REVIEW: Red Roaster, Kemptown, Brighton

crab brioche at Red Roaster Cafe Brighton

Commenting on the visual environment and design of a dining destination is not exactly uncommon on this blog, hard not to with my day profession. But I could write chapter and verse about the interior and branding at Red Roaster; the endless marble surfaces, the geometric tiling, hand painted wall art, gold metal features, coffee's a design feast, and an Instagram account's best friend. (And we haven't even seen the outside space - with a proposed atrium/conservatory and kitchen garden.)

My dining experience is generally affected by all of these visual factors, which may seem superficial. But dining out is about the whole package otherwise I'd stay at home, cook something really nice and stare adoringly at the much larger shoe collection I'd be able to afford with all the money saved, believe me.

Interior design at Red Roaster Cafe Brighton

But anyway, it's not just about the surroundings. Having been in a few times and made a decent dent in the brunch menu, I think I've experienced what Red Roaster is about. 

My first visit saw me a touch worse for wear after an evening on the tiles so the waiter, judging the bags underneath my eyes, kindly suggested the bacon dish to resurrect me.

Sat on top of a herb waffle was a pile of bacon jam; intense, sweet, savoury and well, just plain delicious. As if that wasn't enough, two rashers of streaky maple glazed bacon were there for company along with a fried egg. Batons of apple added a fresh, crisp element and it was really enjoyable. I did notice the black pudding was missing too late even though I was specifically asked if I wanted it (yes, girls eat black pudding too).

slow cooked pumpkin and tonka bean crumble at Red Roaster Brighton 
Dining companions have ordered the delicate crab on shellfish brioche, beautifully garnished with pansies and a slow cooked pumpkin with tonka bean crumble and avocado mousse, which is a decent feed and something really different for a vegetarian option.

Salmon and calimari at Red Roaster Brighton

Salmon is a particular favourite for breakfast, it always feels a bit more elegant than your sausages and bacon. But here it has been elevated as you'd expect. Again on a waffle, only slightly over seasoned, is topped by ribbons of tea cured salmon. I was a little dubious about calamari for breakfast, but as a complete dish worked very well, finely cut and lightly coated and adding another texture. Surprisingly the best element was a citrus curd, which I'd hazard a guess at the en vogue yuzu, drizzled in the waffle cavities under the fish which lifted the whole dish.  Delicious. They've made it extremely hard not to choose this on my next visit. 

On the brunch menu you'll find a number of classics reworked; eggs on toast, full cooked breakfast, pancakes, all given a fine dining makeover. Only a bacon butty is the most instantly recognisable thing on the list - but I bet even this has a little tweak. The rest is just a refreshing change from the usual. I rarely venture out for breakfast, it doesn't particularly interest or excite me but Red Roaster have spun it on its head, offering breakfasts as you could never have imagined them. Ingredients such as shimeji mushrooms, aubergine caviar and pollen all make an appearance and there's a really nice breakfast board with a collection of items if you're indecisive too. 

I've yet to try the lunch menu which is in a similar theme. Their take on the chicken kiev seems to be the one to try but again, the whole list reads well with roast scallop and truffle custard, poached stonebass and enoki noodles and steamed duck bao buns. There's a punk tiramisu, which will be mine one day soon, trust me. Prices for the whole menu hover around the £10 mark, which for the quality and detail, isn't bad at all.

coffee at Red Roaster Brighton

So far there has been nothing to complain about food-wise and I hear consistently good things. Coffee, as you would expect from Red Roaster is always good, made on their cult Kees Van Der Westen machine (RR was one of the UK's first specialist coffee shops - they still roast their beans in Kemptown and remain one of the few organic certified roastery in the country). Service however has been a little hit and miss but in my book just as vital as the food and ambiance. Thankfully on my latest visits my experience was friendlier and far more efficient than before so hopefully the niggles are getting ironed out and this area will have the same polish as the rest of the experience.

I have also heard a few people comment that the portions are on the small side but they must have typical full English fry ups in mind for comparison. If that's what you want, then there are plenty of caffs in town that can cater to that. With a Michelin starred chef at the helm, you can't seriously expect to be fed trucker banquets - I have a decent appetite and they are perfectly fine for me. Also, the fact that these brunch dishes are more considered is particularly appealing.

By evening the mood changes and the place transforms to Pike and Pine, Matt Gillan's restaurant with a choice of taster menus and somewhere very much on my to-eat list.

Yes the old much-loved Red Roaster is unrecognisable in its new form and format, but day or night it offers Brighton diners something different and helps continue to elevate the quality and diversity of city's dining scene.

coffee packaging at Red Roaster Brighton

Red Roaster
St. James's St

BRIGHTON SNIPPEATS: Brighton Food Festival & Brighton Cocktail Week

Today, well, yesterday (busy times innit) saw the launch of this year's Spring Brighton Food Festival. This year we also see the inauguration of Brighton Cocktail Week which I'm sure will be a massive hit across the city.

The Brighton Food Festival 18-29 May 2017 includes the "Sussex and the World Weekend" on Hove Lawns (the FREE festival, not the other one, the FREE one - got it?) on Saturday 27th - Bank holiday 29th with the usual produce stalls, workshops, tasters and live food show stage. The Children's festival which runs along side this is well worth going to with your little ones too.

Along with the festival are, to me, the more interesting food and drink events. Looking good this year is Ridgeview Deconstructed on 19th May where you can try the foundation still wine blends which will go onto to make Ridgeview’s 2016 sparkling wines.

The Food Lab (21st May) returns with the best of Brighton chefs and producers to create a tasting menu like no other. Michael Bremner (64 Degrees), Matt Gillan (Pike & Pine), Alun Sperring (The Chilli Pickle), Matty Bowling (1847), Steven Edwards (Etch), Judith Lang (Terre à Terre) and Alex Burtenshaw (Drakes) who each partner with a local producer to create a dish. This is no doubt sold out but worth memory banking for next time.

Also worth attending is the "punk" wine tasting event Make Your Case (26th May) which sees presenters attempt to convince the voting audience that their wine is the best of the bunch. Expect fancy dress and mayhem.

For all event listings that are part of the festival and to book visit

New this year is Brighton Cocktail Week Thursday 18 - Sunday 28 May 2017. This sounds really good fun and is presented by the fantastic Mixology Group alongside the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival.

The general idea is that 30 bars and restaurants around Brighton & Hove (including Dandelion, The Coal Shed, The Salt Room, Har Bar, Chilli Pickle and good ol' Valentinos) will be presenting the same five classic cocktails with their own unique twist, and they are just £5 each for wristband holders which cost £10. There's a real mix of participants from the best cocktail bars to pubs and restaurants so it'll certainly be interesting to taste the results.

Selected venues will also be hosting one-off masterclasses, food and cocktail pairings, promotions and tastings at a discounted rate for wristband holders. I had a chat with Co-director Myles Cunliffe and even though it's the first year, reception has been really good (duh, cocktails) and plans are already afoot for next year.

Wristbands are available to buy from

REVIEW: Cin Cin, Brighton

Cin Cin Brighton exterior view

I remember Cin Cin from their early days, serving prosecco and antipasti from a cute vintage Fiat van. I think I even went to the launch, and very nice it was too, as were their series of pop-up events. But mamma mia, did we need a permanent base for some real Italian food in Brighton. If only to allow me to actually recommend a restaurant, rather than dramatically sighing before launching into a 30 minute monologue about the importance of regional distinction and diversity across Italy whilst the person asking glazes over. Amazingly, in a city where the food scene is flourishing, Italian food has generally remained in that generic sloppy pool of tourist pleasing pizza* pasta set menus, risotto or if really pushing the boat out, a chicken Milanese (served with spaghetti - natch).

Enter Cin Cin in restaurant form. No checked tablecloths, no greyscale pictures of some random moustached zio on the wall, no oversized pepper mills and no plastic strings of garlic hanging from the sodding ceiling. Housed in a former MOT garage and tucked in a side street, as all good restaurants in Italy are, the petite interior is a modern working of a trattoria. Diners sit around a communal chipboard clad bar overlooking the open kitchen and dine on simple, honest but exquisitely executed dishes.

We were dining lightly so begrudgingly passed over some of my favourite things like lardo, culatello, and bresaola, instead opting for all of the three small plates. I have popped in before and supplemented a glass or two of prosecco with a selection of their antipasti and nibbles; it's all good and the fact that you can tailor your meal precisely to your appetite is handy.

Cin Cin Brighton new season tomatoes and cheese

The small plate dish of new season tomatoes was Italian cooking epitomised; simple with ingredient as hero; sweet, full flavoured tomatoes. Making up the flag colours were basil leaves and stracciatella, the rich creamy, soft buffalo cheese you get in the centre of a burrata. Drizzled with grassy extra virgin olive oil, a healthy pinch of sea salt and a few pieces of bread, this combination never gets tired.

Cin Cin Brighton poached trout and artichokes dish

Delicate and lightly poached sea trout was given an edge with a punchy truffled mushroom pesto and artichokes that always benefit from that delicious char from the grill.

Cin Cin rabbit croquette

Becoming a bit of a signature dish is their crochette, beautifully crisp and filled with plenty of succulent rabbit. Served with a seasonal vibrant wild garlic pesto to lift the earthiness of the meat.

Cin Cin Brighton pasta with sardines and raisins

I rarely order pasta out but had to see what it would be like. Very tempted by the Sussex veal ragu with one of my favourite pasta shapes, fazzoletti (meaning hankerchiefs - delicate, thin little sheets) we instead chose the tagliatelle with a typical Sicilian sauce of sardines, saffron and pickled sultanas garnished with some lovely monks beard. I can imagine this not to be to everyone's taste, but these flavours are so typical of that region, you could close your eyes and pretend you were on holiday.

I love this about Italian food, the flavours transport you across the country. There is absolutely no way you'd find a dish like this in central Italy, nor gnudi in the north or canederli in the south. So diverse and always something new to discover, I used to think my family were bonkers driving four hours to the coast for lunch as it was not the done thing to eat fish in our mountainous village or to head over to the other side of the hills for a particular chocolate biscuit in a particular month as that's when they were best. God love them for it because. That's. How. Important. Food. Really. Is.

Cin Cin Brighton chocolate cremosa with morello cherries

Anyway, back to the job in hand, we finished with affogato and a lovely little chocolate cremoso, heavier than a mousse yet silky and indulgent, topped with morello cherries and an amaretto biscuit crumble. Perfect with a glass of vin santo or marsala I imagine.

They may be still fresh off the boat in restaurant form but with awards winging their way already, Cin Cin is certainly up there with the better restaurants in the city already. Head chef Jamie Halsall is classically French trained which brings a lightness of touch and elegance to the dishes.

Service is friendly and intimate. Founder David Toscano is still very much in house and showing how much he deserved to win the "Best Welcome" award at the Brighton Best Restaurant Awards earlier this year.

Also worth looking up is their Ten Pound Tuesday - a beautiful plate of authentic, homemade pasta and glass of wine or a beer for less money than ten chicken wings from Nandos. Exactly.

Cin Cin
13-16 Vine Street, Brighton

*You want proper pizza in Brighton? Fatto a Mano, Franco Manca and Nuposto are your friends.

REVIEW: Etch by Steven Edwards, Brighton

Slow cooked duck egg yolk by Etch restaurant Brighton

This year sees a number of eagerly anticipated restaurant launches in Brighton & Hove and one that has created a particular buzz is the opening of Etch by Steven Edwards. Winner of Masterchef Professionals and with an impressive CV behind him, he has decided to open his first restaurant here in Hove, celebrating Sussex produce over a series of weekly changing taster menus.

Depending on day and service, diners can choose between 4 (£40), 6 (£50), or 8 (£60) courses. As is de rigueur, the menu is cryptically written, with just two ingredients listed per dish. However, waiters, or even chefs themselves, will fully explain each plate at your table. Wine flights are available for each menu or available by the bottle or glass. I was pleased to see a lovely selection of our Sussex sparkling wines too.

Truffle doughnuts by Etch restaurant Brighton

The first thing we taste is a snack of miniature mushroom doughnuts; light, delicate and heady with the scent of truffle. If the first thing I taste in a restaurant is truffle, then I know we are going to be friends, I am CRAZY for them. Next to this was a little biscuit topped with an onion and cheese cream. Familiar flavours, just, well, better.

marmite brioche bread rolls by Etch restaurant Brighton

The bread arrived as a light, warmed brioche bun with a glossy Marmite glaze (I love it) accompanied by a dehydrated seaweed butter and welcome pinch of salt to tailor to your taste. There is so much carb bashing these days but proper bread is a beautiful thing worth celebrating and hard to get right. I'm really loving the attention to detail with breads and butters in the restaurants, historically overlooked but now standout.

Pea and mint soup by Etch restaurant Brighton

The menu's theme has classic flavours at its core and the pea and mint soup was a perfect example, something we've all had a hundred times over. But reworked as an aerated soup, with tiny cubes of pea jelly and plenty of fresh peas suspended throughout was the luxury version of its common cousin. I adore fresh peas, and this vivid, rich and silky soup did them justice.

Sea trout and charred lettuce by Etch restaurant Brighton

Beautiful hunks of sea trout had been cured for just 20 minutes before being blow torched for the fish course. Normally raw fish isn't something I enjoy unless very finely cut or in sushi, but that short cure time had transformed the texture into something very pleasant to eat. I thought we were being had on with the description of "Big Mac lettuce" under the trout but indeed, warmed, finely shredded and with sweet and sour pickle and onion flavours, I got it and it worked! Gorgeous charred flavours from the fish skin and the blow torched lettuce contrasted beautifully with the rest of the dish. It's been ingrained in me that cheese and fish should never be on the same plate, but the hard cheese here added a savoury edge that had its place.

The show stopping, glossy slow cooked duck egg yolk sat on top of buttered, raw and charred asparagus with aerated hollandaise was another brilliant example of a classic reworked (dish photographed at the top of this post). The rich yolk and the citrus from the hollandaise made this a lovely thing to eat with fresh asparagus. Simple, but probably my favourite dish.

Pork belly and broccoli by Etch restaurant Brighton

Cooked sous vide for a day, the pork belly was perfectly rendered, soft, squidgy and melting, accompanied by a succulent breadcrumbed ball of shredded pork. Broccoli had been given three treatments; pureed, braised and the raw stem cut thinly. On top of all this, an impressive piece of pork crackling, dehydrated and somehow given a crumb texture, was puffy, crisp and without chew. The dish was brought together with a rich jus - a seriously delicious end to the savoury dishes.

Chocolate mousse and rapeseed oil ice cream by Etch restaurant Brighton

Manifested into a disk of light chocolate mousse with a glossy chocolate jelly and crumb topping, the chocolate and rapeseed pre-dessert hit the sweet spot. But I wanted more of the rapeseed oil flavour from the ice cream. I vividly remember an olive oil and chocolate dish I had before and know both can punch their weight in flavour, it's such a great combination. (I even pour grassy olive oil over a good vanilla ice cream - seriously, try it.)

Lemon tart and burnt orange ice cream by Etch restaurant Brighton

The classic lemon tart didn't disappoint though. Sharp and sweet with a brûléed top, burnt orange ice cream and hibiscus crumb and meringue shard. Refreshing and a perfect end to a pretty faultless meal.

Etch have their priorities in order. Yes they want to impress, but they manage to do that with enough technique whilst keeping things simple and, above everything else, enjoyable to eat. Modern fine dining can often be too complex, thought provoking and technically excessive at the sacrifice of enjoyment. Simplicity is hard, especially when you want to show off creativity, but the food is pitched perfectly here - it's one of the nicest meals I've had in a while. I'm certainly going to be thinking about it for a very long time.

Prices at a glance may seem at the top end, certainly in this neck of the woods, but broken down for each course and with the quality and technical ability of the dishes in mind, it represents incredibly good value. I'd rather come here over two or three visits to mediocre restaurants, that's for sure.

Interior and exterior of Etch restaurant Brighton

There's nothing pretentious about the experience at Etch (the Imprint. Define. Impress. strapline aside - eeek). The interior may be stylish but you'll find it warm and comfortable with a slight retro vibe. Service was perfectly paced, friendly and relaxed without sacrificing professionalism that the food deserved. Steven himself even mills around the room to talk to the diners during service. Personally I like this touch and his likeable, laid-back nature will put anyone at ease. Seeing as they had only been open six weeks, they seemed to have most things ironed out

(I don't normally mention loos but how could you not here. They have those fancy Japanese ones with a control pad of settings that do things to your derriere - advanced bathroom culture it's called(!?). Mildly terrifying but a point worth making - trying one is just one of those life experiences to check off the list.)

Etch's location in Church Road may be a little out of the way but this is destination dining. It's fully booked for dinner until July, and even after the initial excitement has died down, I'm sure diners will continue to flock.

Menu at Etch restaurant Brighton

216 Church Road
Brighton & Hove

I dined as a guest of Etch. Words and thoughts, as always, are my own.

REVIEW: V and H Cafe, Holland Road, Hove

I don't often review many cafes, or breakfasts, on the blog mainly because I don't tend to go out to eat breakfast (neither would you if you could eat Mr GF's pancakes) but I do go to plenty of cafes and definitely have my favourites. Even so a whole blog post on a chicken salad on toast or a piece of cake and a coffee is hardly riveting stuff. 

But sometimes there's more to a place than you'd expect. As you walk in to V and H Cafe, a painted mural lists their main suppliers. It's a celebration of Sussex produce really and why not get everything locally if you can? 

This is a real USP of this cafe. When food is as simple as breakfast, sandwiches and salads, quality of ingredient and attention to detail is what sets you apart.  

As soon as my Eggs Florentine arrived I knew that these values were strong. Two perfectly poached eggs from Five Chimneys Farm in Hadlow Down (laid on the day of delivery) sat on my favourite chewy brown bread from Real Patisserie, with lightly cooked kale, mushrooms and frisee salad. And not too much Hollandaise sauce either. A gorgeous combination, much better than the typical spinach in the dish with the more robust kale. I wolfed the lot down. 

My dining companion was the other man in my life, my five year old son, whose love of breakfast is making me more enthusiastic about it too. His face was a picture when his breakfast turned up, tailored from the standard menu and fit for a small prince! You see some really sad sausages in breakfast shots but this free range one from Westdene Butchers was fanastic, free from any fillers. The thickly cut rasher of bacon also came from them too. Soldiers cut from chewy brown and a generous helping of butter rich, golden scrambled eggs. 

A nice touch was the homemade baked beans, made from a mix of butter, kidney and haricot given a slight kick of heat from chilli. So much nicer than tinned.

A lot of the menu can be adapted like this, the possibilities are endless but unlike some cafes who refuse to deviate from the menu, they are quite happy for you to customise - a particular bonus for those dining with little ones. 

Coffee was great from Roasted in Henfield, as was the freshly squeezed juice made even more invigorating with ginger and turmeric.  

We took some cakes home, made by Andrew Mikolajczyk from The Cake Time (previously head baker of Flourtown Bakery and cafe which was here before V and H Cafe took over). The slice of walnut and banana cake was really lovely. Traditional, honest and light, just as I like it. (I really have zero time for lurid, over the top cakes with piles of frosting and decoration.) The salted chocolate brownie though - this was the best textured brownie I've had. Not overly gooey but melting and crisp with a tinge of saltiness that makes it more grown up. I'd walk to Palmeira Square from Kemptown just for this.

The interior has been nicely done. It feels beachy without being themed, a lovely space to drop in any time (they also do salads and sandwiches for lunch too.)

Service is faultless, friendly and welcoming. I noticed a table of clearly well treated regulars that small businesses like this do well to retain. 

I'm really glad I trekked over. This isn't my neck of the woods but if it were, I'd be in a lot, believe me. You can't fault the quality, service or attention to detail at all.

Holland Road

I dined as a guest of V and H Cafe. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.

BRIGHTON SNIPPEATS: Bluebird Tea Co., Brighton Bierhaus, Brighton Tap Takeover, Foodies Festival

The Easter treats have been arriving this week but one not so bad for the waist are goodies from Bluebird Tea Co. Along with their gorgeous packaging - those little tea filled eggs! - they have some lovely flavours for the season. I really liked Easter Egg Nests which is like their Choco Pops blend with chocolate, marshmallows and toasted rice puffs. The Carrot Cake, in a little carrot shaped packet, was in a caffeine-free Rooibos base with cinnamon, caramelised hazelnut, carrot flakes and mallow flowers and finally the Hot Cross Bun blend with cinnamon, hibiscus, apple pieces, rosehip, orange peel and cranberry pieces. Just lovely and such a nice alternative to all that chocolate.

Order in-store or via

Brighton Bierhaus
Now open and looking rather splendid, the Bierhaus has 6 cask lines and a further 13 keg lines so they’ll be a great range of beers available from the brewery and then guest beers from around the world, including the legendary Firestone Walker from California and new Dry & Bitter from Denmark. In addition to the beers, they'll have 4 dedicated wine keg lines, including one for Prosecco. YES PROSECCO.

Visit or a really handy site is Untappd to see whats pouring where. 

I joined Brighton Tap Takeover this year for the first time. Although beer isn't normally my thing, the more I try, the more I like it, particularly when you can have your fill of some of the best and quirkiest breweries. I tried "Brighton in a glass" brewed by the Laine Brew Co which included Brighton rock, seaweed and sea water from under the pier (!). And I also discovered I still do love stouts and porter of any kind. Good for you innit. Don't miss it next year!

The Foodies Festival returns on Hove lawns on April 29, 30 and May 1. Not to be confused with the Brighton Food Festival which is free, this is a ticketed event but includes all of the usual food festival activities, workshops, food trucks, producers market and music. You'll also spy a few of our local and celebrity chefs cooking on stage like Michael Bremner of 64 Degrees, Michelin starred Matt Gillan, Alun Sperring of Chilli Pickle, Stephen Crane of Ockenden Manor and Doug McMaster of SILO.

Get 30% off with the voucher code BRIGHTON30 

REVIEW: MAW pop up restaurant, Brighton

Supper clubs come in various guises and it's been a while since I've dined at one in a more traditional format, in a home. But, Brighton being Brighton, this was not your average home, tucked in a quiet street and with a former life as a coach house. The space was huge, modern and stylish and the chef at the stove was Mark Wadsworth who you may have spied on last season's Masterchef. Following a stint last year with a series of successful pop ups in Brighton Square, they are now back with a new 8 course tasting menu, appearing every six weeks in various locations across the city.

So after we settled down on the huge communal table and made friends with the strangers around us we tucked into the food. A food trend I'm really on board with is the real celebration of butter. It started off with adorning the good stuff with a few salt crystals, now toppings are getting more elaborate. But this was the best yet, topped with a dust of truffle, mushroom, leek and chicken and dangerously addictive. Being honest, I would have been happy with an entire loaf of bread and a slab of this for the whole evening. Even though I hate the word "umami", I can't think of a better description. Anyway, before this turns out to be a whole post on butter...

We were served three snacks; a delicious rare torched beef (although not sure it had been torched) on a bread crisp with sake and truffle mayo, a poached oyster with warm stout and my favourite, a pressed chicken skin crisp topped with dots of coriander, lemongrass and coconut sauce. Again, chicken skin has been cropping up a bit recently and happy with that I am too.

This followed with a really delicate Alaskan king crab dish, light and fresh and superb with the gentle heat from the crisp mouli. 

Almost the dish of the night was the quail (pictured on the top of this post). The fragrant Asian pear and truffle honey really accentuated the sweetness of the meat, whereas the pickled radish and burnt leek contrasted with it perfectly. A really clever dish this one and I can't get enough of the smoke element charred vegetables add to a meat course. 

The cod was an enjoyable dish, the fish poached in butter and given a Mediterranean holiday vibe with red pepper puree, mussels, chorizo and topped with paper thin tomato crisps - an ingredient that works particularly well in dehydration to intensify the flavour. 

Just pipping the quail for dish of the night though goes to the miso beef fillet though which packed a punch of juicy flavour. Served with a 50/50 butter mash (low cholesterol is so overrated), shitake mushroom and burnt onion, its simplicity really allowed the hero ingredient to shine. 

Dessert was a bit of a crowd splitter. Kudos for serving banana in a fine dining setting - you don't often see the humble 'nana glorified in elegant dishes, but this was pleasant with crystallised pecans and a matcha tea and white chocolate ice cream. It was different, quirky and interesting but not my favourite of desserts. 

The quality of supper clubs at this level is certainly on the rise and MAW is up there with the finest. Although I do enjoy suppers organised by home cooks or producers, there's something really special about a professional chef creatively let loose without constraints or house-style of a restaurant. The diner may be the guinea pig for some experimentation which can be contentious, but it always makes for an interesting dining experience.

Vegetarians are catered for with advanced notice and drinks are BYO. Tickets are £45 plus booking fee per person. For next events follow @mawpopup or visit

I dined as a guest of MAW. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.