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. 

PRODUCT REVIEW: Goupie


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.



thelittlefishmarket.co.uk
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.

REVIEW: Brighton Food Tours


The Brighton food scene is pretty spectacular these days with great restaurants, food shops and producers increasing in number year on year.

I joined Brighton Food Tours on their VIB (Very Independent Brighton) guide which celebrates some of the local indy food and drink scene gems. Over three hours we were taken around to visit a selection of shops, cafes and producers with plenty of tasters and the opportunity to purchase products with a discount.


I won't spoil the exact itinerary for you as part of the fun is the unknown, but there was a wide choice of places that had been well curated into an entertaining tour, so three hours seemed to fly by in no time at all. Living in Brighton all my life with a keen eye on the food industry meant that I knew everywhere I visited apart from one film-set worthy chocolate shop (with the most incredible hot chocolate for sale, Oh my GOODNESS). But if you are new to Brighton, were visiting for the day, wanted an alternative gift idea or are not that well versed into the nooks and crannies of Brighton food, then a tour like this is ideal.


We sampled some gourmet hummus, a very special sausage (stop it!), decadent chocolate, iced matcha drinks, visited my favourite gelato shop and finally propped up a fancy marble bar to down some oysters. So you can see it was diverse and entertaining and there was some historical trivia thrown in for good measure as we walked around too. All the places we visited were very informative and friendly with the right ratio of chat and eating! 

From the sounds of it there may are some more tour subjects in the making, like a foodie Christmas shopping tour which is a great idea. I would also love to see something like an afternoon tea crawl, Brighton restaurant tasters, or a tour of some of the very underground places and producers.  

For more visit brightonfoodtours.com

I joined the tour as a guest of Brighton Food Tours. Words and thoughts, as always, my own. 

Stress free dinner party hosting


Back in the (child-free) day, we used to host a lot of dinner parties in the Graphic Foodie household. And back then dinner parties were BIG. I’d typically start cooking from Friday night, all the way through to Saturday and devise showy menus, either with loads of courses or I’d have some crazy idea like recreating the timballo dish from the Big Night movie (link).


Behind my red lipstick veneer, I’d often be frazzled and spent far too much time in the kitchen rather than socialising. But that was my idea of fun back then!

These days though, time limitations have forced me into chilling out just that little bit more and dinner dates at home have become about catching up with friends and family - as they should be. I still love to cook for people but the food has also simplified and if I’m honest, my guests seem to like it just as much.

Here are my fail-safe tips that I have picked up for stress-free hosting.

Check your guest’s requirements
I’ve only ever had one occasion when someone turned up with a “dietary-requirement” guest. They were promptly served a raw carrot on a plate (that’s me for you), but find out in advance if you need to cater specifically. I prefer serving and eating the same thing as the rest of the table so if I have my vegan friends over, then we all eat vegan food. Far easier and actually your other guests (or you) may discover a new dish or two.

Preparation, preparation, preparation.
I like to cook slow roast meats like flavour-packed porchetta, big one-pot dishes of Sicilian chicken stew or meals you can prepare well in advance like a baked pasta dish. Freshly baked bread or focaccia is a must on our table and again, something that can be done the previous day. Plan your menu and have a maximum of one course you need to actively cook or prepare on the night. There are plenty of desserts like tiramisu, warm-cakes and charcuterie-based starters that need no last-minute preparation. The only thing I like to do is to serve and enjoy.

Simple serving
Family-style serving should not be sniffed at. It’s a communal and convivial way to eat. Food in general seems more accessible and more relaxed than ever, so big serving plates that people can help themselves to eases the pressure to dish up and also makes guests feel more comfortable.

Dress the table
You’re bound to forget knives or water glasses at the last minute so set the table well in advance to avoid faffing with tips to the kitchen on the night. A well-dressed table will make the night feel more of an occasion anyway. You don’t need fancy plates but nice napkins, perfectly arranged cutlery and proper glasses always help. Places like Tiger sell really cheap napkins and colourful accessories.



Aperativo
Have a little time before sitting at the table for a catch up. I like to serve a cocktail or at the very least some prosecco and nibbles. I usually have an Italian focused meal planned (typical Italian me!) so some nibbles that suit like these Crosta & Mollica Tarrallini are ideal (The packaging design makes me so happy too). Snacks like taralli are typically served with drinks in Italy and feel a touch more special than a bag of crisps! My favourite are the classic fennel seed ones and with a few roast pistachios and some marinated olives, will make the aperativo the event it should be.

Digestivo
Same at the other end! We’ve had many dinner party end into the small hours of the morning with our drinks cupboard for company. We like grappa or some of the regional herbal liquers like Genziano that aid digestion. Apparently.

My ideal menu would be something like the below, most of these recipes on my blog have made it to a dinner party night and gone down really well.

Starters



Main meal



Dessert



This post was sponsored by Crosta & Mollica, products I buy and love (and THAT packaging design!). RRP (£1.89 from Tesco, Waitrose and Ocado).


REVIEW: Azaro, Hove

I have a lot of time for people who are passionate about sharing their food culture. I also love unexpected accents. Owner Az, clearly of Indian decent, enthusiastically explained everything in a joyful Yorkshire accent. Coming from the curry capital of the UK, Az and his partner Kirti, settled on Hove to fulfil a life long dream of setting up a restaurant that offered proper Indian food and culture with a contemporary, Dhaba style twist.

Indian regional food is as complicated as Italian so I don't claim to have too much of an education here. Azaro's style, Desi Dhaba food, is the Indian equivalent to a trattoria I suppose (Dhaba is a traditional road side restaurant which focusses on home-style cooking). So don't come here expecting curry house classics.


We started with crisp papdums and Indian snacks, which come with a range of homemade chutneys. I love this. The heat, the interest, the spices are all showcased in these little pots of chutneys.


The Punjabi Samosa Chaat was a pretty dish and something new to me. The samosa was layered with so many different textures and flavours; chickpeas, masala, aromatic, sweet and fresh chutneys, finally topped with crunchy vermicelli and pomegranate seed jewels. This one was very popular with the Brighton Food Festival crowd and will be on the menu very soon. 


Our Hyderabadi dhum biryani was absolute stand out. I've had the dish before, sometimes bland, sometimes dry... this was neither. Cooked in the traditional clay pot and covered in a pastry lid which had been rubbed with mustard oil, locking in all the flavour and creating a steam environment for the layers of rice and the sweetest, most tender lamb. You are given a bona fide biryani spoon (and instructions!) to break the crust and mix in your masala gravy and raita. I dined with my gorgeous friend and we were told that doggy bags were available and not to worry about leftovers. There were no leftovers (soz husbands).


They seem keen on using good suppliers, mostly local and decent meat and fish. This you can tell. The silky chicken chettinad from the thali tray was full of flavour and the texture of poultry will always give away its quality. Thali trays are a dish for greedy eyes; the chutneys, the breads, the little mango lassi, the surprise sweet dish...I'll never get over the fun of eating one. Everything on the tray is made in-house too so you really do get to experience the skill of the kitchen.

I do love a tandoori platter and saw they have this as well as the proper clay oven. There were also some Keralan inspired fish dishes, another of my favourites, so I think a return visit or two is needed to dive deeper into the menu, there's certainly plenty on it I would happily order.

Also an asset of Azaro is the female ratio of the kitchen staff. With Az out the front, his lovely wife Kirti is heading up the kitchen along with a high proportion of ladies. I have a lot of respect for a place that champions a female workforce and they clearly know what they are doing here. I'll never know why there isn't a stronger female representation in restaurant kitchens, then again the percentage of women graphic designers in senior roles is pretty slim too! Where do we all go eh?!

The one thing I wasn't keen on was the interior. The fluro orange PU covered booths, blue lighting, gloss white stools and pastel stripe wallpaper are probably more suited to a hybrid gelateria nightclub rather than authentic Indian restaurant. There's a real mash of styles here and whilst I don't think Indian restaurants need to be plastered with images of elephant Gods and the like, it may not help in communicating what they are about to passing custom. Which is a shame. But sat right at the front, it was lovely to see their vast range of customers leaving so happily, pats on the back, smiles and waves. Some are clearly very well looked after regulars that all neighbourhood restaurants should try and cultivate.

Although we are reasonably spoilt with some great Indian food in Brighton, with a lot of love for the Chilli Pickle and Curry Leaf Cafe, Azaro is definitely worth a look too and particularly handy for those Hove way. 

azaro.co.uk
115 Church Road
Hove BN3 2AF

I was invited to review Azaro. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.