REVIEW: Jeremy's Restaurant, Haywards Heath, West Sussex


Jeremy's Restaurant is well known and established in Sussex, residing in the Borde Hill Garden estate for the past 18 years. It has been on my to-eat list for absolutely ages, but like most Brightonians, I get a little lazy when having to travel for food. To be honest, although I had heard positive feedback about Jeremy's, the mental picture I had was that of a very formal, traditional jus-with-everything food and a slightly stale environment in weekend blazers. But what I found couldn't have been further from my preconceptions.

With owner and chef Jeremy Ashpool still rightfully in the kitchen, he now has a young head chef Jimmy Gray (winner of Sussex Young chef of the year 2013) to bring some fresh ideas and a modern approach to Jeremy's. This strikes the ideal balance of keeping a firm foundation in solid, classic cooking that champions the local and the seasonal but introduces inventive detail. Despite being just 26, Gray is some real talent and has clearly grown up with his own family ties to the restaurant industry. I've been to other in-the-middle-of-nowhere fine dining establishments that have become stagnant but investing in new talent will always keep you current and also attractive to a new generation of clientele.


The amuse of spinach soup was a beauty to look at. Topped with a tiny, cheese filled wonton and given texture with finely chopped fresh radicchio, the soup was lifted with coriander micro herbs.

Our starters reflected the clever classic/contemporary contrast I mentioned with a very modern plate of salt baked heritage carrots and a more grounded bowl of scallops in a crab bisque.


The scallops were plump, sweet and perfectly cooked as you would expect and sat in a rich, decadent bisque. It was nice to see monks beard for flavour and texture as well as apple for contrast.


My jewel coloured heritage carrot dish was visually spectacular and had a lot going on. This seemed a bit of a wild card on the menu which always attracts me and the textures were really at play with a cold sorbet, smooth Slipcote cheese, firm black beans and a vanilla black bean puree. There was also a vibrant citrus dust. All in all a really experimental dish that whilst not entirely harmonious, was definitely one to remember. I also really loved seeing proper flat leaf parsley back on the plate. Personally I find it a really nice leaf to eat and a break from the micro herb trend.


Beetroot and venison will always belong together in my book. Their earthiness go together so well and couldn't have been more pleased with my main choice. My worries about the chocolate sauce was unfounded, just adding a richness to the dish. The Balcome Estate venison loin was beautifully tender and the smoky venison sausage and meatball kept the dish interesting. This was such a gorgeous plate of food and I loved the visual effort of matching the loin shape by cutting the cabbage, beetroot and turnip slices into perfect rounds.


Equally, Mr GF was very happy with the tenderloin and confit belly of Plumpton pork. I was scratching my head at the strange shape on top of the plate, thinking it may be some obscure root vegetable I'd yet to come across but they had cleverly dehydrated then fried the pork crackling which made it puff up to the lightest, most airy and crispy crackling you will ever taste. Chefs seem to be dehydrating everything in sight these days which getting a bit dull, but when it's done to enhance rather than for sake, I'm on board.

After such a stellar few plates of food, I was keen to see the desserts so chose a fresh rhubarb and stem ginger mille-feuille. Is this not the prettiest dessert you have ever seen (top image)? Now this IS a good choice of plate to enhance the food, we can clearly toss out all those naff slate plates now! The candied fennel was the element that added the sweet hit to the dish and was exactly the refreshing taste I wanted to end the meal (I'm not one for chocolate and sweetness after a meal).


Mr GF may as well start a sticky toffee pudding blog. I swear that man must have had every one in Sussex. It's that boy's drug of choice! But again it was a great dessert and the tart buttermilk ice cream helped to take the teeth, tingling sweetness down a notch.


I really miss smart, traditional service and still think there is a time and a place for it. At Jeremy's the waiting staff hit that formal yet friendly balance well. The whole meal was perfectly paced throughout.

We ordered a la carte, but it's worth mentioning that there is also an unbelievably good value set menu available 2 courses £18 and 3 for £22 available Tues - Sat lunch and Tues - Thurs dinner. The wine list was varied and sensibly priced too.

Although I was expecting a slightly stuffy environment and menu from my own preconceptions, the award-winning Jeremy's is a great modern restaurant in an elegant setting. It may have been around for 18 years but as you can see, there is still plenty fresh about it to warrant the trip up from Brighton for. I know it can be hard to go that extra mile for dining, especially for the younger city crowd, but sometimes it's really worth it. Jeremy's is just a short train trip and cab away from Brighton if you want to have a drink with your meal and in the summer the terrace overlooking the gardens is another bonus for visiting. There is also a more informal cafe next door (run by Vera Ashpool) which I popped into that has a nice outside space and would be great for children too.

www.jeremysrestaurant.co.uk
Borde Hill, Borde Hill Gardens
Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1XP

I dined as a guest of Jeremy's.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Charlie Bigham



At my happiest pottering in the kitchen, I can't say I rely on ready meals in any way. But I do keep a keen eye on food industry and shopping trends for working life and there is no denying the huge demand for prepared food. Increasing time poor and with the whole family working, it's sometimes just not do-able to get a slow-cooked meal on the table every night. And as a working parent myself, I can now totally sympathise!

Charlie Bigham products definitely have shelf appeal in the ready meal aisle. The crisp white packaging and nicely crafted script writing pings out from the sea of brown, red and green. The illustrations are fun but very broadsheet in tone and a nice touch that each range has it's own joke between the characters.

And let's face it, everyone has a peek under the sleeve of prepared food. Normally you are met with a brown, lumpy mush but CB have gone one step further in the presentation stakes with oven-safe wooden trays for the meals and ceramic ramekins for the pies, that are also topped with branded paper tied with string. A bonus as well is that all of this is a darn sight more environmentally conscious than piles of plastic trays. So yes, if you could specifically brand a ready meal for the middle classes, then this hits the nail firmly and squarely on the head.

Price-wise they are amongst the top end of the ready meal sector at £7 for a meal for two. But to me I find that a little reassuring. There are more quality questions raised with a ready Chicken Korma that can be sold for £1.20.

But looks aren't everything. Are these really going to make me down my kitchen knives?



First up was the fish pie. It looked great and was very well made with plenty of chunks of fish salmon and white fish. To be fair, I was surprisingly impressed with it. It tasted like a very, very good homemade fish pie both texturally and visually. As I may not use too much butter and cream in my everyday cooking, this was richer and felt like a treat. Looking at the ingredients, there was nothing that you wouldn't  put in a fish pie yourself and the addition of breadcrumbs and fresh parsley on top helped it feel hand crafted. I'd be more than happy to eat this one again.



The Steak and Ale pies looked the part in their ramekins. Unfortunately I left Mr. GF to cook them (oven. 30 mins) but they seemed to have become a tad singed in his care. It had been a hard week for him - clearly. Now I'm not one for a pie like this normally. I find flaky puff pastry more irritating to eat than anything. Underneath though there were generous hunks of tender meat in a rich gravy. For me though, the gravy was too intense, too much ale resulting in the filling being quite one dimensional. I like a bit of variety in there, more vegetables and more vibrant flavours. The quality of the pie however, couldn't be argued with. Maybe I'd be better off with one of the other varieties personally, as this was more to the husband's taste.

All in all though I was left with a new respect for quality prepared food. The fish pie was just gorgeous. Why can't all prepared food taste like this? (Production and consumer demand for cheap, cheapy, Mc cheap food is the answer, I know!) I suppose it's good to know brands like this do exist. Maybe for a more niche, affluent market but clearly there's one out there.




I was sent these products for review.

REVIEW: Hen, ethical chicken restaurant, Brighton


After enduring years of seeing Brighton laden with gaggles of women descending on the city with veils, L-plates, cringe-worthy blow ups and bottles of Lambrini, it’s good to see a new Hen in town. This one however, is a touch more stylish and inviting as the UK’s first ethical chicken shop.

Although I’m personally fatigued by 2014’s food obsession with upmarket fast food, I do appreciate that it has made a wider audience aware of what they are eating and heck, even McDonalds are suffering falling sales now people aren’t Lovin’ It quite so much.

At the time of writing, the exact definition of the chickens at H.en (meaning Happy. Eat Natural), wasn’t exactly black and white, complicated further with the very blurred lines as to what exactly defines “free range” “higher welfare” and “Freedom foods”. The chickens here are currently supplied by a small farm called Brooklands in Surrey that is not certified with any label but their hens are described as free roaming, higher welfare with no horrid additives or Frankenstein feed. I would hope H.en define this asap as it’s their main USP.

But what they do have is a limited menu and I love that. Simplicity and confidence is what I want to see when I order, nothing puts a downer on a meal than having to interrupt conversation for 15 minutes reading a restaurant’s version of War & Peace.

Here at H.en you choose from a quarter or half a grilled or fried chicken, wings or a chicken or vegetarian burger. Add a sauce and a choice of two sides (sweet potato fries, corn on the cob, a selection from their salad bar or grilled halloumi). Done. They also do brunch options, waffles and a chicken broth.



My fried quarter chicken was, for want of a better phrase, finger licking good (apologies Colonel Sanders). The batter was thick and crunchy, seasoned well and lightly herbed. I rarely eat batter on things but this wasn’t greasy and too tempting to miss out on and the chicken inside was succulent.

My salad was health-tastic kale, cucumber and raisin and along with grilled corn on the cob made an ideal, balanced meal. I would have liked a more interesting dressing on the kale other than lemon juice and dried raisins are a pet hate salad garnish, but I appreciate this is my pickiness.



The grilled version (I do appreciate the fact there is a healthier option here) that my dining mate ordered also looked pretty darn good too. Again simply seasoned and treated.

One possible contentious thing about this place is the fries are only available as sweet potato fries. They were thinner and crisper than I imagined they would be, coated in the house salt, but I think that the customer may demand the humble potato back on the menu before long.

Sauces were made in-house and the choice of three gave a good range depending on your taste. Personally, with chicken, the only way to go is spicy so it was The Duke for me, sweetened with dates and heat from ginger.

The drinks menu was good, with well selected bottled brands of soft drinks and beer, homemade lemonade or juices.



I have to mention the interior which is fresh and modern, on the right side of hipster with pegboard walls, industrial lights and planted succulents. HUGE plus point for the little kids table with chalkboard tabletop to keep the littlies quiet for five minutes while you, the parent, shove as much food as you can into your mouth while the kids are occupied (sigh, I know, I know…). The location is spot on and looks great from the outside, finally good to see the space used well after a couple of flops following the closure of the popular Nia Cafe.



Staff are young and friendly and the vibe exactly right for a modern chicken shop.

H.en is just in its first few weeks so obviously there are a few small points to iron out but once running smoothly, I imagine it will be very much welcomed as a casual dining spot with a conscious.

http://henrestaurant.com/
87-88 Trafalgar Street
Brighton
BN1 4ER

I was invited to review Hen.

Where to get pancakes in Brighton this Shrove Tuesday



Better late than never! I normally do a pancake post for Shrove Tuesday but it's been flipping (groan) busy.  But here is a quick heads up on where to go.

The Creperie www.thecreperiebrighton.com
They launched in 2014 on Shrove Tuesday so no doubt will be celebrating their first birthday as well as being Brighton's only true creperie. There's enough on the menu for a starter, main and dessert all in pancake form.

Sam's of Brighton www.samsofbrighton.co.uk
With their French head chef, it's hardly surprising that Sam's have a full crepe menu on the night which looks fantastic. They have black pudding, onions and fried duck egg or mushrooms and Gruy√®re cheese to start and the classics as well as caramelised apples and Calvados for sweet. Sam's will also match a small selection of beers and cider on the night, sorry "cidre".

Terre a Terre www.terreaterre.co.uk
Terre a Terre are making a meal out of it. On the menu will be "Okonomiyaki Hiroshima" - filled with togarashi noodles, sauteed cabbage, spring onions served with kewpie mayonnaise.

Plateau and Mange Tout www.plateaubrighton.co.uk/ and www.mangetoutbrighton.co.uk/
There will be savoury pancakes at one of my favourite Brighton spots, Plateau and sweet ones at their sister restaurant Mange Tout. Pancake crawl!

64 Degrees www.64degrees.co.uk
64 Degrees were hardly going to slap a bit of Nutella on a pancake were they? Instead expect bone marrow wraps and a take on a Korean dessert.

The Gingerman Group www.gingermanrestaurants.com
All of the Gingerman pubs will have a crepe specials on the night.

The Coal Shed, Curry Leaf Cafe and Coggings & Co. also have something lined up too.

Or if you fancy staying in try one of my recipes:

Savoury


RECIPE: Crespelle with Roasted Mushrooms, Bacon, Ricotta and Walnuts
RECIPE: Baked Crespelle stuffed with Celeriac, Pancetta, Ricotta, Thyme, Garlic and Parmesan

Sweet

RECIPE: Buckwheat, Blueberry and Banana Oat Pancakes
RECIPE: Sicilian Cannoli inspired Pancakes filled with Sweet Ricotta, Vanilla, Orange and Toasted Almonds 

REVIEW: Dine in services comes to Brighton


It seems that the food home delivery service is booming. I've come across a good number of new sites that now offer a new way to order in your dinner. To be honest, I've only ordered take away to my home a small number of times as I can always rustle up a plate of spaghetti, aglio e olio, but really take away food has never appealed. A stale pizza in a box or a low-quality burger? No ta. But I am really interested in restaurant food home delivery and this is where these sites come in handy. Great for the restaurants too as they can easily increase their client base without the hassle of organising drivers and logistics.

As a parent now, I remember those early baby days (weeks, hell...months even) of not really being able to get out to my favourite restaurants. This really is a lifeline for new parents (or anyone that can't get out) to get their fix of favourite food too. I'll be testing out a couple of these services in the next few weeks but first up is https://www.dinein.co.uk/.

DineIn is well established in London with some fantastic restaurants on the list, they have recently launched in Brighton. At the moment there are only a few places listed like MEATliqour, Regency, Coggings & Co., The Creperie as well as some pizza places and fast food outlets. Great news is that Curry Leaf Cafe will be available from the spring and hopefully more restaurants will join them. I'd already been for a menu tasting at MEATliquor this week (hard life) so tried out Chaula's, an established Indian restaurant in town.



As 50% of the experience is the booking here I thought I'd show you the site too. If I'm honest, the website design and UX is pretty basic. The navigation isn't that intuitive and feels clunky. You also need to click on an info button for dish description which is a tad tedious as some restaurants have a huge food list. Although I do like the clean nature of the design in theory, the branding and colours don't evoke a sense of food, warmth or deliciousness (it's a word!).

The ordering side is not too bad though and ran pretty smoothly but again, I think a better design, bigger buttons and a slicker interface would improve customer experience. You only need to register an account if you have to use a voucher or code. Later you can track your delivery which I did think was a useful touch and the restaurants are given a tablet and an app so they can be quite specific as to the stage of your delivery.


My delivery from Chaula's turned up right on time for my chosen slot and was really well presented in a branded poly-fabric bag. Ten points for first impressions and food-wise this was a no-frills great curry. We ordered a Hydrabadi Chicken and Lamb Jalfrezi and thoroughly enjoyed them too.



There was a generous amount of meat in both dishes which was also tender and lean. Nothing worse than mean, gristly or chewy chunks of meat. The saffron rice was gorgeously fragrant (not just dyed with turmeric, which is what I was testing for!).

Delivery charges are worked out on distance and credit cards are charged at an extra 3%. So yes, other than a few niggles with the site design and build, all in all a really good service, and hope more restaurants are made available soon. In time I would like to see how my favourite fish, steak or other non standard takeout food travels but the concept is great and as I said before, really will appeal to various demographics.

https://www.dinein.co.uk/

I was invited to review Dine In with a part paid voucher.

TRAVEL: A weekend in London

I sometimes forget London is pretty much on my doorstep and to be honest, haven't really spent much time there other than for business. I'm back on the train to Brighton in a flash, no doubt with a fridge cold station sandwich for company.

So it was lovely to finally go up for a bit of a break. I think I’ve had the most intense work/life periods of my life the last couple of months (exciting though!) and a new bambina on the way soon so I jumped at the chance to spend some quality time and stay over for the weekend with Superbreak.


The Cavendish Hotel is brilliantly located on Jermyn Street and pretty much everything we wanted to get to. Mr GF could stock up on his shirts and I could lie in a bed that was bigger than my first flat, undisturbed, without anyone asking me where their socks are, if they could have a beaker of milk or if the presentation for their new brand was ready. Hea-ven in Egyptian cotton.


But I had to peel myself away and fall a few feet into Fortnum & Mason for afternoon tea (weep for me). I love F&M. As soon as I see that cool duck egg blue and gold, I’m in. Luckily there was no time to grab a gold shopping basket as this place seriously damages my finances. Their Diamond Jubilee tea room is refreshingly modern and light but very on-brand. I’ve had some pretty swish afternoon teas but nice that this one was a little more relaxed but still felt special.

It's amazing that so many places charging £50 will give you stale edged sandwiches but these were fresh and enticingly filled, the rare, thinly sliced beef being the best. Scones were crumbly and the top tier of patisserie was of a good standard. There was also a choice of cakes from the trolley after all of this which would have been crazy, but the very nice waitress insisted like an Italian mamma that I take home a slice of pear tart with me...oh go on.

Shame I didn’t get to try any of the F&M honey, particularly as I had a view of their premium hives from the 14th floor of The Cavendish and you can buy some gorgeous, rustic wax candles from them too.

Next up was a trip to the theatre. Now, I’ve had my fair share of highbrow theatre and back in our courting days (a moon ago) myself and Mr GF used to go quite regularly to cross off all the main shows. I also covered the real classics in my English Literature days at school (even more of a moon ago). Forward a number of years and being older, burnt-out working parents, we craved something a little lighter so for whatever reason chose Wicked. As the curtain went up on the (magnificently designed) set, I realised there was a problem. Wicked was a musical. I HATE musicals. But 15 minutes in I was on board and shockingly, really enjoyed the whole thing.

Pass me my jazz hands, I’m converted to the temple of song. Never, never, never would I have imagined to see this day.


After a trip back to the hotel bar (virgin cocktails for me - boo), I had one of the most delicious sleeps in months. Breakfast was brought to me in bed and as hotel breakfasts go, this was really nicely cooked, fresh and hot. You have to pre-order the night before which means you can go a bit crazy with the tick boxes on the list, but this fuelled us for the following event.


Despite being one of the coldest days in history (possibly), the walk around Kew Gardens was just lovely. I’d wanted to go on the treetop walk since it had been built and the grounds were beautiful, even in the dead of winter. Imagine what it would be like in the summer - I’m sure returning myself to see. We warmed up with soup in the Peyton and Byrne cafe there before sadly heading home to the real world.




Although not included in the trip we also visited Brasserie Zedel near the hotel for lunch. I’ve been itching to go as I’m a true sucker for vintage (original or in the style of) interiors as well as large, bolshy, brass trimmed Parisian brasseries. Zedel is a cavern of wonder with dripping chandeliers, deco wallpaper and in addition to the main dining area had bars, entertainment rooms and an upstairs cafe. This ticked a lit of boxes and didn’t disappoint. I still can’t quite believe the low prices here with the location in mind. Food wasn’t ground breaking but generous, well made and the sort of classic Parisienne food you would expect. Mr GF’s hanger streak was particularly good actually and my confit duck with bean stew was full of flavour. Service was attentive and smart.

Also a good shout is the Wolsey which is also a stones throw if you wanted to treat yourself for breakfast as well.

The weekend was a perfect break and we felt refreshed coming back home. The Superbreak site is not something I would have normally thought to book through but there is no denying that a one-stop shop to make up your entire weekend itinerary and can often work out cheaper overall than booking independently.

To give you an idea, one night at the 4* Cavendish Hotel including breakfast, with top price evening tickets to Wicked, entry into Kew Royal Botanical Gardens and afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason is £231 per person, based on 6th March 2015 arrival.

I was a guest of Superbreak, thanks for resting my head and body for a while!

GF GUIDES: The best (and worst) pizza in Brighton and Hove


Another post banging on about the Brighton pizza. Oh yes! And this one is going to be the growing mamma of all pizza posts, so get comfortable. Many of you know my feelings on the bad pizza around here and really I don't care if I've been labelled a #pizzasnob or #pizzapolizia. And to all the people who torment me by tweeting pictures of their terrible #bakersdroop, well, that amuses and irritates me in equal measure. Keep them coming to @graphic_foodie!

There are plenty of pizzerias now in Brighton and Hove, but it's normally a case of the dough lows instead of the pizza pie highs. And all the local "best of" pizza reviews I've read so far seem to focus on what is on the pizza which is less than half the story. After all, the dough should be paramount before the novelty of toppings, so here we are with, hopefully, a more comprehensive list of where's good.  

I'm also only visiting pizzerias, with just handful of "takeaways" and even then I'm eating them on-site (often in my car!) to get them at their best. Unless you are in dire straits, please do not order a pizza in a box to your home. Pizza should be eaten scorching hot from the oven, even a five minute journey in some sweaty insulated bag loses all the qualities that make pizza great. And anyway, eating anything out of a cardboard box on a sofa is frankly barbaric in my book. Put on a decent pair of shoes and a comb through your hair and get down to the pizzeria itself. I jest (I don't).

This is a working list which will be updated as I go. Although I think I've covered the main pizzerias, is there anywhere else I should get to? Let me know!

Glossary
I've graded the pizzas in set categories. Geeky, yes, but condenses reviews. There are a few terms that you may not have come across so they are explained below. Basically, what I want to see in terms of dough, cooking and topping amount is shown in the picture at the top of the post. Notice how practically none of them achieve this! (Note: This is not a pizza made in Brighton or Hove.)

Cornicone: The raised rim around the pizza. If the base is formed by hand, it should have a nice raised edge. If the dough is good, you'll want to eat the airy, chewy goodness of this. Flat pizzas often mean they have been pressed through rollers, or worse, are pre-prepared and the edge is dry and tough. The dough should be cooked through and never raw in the core.
Underside/upskirt: The underside of the pizza. Should be nicely cooked with a little char ideally. This tasty char would only come from wood-fired pizza though.
Leoparding: The black spots/blisters on the cornicone rim. A few of these are very desirable and adds to the taste.
Bakers droop: My term. When you pick a pizza up the nose end droops down. This mainly shows that the topping is too heavy, has too much cheese or the base too thin. I HATE this.

Italy even has an association which outlines set regulaulations as to what makes a true Neapolitan style pizza from the ingredients, recipe, production, temperature and formation of the pizza. It even specifies the exact weight of toppings. I doubt anyone on this list has read this document. 


Marrocco's www.marroccos.co.uk
8 King's Esplanade, Hove, BN3 2WA

What they say: "Since 1969 we’ve been serving hand made pizza"
What I say: "Authentic environment, less authentic pizza"



I really wanted to like Marrocco's. I love the fact that it's Italian run and has stood the test of time since 1969. The atmosphere is great, like a proper wood booth trattoria with families sitting cheek to jowl under a huge mural of a loved family member, no doubt. People can also sit outside under the glow of neon where they are in a prime spot for evening gelato and an evening passeggiata Hove style. Marrocco's are known for their seafood, classic dishes and they make all their own pasta (which I have to return for) but this is a pizza review so here goes: it blew. It sad sadly between mediocre and poor which is a real shame for a restaurant with such a rich Italian heritage.

Pizza ordered: Napoletana, Capers, olives and anchovies, £8.25.
Oven: Electric.
Cornicone: Not clearly formed with one.
Dough: Under proved shown by the holes blown open on the crust, well seasoned dough though.
Cooked underside/upskirt?: It was raw.
Any char on underside/upskirt: None.
Leoparding: A couple of blisters.
Bakers droop: Absolutely.
Topping quality: Cheap black dyed green olives, poor quality grated mozzarella. Capers and anchovies were ok. Sauce was too thin and wet.
Topping amount: Not bad, but too much sauce and a little too much cheese.
Speed of order: Very quick.
Environment: Lovely, friendly and family run. An authentic Italian trattoria.

Overall rating: 3/10


La Cucina www.lacucinabrighton.co.uk
4A Montpelier Place, Hove, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 3BF

What they say: "Brighton's very best real pizza"
What I say: "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha....weep"



Well here it is people. The worst pizza in Brighton and Hove, possibly the world. What pains me most about this is how many people rated this to us on Twitter, the reviews on TripAdvisor "The best pizza I've ever had!" and their own claim "Brighton's very best real pizza".

I'm not even going to bother properly rating this, as they clearly cant be bothered to attempt to make pizza. We even had to go back in and ask if the bases were bought in, but they proudly showed off a dough press. A 90 degree angle "cornicone", punctured base and machined edge was more like a pastry case than a pizza. This was the only one I could not manage more than a single mouthful of.

As one Twitter follower described, who funnily enough also ordered the same night, "my pizza might as well have been made out of an oversized rich tea biscuit."

An insult to Italian heritage and food, this is fit only for the very, very drunk post 3am.


Franco's www.facebook.com/Francospizzaandpasta
4 Victoria TerraceHove BN3 2WB

What they say: Nothing on their site!
What I say: "Decent pizza, served up with a hefty slice of romance"



Walking through the doors of Franco's is like stepping into a Disney version of Italy. In a good way. It's classic, perfect first date material. I imagine they have weekly reenactments of that spaghetti lady and the Tramp scene. Although the menu spans Italian classics like hare ragu, seafood linguine and lasagna, they also turn out a decent pizza too. But Franco being a typical Italian is thinking of ditching them off the menu as the water in Brighton is too hard which affects the dough. True, but this would be a shame as the quality of ingredients and care they put into all their food outshines most in Brighton. If only their venue was appropriate for a wood oven, I'd think they'd hit the nail on the head. It was clear that many of the diners were well looked after regulars. It's an absolutely charming neighbourhood restaurant.

Pizza ordered: Classic Italian Pizza Buffalo Mozzarella, Fresh Basil And Cherry Tomato £9.95
Oven: Electric
Cornicone: A beautiful cornicone!
Dough: Well seasoned and well made
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Yes
Any char on underside/upskirt: A little.
Leoparding: Nope.
Bakers droop: Only a little due to being slightly too thin in the middle and the buffalo mozzarella which is higher in water content
Topping quality: Real produce. Rich tomato sauce with a full flavour. Fresh, fragrant basil leaves.
Topping amount: Ideal
Speed of order: No complaints
Environment: Checked table cloths, candle light and ridiculously charming staff.

Overall rating: 8/10 (I'm sure they would hit the 9-9.5 with a wood oven)


Kindlewood www.cafecoho.co.uk
Brighton Station (forecourt), Queen's Road, Brighton BN1 3XP

What they say: "Wood fired pizza served from a beautifully restored 1969 Citroen H Van at Brighton Train Station."
What I say: "The best grab-and-go pizza in Brighton"


Brighton's only permanent mobile pizzeria outside Brighton station. Probably the only pizzeria in the city to use the quantity of cheese to my preference.

Pizza ordered: Margarita, £5.50. Cheese and tomato.
Oven: Wood.
Cornicone: A slight cornicone, from the natural rise of the dough but the base is not formed by hand.
Dough: Not bad, but suffers as I believe it has been rolled through a machine instead of being opened by hand so a lot of air has been forced out.
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Yes.
Any char on underside/upskirt: Very nice char.
Leoparding: None.
Bakers droop: Not at all.
Topping quality: Very good, simple but pure ingredients.
Topping amount: Perfect.
Speed of order: "Ready in 90 seconds".
Environment: Really good fun and a lovely 1969 Citroen H van vehicle to pull up a stool to and tuck into your pizza.

Full review link: http://thegraphicfoodie.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/review-kindlewood-mobile-pizzeria.html 

Overall rating: 8/10


Pronto in Tavola www.prontointavola.altervista.org
43 Waterloo Street, Hove, BN3 1AY

What they say: "We have decided not to do something new, we've decided to do something right"
What I say: "Would be my go-to if the bases were crafted a bit better"



I wish I could tell you this is the best pizza in Brighton. Owner Nino is a sweetheart and the small pizzeria is cosy, rustic and authentic. Nice to see they have a menu of other food too as he made me a lovely aqua pazza once and his wife's homemade Italian cakes are on sale. Big points too for the Chinotto on offer as not many sell this. I think the pizza topping we chose was quite heavy, but the centre of the pizza was pancake thin and wouldn't have supported the sauce even. Dough was tasty and the ingredients good but I think the forming of the pizza, as well as the undercooking, made for a very mediocre show.

Pizza ordered: Homemade sausage (spicy) £8
Oven: Electric
Cornicone: Not defined
Dough: Tasty but rolled or stretched painfully thin in the centre
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Yes
Any char on underside/upskirt: Yes
Leoparding: None
Bakers droop: The biggest droop
Topping quality: Not bad. The sausages were homemadapparently but could have been cookd a little more to render the fat (Italian sausages are authentically coarse and fatty). Sauce was a little thin.
Topping amount: Too much of the sausage which added too much weight.
Speed of order: Perfect
Environment: Lovely, informal, friendly and charming.

Overall rating: 5/10


Al Duomo www.alduomo.co.uk/
7 Pavilion Buildings Brighton East Sussex, BN1 1EE

What they say: "Our comprehensive, restaurants (sic) menu offer a wide ranging array of food...."
What I say: "The consumer demand for budget Italian food is the fault of this pizza"


Ah, al Duomo! One of the Italian heavyweight restaurants in town. They have a huge, crowd pleasing laminated menu where fish and chips, garlic bread and spaghetti carbonara (with cream) sit awkwardly alongside Italian classics like saltimbocca and risotto. This sort of Anglo Italian food makes my heart hurt. But I'm here for their state of the art wood oven, which so few Brighton restaurants have, so it had to be included. The good - the dough is made in-house and the pizzaioli working behind the counter know how to form a good pizza. The bad - The oven temperature was too high. Difficult to get control with wood, but too high means the dough dries out to cardboard which is what happened here. The toppings are also cheap. Catering dyed black tinned olives, dried herbs, poor quality mozzarella...it's such a shame as an upgrade to quality produce would produce a decent pizza here, certainly pipping it in the top five at the moment. They would have to increase the prices for that to work but I think they know their target market well, who want large portions of stodge at a bargain cost.

Pizza ordered: Napoletana £7.90
Oven: Wood
Cornicone: Defined
Dough: Made in-house and not bad, but terribly dried out due to over cooking and too high heat
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Yes, a little too much
Any char on underside/upskirt: Yes but gained a burnt taste.
Leoparding: Yes
Bakers droop: No
Topping quality: Budget toppings but well made and seasoned sauce.
Topping amount: Slightly heavy on the cheese but overall not bad. One single cherry tomato half!
Speed of order: Perfect
Environment: Modern, pre-theatre, smart/casual Italian restaurant

Overall rating: 5/10


Morelli Zorelli www.morellizorelli.co.uk
40 Western Road, Hove, Bn3 1JD

What they say: "Morelli Zorelli offers the finest Sourdough Pizzas in the heart of Hove"
What I say: "Would add serious points if they laid off the cheap cheddar/mozzarella mix"





This is a "new" pizzeria. And by new I mean it is in the former Gourmet Pizza Kitchen space, with some of the same staff and allegedly the same ownership. But this feels like a proper pizzeria with the oven pride of place. The quirky restaurant space below is something like a cross between Titanic and a room in Miss Havishams' Satis House and I like it. The pizza actually wasn't bad at all, not perfect by any means, but there are a few touches that could take it from ok to quite good. Basically it was ruined by the baby-sick smelling processed cheddar/mozzarella mix that blights pizza in the UK, without it they would be turning out half decent pizzas I think.

Pizza ordered: Bresaola, £11.95. Bresaola, buffalo mozzarella, Parmesan Reggiano, fresh rocket.
Oven: Electric.
Cornicone: Very small, no air inside.
Dough: Well seasoned but could have been airier. This was too dense but very well cooked.
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Cooked.
Any char on underside/upskirt: Good amount.
Leoparding: Good, there were a few.
Bakers droop: Yes, due to the large pieces of mozzarella that released their milk. Very soggy.
Topping quality: Bresaola, buffalo mozzarella, rocket and Parmesan was fine but there was a copious amount of cheap processed cheddar/mozzarella mix added which cooled to a solid orange coating across the base.
Topping amount: Too much of the processed cheese mix, which irritatingly was not mentioned on the menu or in fact needed on this pizza. Shame. Mozzarealla should have been in smaller chunks.
Speed of order: Fine.
Environment: Two experiences, the upstairs is a basic pizzeria and downstairs something else altogether. It's interesting.

Overall rating: 5/10


Jamie's Italian www.jamieoliver.com/italian/
11 Black Lion Street, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1ND

What they say: "Jamie’s Italian is inspired by Jamie’s passion for the Italian way of life"
What I say: "Pleasantly surprised (and sad) that a chain restaurant is up there with the best Brighton pizza"


Again, one of the few wood ovens in Brighton. I really like the space here and have had half decent feed each time. But this was my first pizza here and to be fair, it wasn't half bad. In the wasteland of poor pizza that is Brighton, this stands quite high up in the rankings. The pizza was cooked well and ingredients decent quality. Topping was about right. I don't know what smart arse decided watercress was a suitable garnish to put on this pizza though. They certainly have never seen Italy.

Pizza ordered: Italian Hot - San Marzano tomato base, mozzarella, spicy salami, meatballs and chilli £12
Oven: Wood
Cornicone: Good example of one, nice and airy.
Dough: Tasty, slight chew and
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Perfect.
Any char on underside/upskirt: Good amount, delicious taste.
Leoparding: "Spot" on.
Bakers droop: No
Topping quality: No issue with the quality at all. Bonus for the fennel seed which go so well with Italian sausages.
Topping amount: Ideal, a lot of ingredients but just enough to cover without too much weight
Speed of order: Perfect, lovely staff.
Environment: Branded up to the hilt, but very nice environment to dine in.

Overall rating: 9/10


Pizzaface www.pizzafacepizza.co.uk 
Venues in Hove (eat in and takeaway) and Brighton (takeaway only)

What they say: "It’s hard to find a good pizza. But good pizza isn’t hard to do. With great ingredients, a proper oven, and a bit of practice, it’s actually pretty simple."
What I say: "Agree with their ethos. Not sure why they don't practice this."


I'm including this takeaway as this is, for most, almost the benchmark of good pizza in Brighton. People rave about it. But benchmark it isn't. Whilst the toppings are probably some of the best quality on offer and they don't seem to use that weird cheap cheddar/mozzarella mix, the base and dough is far from perfect or authentic. It's as flat as a pancake, bland and I would say these are rolled as they contain no air. The pizza here isn't terrible but I can only imagine that people are comparing it to Domino's or haven't been anywhere near Italy in their lives. In that case it's brilliant, rock on.

Pizza(s) ordered: 
Holy Cheeses, Sussex blue, mascarpone, Parmesan and mozzarella with caramelised onions £9
Albore, Pork and wild boar salami, pancetta (Italian cured bacon) and fresh rosemary £9
Vesuvius, Pepperoni, chorizo, red onions and fresh and dried chillies, £9
Margherita 
Fresh oregano, basil and
 cherry tomatoes £6
Oven: Electric.
Cornicone: Not really, just the natural rise of the dough, some air in places.
Dough: This is their downfall. It just lacks any real flavour or vibrancy.
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Yes.
Any char on underside/upskirt: No.
Leoparding: None.
Bakers droop: Slight as the bases are rolled too thin, but not bad as topping is sensible.
Topping quality: Can't fault the quality of toppings. Real ingredients.
Topping amount: Good but recently seem to have been going in hard with the cheese. I hate marscapone on pizza so much and this seems really popular here.
Speed of order: Depends on the direction of the wind. People complain of the wait time for takeaway, sometimes not getting through at all on the phone.
Environment: Shops have nice branding and I like the fit out. Feels modern and not too hipster.

Overall rating: 5/10


VIP Pizza www.pizzavip.co.uk
9 Old Steine, Brighton BN1 1EL

What they say: "Very Italian Pizza – the strength of tradition"
What I say: "Not bad at all and nicest venue for a pizza in the city"




Probably my favourite pizzeria environment, this has been done very well and feels right style-wise. There is a deli counter for purchases of cheese and meats and some more authenic dishes on offer. Also they stock real Italian products like Crodini and Mulino Bianco biscuits. The wood oven here is a huge USP as so few local pizzerias have one and you can taste the difference in the pizza. I think we were served very undercooked pizza on our visit, but pretty much everything else, apart from the amount of cheese, was pretty good. I think this is one of the better choices for pizza in the city.

Pizza ordered: Margarita, £5.50. Cheese and tomato
Oven: Wood
Cornicone: Uneven but in places yes
Dough: Good dough, nicely seasoned and airy. They use a proper sourdough starter which you can taste.
Cooked underside/upskirt?: No, but think this was bad luck
Any char on underside/upskirt: A little.
Leoparding: None but bet with longer cooking they'd get some
Bakers droop: Not too bad
Topping quality: Would have preferred just a few spots of bufflao mozzarella than the covering of grated mozarella. Sauce was well seasoned and fresh.
Topping amount: Far, far too much cheese for a Margherita, even after I asked for less cheese.
Speed of order: Not the fastest but acceptable.
Environment: Really like  the environment here. Authentic modern Italian not hipster in the slightest. Win.

Overall rating: 8/10

Full review link: http://www.thegraphicfoodie.co.uk/2014/11/review-vip-pizza-brighton.html


Pizza 500 www.pizza500.co.uk
83 Preston Road, Brighton BN1 4QG

What they say: "Here at Pizza 500 you can find only the real italian taste all over the world !!" (No I have no idea what this means either.)
What I say: "The queues out of the door speak volumes. Not bad and eclectically charming"


Well they feature my favourite car on the planet, the classic Fiat 500, so this place wins points already. The slightly grotty looking exterior of a former garage is less than glamorous but pizzerias shouldn't really be glossy so I'll go with it.  Inside is a typical Italian trattoria in style so feels right. In addition to pizza here is a nice selection of real Italian food on offer; arancini, affettati, carpaccio, peperonata and homemade sausages.  There are classic pasta dishes (Carbonara made with eggs not cream - tick) and homemade gnocchi, cannoli and gelato is made on-site too. The place was so packed we had to eat outside in the car and even wait 30 minutes for the privilege. Guess people have found out they can turn out a decent pizza here!

Pizza ordered: "Barrocciaia" Tomato, mozzarella and their homemade sausages (spicy) £7.
Oven: Electric
Cornicone: A little from the natural rise
Dough: Ok if a little dry
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Yes
Any char on underside/upskirt: Yes
Leoparding: A few blisters but not true leoparding
Bakers droop: None
Topping quality: The coarse homemade sausages were very authentic in texture and seasoning with fennel. A good amount of spice.
Topping amount: Perfect. The cheese was grated mozzarella but a good ratio.
Speed of order: They were so busy so we had a 30 minute wait.
Environment: Oddly charming, and felt like a true back street Italian pizzeria.

Overall rating: 7/10


Pizza Express www.pizzaexpress.com/
Jubilee Street, Brighton, BN1 1GE

What they say: "What floats our boat? Four simple things. Beautiful music. Stunning design. Unique experiences. Exceptional food."
What I say: I have no words.


Yes, the people that serve Anglo-Italian pizza, some even come with a hole in the centre. You are thinking I've gone mental listing this one but so many people unashamedly love this chain restaurant (you know you do) and damn it, I'm going whole hog for this review.

Now with a name like Pizza Express I imagine I'm getting a pizza and quick. After 45 minutes of waiting, a flaccid, almost omelette base arrived, so thin it could not support air, let alone the truck-load of topping; Spicy Calabrese sausage D.O.P, hot soft 'nduja sausage, finely chopped red chillies, roquito peppers, red and yellow peppers, mozzarella, rocket, pesto, oregano, Gran Moravia cheese. Dear God. This apparently was created by chef Francesco Mazzei, inspired by his hometown of Calabria. Snigger. I ended up fleeing the restaurant with the soggy pizza in a box. The overworked staff were absolute diamond though and actually took the pizza off the bill completely to be fair. Still, it doesn't take away the fact the pizza here is horror show.

Pizza ordered: Francesco Mazzei Calabrese
Oven: Electric and pizza cooked in a pan
Cornicone: None
Dough: Nothing like any pizza I've had before. Omelette-like and I bet that the dough is from pre-frozen balls.
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Undercooked
Any char on underside/upskirt: None
Leoparding: As if
Bakers droop: The wost
Topping quality: Not bad at all and would happily have eaten it as an antipasto without the base.
Topping amount: Far too much
Speed of order: They lied about the "Express" bit in the branding.
Environment: A concerto of screaming children and wipe clean surfaces but pleasant enough.

Overall rating: 2/10 (and both of those to the staff)



ASK Italian www.askitalian.co.uk/
58 Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AF

What they say: "Everything we do here is inspired by Italy"
What I say: "...through corporate spectacles"



To be fair to ASK, they saw I was conducting a pizza review and invited me down. Again, I say with heavy heat that ASK pizza surprisingly fared quite well, even above some of the local independents. I particularly liked the really grassy olive oil drizzled on top, which I thought tasted very good quality. The bases, in the longer format were really well cooked, crisp and well seasoned. I still prefer my pizza with a proper hand shaped cornicone and a little more body than this fashion for rolled out, super thin bases but at least at ASK they were not soggy.

Pizza ordered: Margherita with Buffalo mozzarella, £10.55
Oven: Electric, "stone baked"
Cornicone: None
Dough: Reasonably tasty but rolled thin which left little to get your teeth stuck into
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Well cooked
Any char on underside/upskirt: A little
Leoparding: None
Bakers droop: Just due to the thinness
Topping quality: Actually very good with distinguishable flavours.
Topping amount: Could have gone slightly easier on the mozzarella if I were being picky
Speed of order: Ideal.
Environment: Italy as designed by a committee of corporates. Not unpleasant but someone went to town on the moodboards.

Overall rating: 7/10 


Pizza Me http://pizzame-brighton.co.uk/
The Kiosk, Elm Grove, Brighton, BN2 3DD

What they say: " PizzaME is about fresh ingredients, lovingly put together."
What I say: "Bad quality toppings let them down"


The only Brighton pizzeria housed in a former public lavatory. Although there is a small bench and seating outside in the summer, this really is a take-away so the interior isn't much to write home about. Whilst they were clearly very busy and the pizza isn't all bad, the quality of the topping, particularly that horrid cheddar/mozzarella mix let them down. Pecorino is my favourite cheese on Earth and the grating I had on my pizza wasn't good either. I like the quirky style menu where they have named the pizza in accordance to their branding (TeaseME, ForgetMENot, InsaltME) although I think there was far too much choice and some of the options were a bit bonkers.

Pizza ordered: "BiteME" Tomato, Mozzarella, Roasted Ham, Sardinian Pecorino, Cherry Tomatoes and Rocket, £9.50
Oven: Electric
Cornicone: Not really
Dough: Underseasoned but not bad
Cooked underside/upskirt?: Good
Any char on underside/upskirt: A little.
Leoparding: None
Bakers droop: Absolutely, due to the cheese quantity
Topping quality: Poor cheese, basic ham and under seasoned sauce but very fresh rocket and tomatoes.
Topping amount: Far too much cheese
Speed of order: 30 minute wait but they were super busy and the two pizzaioli were working lightening fast.
Environment: Basic

Overall rating: 5/10


In summary

So basically if you want a decent pizza, a really decent pizza, you are going to have to hot foot it to Lewes. The Hearth is the only place I've seen that hero the dough and have the skill and expertise to back that up. These people aren't some new food empire star gazers, this is the product of years of experience with dough. Toppings are simple and secondary. London is your next bet with some great places (check out Young and Foodish's listing: http://youngandfoodish.com/london/the-top-10-pizzas-in-london/) and failing that, there are plenty of cheap flights to Naples.

But if I get a hankering for pizza in Brighton then VIP pizza, Pizza 500 and (can't believe I'm saying it) Jamie's Italian it is for me. But there sure as hell is room for improvement.

-

Big shout out to my pizza partner, Rosie. This was no easy task, often doing four restaurants in one night. But hilarious, if at times emotional. Here is her post to see how our thoughts compare: http://www.rosieposiespuddingsandpies.co.uk/