella, maybe less of that rich roasted nut taste but impressive and very enjoyable. If you did want an alternative then this would be a good place to start, but in my book, if you were bothered about sugars, then just do without chocolate spread on a regular basis.

Heartsease Farm Drinks radnorhills.co.uk

This is a difficult one. People are either in the fizzy drink camp or not. Aside from the odd San Pelligrino on a blistering hot day, I'm a wine, tea or water gal. The Heartsease Farm range is in the premium soft drink category that wouldn't look out of place in a farm shop or Waitrose. I actually loved the fresh elderflower presse, ginger beer and the unusual edge of rhubarb and apple drinks, but being sensitive to heavily carbonated and sugar rich drinks, they are probably not for me. But if you like a sweet soft drink in the sun, the range is brilliant and worth taking a look at.

Ross & Ross BBQ range - rossandrossfood.co.uk

I was very impressed with all the products from Ross & Ross who hand make British food gifts and I was sent a selection from their BBQ range. The Jerk chicken rub was incredibly fragrant and turned a quick mid-week meal into something really delicious, having the ideal amount of heat and spice. The Smoked salt with garlic and charcoal was really unusual but again, just added an extra dimension to food. I've had smoked rapeseed oil in the past and am already a huge fan and this firey chilli one is great with meats or made into a dressing - I added some to a yoghurt, garlic and spring onion base and made a potato salad.

They sell gift hampers which would be perfect for any keen cook but try and grab these BBQ products whilst the British summer is still hanging around.

The Organic Protein Company - organicproteincompany.com

To be honest, this organic whey protein scared the bjezus out of me when it arrived. Isn't this stuff for body builders? A good thing was that the beautifully designed packaging was more foodie than typical so more approachable, with no skinny people in swimwear or overly health food supplement driven. And it turns out that lots of protein powders have a ton of other ingredients added to them, not all of them good. This one is pure as it gets.

I have been working out actually (thanks for noticing) so after a bit of a read, I started introducing post-workout protein shakes and even breakfast alternatives. I loved this coffee, almond milk and frozen banana shake which sustained me through school uniform shopping which all parents know, is no mean feat (gin also helps). Also a banana, hazelnut milk, spinach shake tastes far better than it should. If you have a sweet tooth you will need to craft the use of this a little more but now I've grasped it's usage, I'll be cooking with it in pancakes and oat bars. It's all about the protein these days so an easy and organic way of introducing it to your diet. Plus Brighton based business - extra points!

Merangz by Flower & White - flowerandwhite.co.uk

You can't beat meringues to knock up a last-minute dessert. Throw in some berries, ice cream, creme fraiche or yogurt...whatever you have to hand and you have a beautiful summer masterpiece. Often supermarket versions are pretty dry, dusty and dull but these were much better. You can get the range in quite a variety. The huge raspberry and white chocolate versions were impressive in themselves although I would have liked a little more chew. The selection of mini flavoured meringues were very attractive, with swirls of vibrant colour and unusual favours. And the basic ones make a very versatile store cupboard hero.

PERK!ER Quinoa Bars - perkier.co.uk

I always struggle with on-the-go food but these could be a good option. I've yet to see a quinoa based bar on the market and these PERK!ER ones tick every on-trend ingredient in the book. But they were really quite enjoyable, packed full of decent stuff and vegan, gluten and dairy free. My favourite was the Coconut and Chia bar, as I love the chew and crunch of seeds, nuts and dates. There is a good flavour range like Goji & Cranberry or Cashew, Chia & Pumpkin Seed. I also like how fun and attractive they are as they can often look too health food store. If your kids are old enough to eat nuts and seeds safely, then they could be a decent option for them too as a treat (the bars got a thumbs up from junior Foodie here!).

Suki Tea - suki-tea.com

We've done coffee and this year has certainly been about the tea. Based in Belfast, Suki Tea is still run by a small team who ethically source and blend loose leaf teas, herbal infusions and fruit blends. You can purchase single blends and gift sets or if you want to discover more tea varieties, you can opt for their subscription service where you are sent four teas to try a month. I'm still trying to find my love for green tea so the steamed Sencha I'm sure was excellent quality, just lost on me. The Apple Loves Mint tea tasted like a unicorn had peed in the cup - too sweet, too much. More to my taste was the elegant White Tea Elderflower and the everyday Belfast Brew - try a proper cup of whole leaf black tea an you'll never reach for those dusty tea bags again. The brewing advice was handy but they could also add if it is appropriate to add milk or not. The packaging and illustration style is beautiful and would make ideal gifting for that tea lover in your life.

Hodmedod's British Pulses - hodmedods.co.uk

We are eating a bit more healthily and consciously in general and these products from Hodmedod's are really handy wholesome store cupboard heros. They work with British farmers to support and develop a fair and sustainable supply of pulses and grains which is a huge bonus. I tend to use these heavily in mid-week cooking and have tried various brands, and these were certainly up there in terms of quality. I replaced chickpeas in a vegetarian stew with the Carlin Peas, that had a lot more flavour and a firmer texture. The kids, including the 15 month old, loved this for dinner! An end of day wine was the perfect time to try the roasted fava beans. These were delicious to snack on for a change and come in a selection of flavours. With free delivery over £30, they are definitely worth looking up to stock up your supplies with. I'd love to try their baked fava beans or experiment with more of the unusual flour varieties.

I received these products for review. Words and thoughts, as always are my own.