REVIEW: Zona Rosa, Brighton

It was surprising to see the transformation of a former coffee shop in Kemptown into a hot pink and teal "Cocina Mexicana". Tucked up a side street I had wondered if the location would be right for the reinvention. But it continues to be open all day, serving breakfasts and lunches before turning into a restaurant in the evening. On paper, this seems an odd concept but cafes are turning into pop-ups and restaurants in the evening and restaurants are trying to claim additional daytime trade - it's nothing new and actually, with the full length windows open and the pretty tables and chairs on the pavement, it's an attractive little place day or night.

Our waitress recommended the nachos and, after informing us the ceviche was sadly off the menu, offered the "Playa Brighton" as the fishy alternative. I immediately ignored this and headed back to the menu, but Rosie, the little pickle, took her up despite sounding the least authentic options on the menu.

The tamale was the standout dish of the night for me. Traditional, yet something I've not seen on many Mexican menus in these parts (but then Brighton is hardly blessed with options). I'm no stranger to polenta as an Italian, but as much as it pains me to say, this was the best way I've tried it. Mexicans 1 - Italy 0. Stuffed with roast jalapenos and Sussex High Wield Ricotta (a local nod to queso fresca I imagine), this was topped with hot jalapenos and fresh coriander and wrapped in a corn husk before being steamed. Cornmeal is such a vehicle for flavour and this had it all, as well as being supremely light. It certainly gave me a taste for more typical dishes than the ones that have been tailored to the UK market. You must to order this.

Nachos - everyone's favourite. I can give or take them and can't help feeling they were an American invention or something. Huge globs of congealed cheese commonly on top is never something I want to eat. The fact that that the tortillas here were different flavours and therefore attractively mixed colours was a bonus, and the topping was fresh with a pico de gallo salsa, guacamole and sour cream. They're fine, I'd eat them, but I put them in the stadium food bracket as an overall concept.

Back to tradition were the empanadas, stuffed with a potato and pea filling. Nicely seasoned, crisp and not too heavy or stodgy on either filling or pastry. Really enjoyable and the coriander and lime yogurt added a needed zing.

Pork Pibil Tacos were smoky, aromatic and the pulled meat tender, clearly benefiting from a decent marinade imparting both sweetness and heat. There was enough contrast between the meat and the fresher flavours from the coriander, lime and khol rabi which made the dish interesting from start to finish. The extra tortillas tucked under the tacos were both appreciated and needed. Making the whole meal substantial was a side of coriander rice and salsa.

The Playa Brighton was a mush of fish and chippy ingredients with a vaguely Mexican vibe in a wrap. I'm not entirely sure what else to say from the bite I had of it. It's a nice idea I suppose, it didn't offend but I think they do other dishes so much better.

Churros (the obvious choice) were delicious and made me realise why they are so darn popular. Crisp, light and indulgent with a decent chocolate dip. Some of the best ones I've had for sure.

Normally I would order something more like this toasted cornbread with berries and vanilla and it arrived exactly as I wanted it, not too sweet but satisfied that need to punctuate a meal with a little something something. The cornbread had soaked up the juice from the berries - so lovely.

The special that they insisted we try, a fried pastry with banana filling, was ok. Fried things, hot bananas and beige tick none of my boxes really but if you like things like apple turnovers, I'm sure you'd like it (Mr GF, King of Stodge, I'm talking to you).

My hibiscus Margarita was great. Punchy and vibrant, but why it was served in a tall glass I have no idea, and I missed the salty rim (sorry, how the hell else do I describe it?!). There's a pretty good drinks menu overall - tequila, Mexican beer, horchata and aguas frescas.

On the food menu there are the the classics that you'd expect to see in a UK Mexican restaurant, but the really traditional dishes I think are ones to watch and something I hope they get a name for and expand upon. Salt cod fritters, cactus tostatas...I'll return for them all. As it's an all-day eatery, the salads and some genuinely healthy options are attractive too - quinoa, roast corn, pinto beans and spinach salads or the superfood burrito for example.

Although the atmosphere, unlike the vibrant, colourful interior, was as grey as an accountant's underpants on entering, a change of staff midway through service certainly made a difference. Our new waiter was enthusiastic, informed and delightful, and a sure example of how service can affect a dining experience. 

This place used to be Spinelli cafe for about a decade, and one of the very few (if not the first) coffee shops before Kemptown scrubbed up and became all glitzy. It's been my neck of the woods all my life and I welcome the change; we have so many more options from the higher end, to classic pub food as well as bakeries, grocers and all the things that come with an invasion of monied immigration from the capital, notably the boom of cafes. Spinelli, I suppose just got a bit lost in the caffeinated noise so a smart move to evolve into something else rather than battle with increasing competition.

Saying that, a Mexican option does feel a little brave but there are plenty of diners in the area that these neighbourhood restaurants can thrive on if done well, which Zona Rosa certainly does. Meeting the owner later clearly highlighted a real passion for what they are doing and it's these independent restaurants that need supporting. Even if you don't live in this area, I think it's well worth a journey across town for. Order that tamale though, yeah.

Zona Rosa
College Road

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

Finalists announced for the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2018

It's great being your own boss, allowing myself to steal a couple of hours out of the studio on Monday, to toast the announcement of the finalists for the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2018. The glorious sunshine and beautiful surroundings at the Bedlam Brewery and Albourne Estate made it even better, far better that staring at website code!

It was so nice to see where Bedlam Brewery do their thing (such lovely people too) and I had yet to discover their neighbours, Albourne Estate. It's a young vineyard a stone's throw from Brighton on the Sussex Downs and they have just released their first sparkling this year. The Blanc De Blancs (you know I love it) was lovely as was the elegant labelling with illustrations of wildlife commonly seen on the estate. Grab a glass if you can now it's available.

The full finalist listings are below but it's telling how good the Brighton restaurant scene is getting. Taking up a number of the nominated spots for the Sussex Eating Experience of the Year are some of the city's finest; 64 Degrees (natch), Issac At, The Set and Etch - particularly relevant as Steven Edwards won young chef of the year in 2010 at these awards. Seems to be doing alright for himself since! Also good to see so many other Sussex businesses that I value, a reminder of what a great region we live in for brilliant produce.

A whopping 13,000 votes were received last year and voting is now open so you can champion your favourite Sussex Food Businesses at this year's awards. You can vote here until 19 September:

The four categories that remain open for your own nominations are:
  • Young Sussex Farmer of the Year
  • Sussex Newcomer of the Year 
  • Sussex Young Chef of the Year
  • Sussex Street Food of the Year 
Sussex Eating Experience of the Year, sponsored by Blakes Foods
  • 64 Degrees, Brighton and Hove
  • Cowdray Farm Shop Café, Easebourne, West Sussex
  • etch., Brighton and Hove
  • Isaac At, Brighton and Hove
  • The Artisan Bakehouse, Ashurst, West Sussex
  • The Milk Churn, Rudgwick, West Sussex
  • The Parsons Table, Arundel, West Sussex
  • The Ram Inn, Firle, East Sussex
  • The Set, Brighton and Hove
  • Zari Restaurant and Lounge, Ifield, West Sussex
Sussex Food Producer of the Year, sponsored by Southern Co-op
  • Bookham Harrison Farms, Rudgwick, West Sussex
  • Ginger’s Kitchen, Partridge Green, West Sussex
  • Just Brownies, Shipley, West Sussex
  • Lighthouse bakery & school, Robertsbridge, East Sussex
  • Nutbourne Nursery, Pulborough, West Sussex
  • Piglets Pantry, Worthing, West Sussex
  • Southdowns Honey, Lancing, West Sussex
  • Springs’ Smokery, Edburton, West Sussex
  • The Raw Chocolate Company, Henfield, West Sussex
  • The Real Pie Company, Crawley, West Sussex
Sussex Drink Producer of the Year, sponsored by Natural PR
  • Bedlam Brewery, Albourne, West Sussex
  • Brighton Gin, Brighton and Hove
  • Chilgrove Spirits, Chilgrove, West Sussex
  • Gran Stead’s Ginger Co, Portslade, West Sussex
  • Hepworth and Co Brewers Ltd, Pulborough, West Sussex
  • Langham Brewery, Lodsworth, West Sussex
  • Plumpton Estate, Plumpton, East Sussex
  • Ridgeview Estate Winery, Ditchling Common, East Sussex
  • Tinwood Estate, Halnaker, West Sussex
  • Wobblegate, Bolney, West Sussex 
Sussex Food Shop of the Year, sponsored by Wealden District Council
  • Barley Sugar artisan deli, Eastbourne, East Sussex
  • Crates Local Produce, Horsham, West Sussex
  • Eggs to Apples, Etchingham, East Sussex
  • Holmansbridge Farm Shop, Barcombe, East Sussex
  • Judges Bakery, Hastings, East Sussex
  • Oast Farm Shop, Buxted, East Sussex
  • Plaw Hatch Farm Shop, Sharpthorne, West Sussex
  • Rushfields Farm Shop, Poynings, West Sussex
  • The Sussex Produce Company, Steyning, West Sussex
  • Veasey and Sons Fishmongers, Forest Row, East Sussex
Sussex Butcher of the Year, sponsored by RP Meats Wholesale Ltd
  • Archers of Westfield, Westfield, East Sussex
  • Barfields Butchers, Brighton and Hove
  • Bramptons Butchers Ltd, Brighton and Hove
  • Garlic Wood Butchery, Steyning, West Sussex
  • J. Heath and Son, Eastbourne, East Sussex
  • May’s Farm Cart, Lewes, East Sussex
  • Michael Courtney Family Butchers, Midhurst, West Sussex
  • New Street Butchers & Deli, Horsham, West Sussex
  • Steyning Butchers, Steyning, West Sussex
  • Tablehurst Farm, Forest Row, East Sussex
Sussex Farmers Market of the Year, sponsored by Harvey’s Brewery
  • Chichester Farmers Market, West Sussex
  • Horsham Markets, West Sussex
  • Lewes Farmers Market, Cliffe Precinct (monthly), East Sussex
  • Lewes Food Market, Market Tower (weekly), East Sussex
  • Shoreham Farmers Market, West Sussex
  • Steyning Farmers Market, West Sussex

REVIEW: The Jolly Sportsman, East Chiltington, Lewes

Set in a quiet little nook of Sussex in East Chiltington, Lewes, The Jolly Sportsman has always boasted pretty decent feedback and received two AA rosettes along with recommendations in the Michelin and Good Food Guides. It's a lovely big pub, painted in a perfect shade of grey and they have hit that sweet balance of modernisation whilst retaining the comforting feel any pub should have. The bar area is small but this is the result of punters being drawn to the food I imagine.

And although they obviously have a car park, I thoroughly recommend working up an appetite with a walk. Following some darn good Twitter advice, I parked the car near Lewes Prison (safe!) and found the footpath that leads up to Blackcap Hill. Then through dappled light forest all the way back down the hill all the way to the village. It's a decent 1 hour 45 minute yomp, but it's a lovely way to get there (apart from being chased by a cow and a call for AA car rescue - another story and both separate incidents).

Admittedly this feels more restaurant than pub, which to me isn't a problem. There's a quirky red room with raffia lighting, or a smart dining area. The outside is just glorious though, beautifully planted with sheltered tables set far enough away from one another to discuss your juiciest gossip without fear of eavesdropping.

There is a fixed lunch menu at £15.90 and £18.90 for a 2 or 3 course respectively, but we were going whole hog with the a la carte. As you'd expect from any gastro pub (do we still call them these??) the menu is peppered with our sensational Sussex produce.

"Duck, Duck, Duck" included, unsurprisingly, three elements of duck. A duck meat filled croquette, fois gras and a crispy duck egg. Big on flavour and glorious fatty richness, the dish was a great celebration of the bird.

My Sussex asparagus dish was paired with coppa ham instead of the usual parma, a fattier cut that I think works better, far easier to cut and eat. A wobbly poached egg is the classic accompaniment but the addition of the truffle vinaigrette really make the dish pop. I'm obsessed with truffles admittedly, but having never seen it with this dish, I'll always be wanting that fragrant earthiness hit with it again.

Mains continued to impress. My red wine braised Sussex beef short rib was the best I've ever eaten, hands down. The bone was there for decoration because that decent hunk of meat had left it a long time ago in the slow cooking, resulting in succulent, juicy and deep flavoured meat. The red wine jus was reduced to an almost Marmitey intensity. Spring greens and a perfect quenelle of horseradish mash was all this rich dish needed along with a lovely charred onion wedge. I'd eat this dish a hundred times again. Probably in a row.

The small piece of lamb rump I managed to extract from my husband's far lighter plate was also exceptional. I loved that they had given it a summery Mediterranean twist with a stuffed aubergine bake—a vegetable that seriously loves lamb—slices of olive oil potato and tender stem broccoli.

We interrupted desserts with a plate of ripe cheese which included Keen’s cheddar, Tunworth, Oxford Blue, Golden Cross, Golden Cenarth and was served with homemade bread, delicate flavoured crackers and a nicely punchy chutney.

Warm, perfectly spiced gingerbread cake was a welcome spin on the classic sticky toffee, served with plenty of sea salt butterscotch and clotted cream. It was becoming apparent that these really are pub classics but refined and reworked to an exceptional level.

My lemon tart was refreshing, zingy and light, helped with a raspberry sorbet. Although I'm on board with anything with pink grapefruit in, I think this element should have been more delicate. The slab of over gelatined jelly had large, fleshy chunks of grapefruit that wasn't the greatest texture in the World. But hey, that's the only negative of the whole meal, along with the use of a comic sans font for the menu *grinds teeth*.

Service was man-bunned, informal, friendly and pitched just right for the place. We paid around £100 for our meal which included a couple of good ales and a large glass of really delicious wine which think represented good value for the quality of cooking.

"Fine cooking, not fine dining" is how they describe their food and I'd agree with that. I think overall this may have been the best pub meal I've ever had, big on quality and refined elements but above all else, a really memorable good feed.

Jolly Sportsman Website
East Chiltington
East Sussex

PRODUCT REVIEW: Ethical Kitchen - Life-changing Treat Boxes

Ethical Kitchen is an alternative take on the booming subscription box service market. Brighton-based and with a social conscience, they are launching with a series of coffee, chocolate and healthy snack boxes, all curated from brands that share their values.

There are two options;

The Ethical Warrior box contains a bag of freshly roasted speciality coffee, bars of premium chocolate and healthy snacks for £21.15 per month (inc delivery).

Or The Ethical Snacker box contains premium chocolate and healthy snacks / snack bars for £11.25 per month (inc delivery).

I tried out the Warrior box where it sat, very welcome, on my work desk, primed for my mid afternoon energy slump. So first to be consumed, alarmingly quickly, were the snacks. Very cutely packaged was the Squirrel Sisters (I love a squirrel, me) Cacao Orange Raw Energy Bar energy bar in a classic, zingy flavour combination. Really delicious, slightly squidgy and lovely texture. The pack had two bars so, with great restraint, lasted me a couple of days. I love these types of raw, natural bars - they satisfy a sweet treat urge but do it with a nutritious advantage.

Much in the same style is the Primal Pantry Apple and Pecan Paleo bar. Grain/gluten/sugar/daily free, natural and cold-pressed in the UK, it was again really enjoyable and surprisingly indulgent for a bar simply made with dry fruit, nuts, spices and almond oil.

I really like the Rude Health brand anyway (best Almond milk on the market and kickass branding), their pumpkin bar was a nice flavour alternative that works well with those base ingredients.

Surprisingly delicious were the Hippeas Sweet and Smokin' Organic Chickpea puffs. Crisps are my weakness so much so, I've banned them from the house but these are very saintly plus they support Farm Africa, a charity working with farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa to grow their communities and themselves out of poverty.

The guest coffee was Brighton's Redroaster Sanctuary Blend. As you've probably worked out, I'm a bit of a fan of the stylish cafe and love the idea that the roastery, right here in Kemptown is still one of the UK’s first specialist coffee houses and only organic certified roastery in the South. You can have the coffee either as beans or ground. I tend to use a classic Bialetti Moka pot (die-hard Italian I am) and the grind was a bit too coarse to filter through properly, so will probably stick the rest in a cafetiere. Still it's a lively, slightly fruity blend and really smooth. The packaging is lush too.

Finally, the bars of chocolate were the biggest surprise. I'd seen the Ombar brand in the local health food shop but just thought it was yet another raw chocolate bar. But all three were SO ENJOYABLE (yes, in CAPS) - so much more flavour than your typical chocolate and much more refined than expected - I've had some pretty awful raw chocolate experiences! Plus, they are full of live cultures and impressively healthy ingredients - no refined sugar or dairy. The Blueberry and Acai had serious tang, Coco Mylk was smooth and creamy and the 72% dark showcased the core product at its best. I enjoyed them so much I'll 100% purchase again. 

As well as the social credentials, it's a great way to be exposed to new brands and products. Subscription boxes are a luxury but there's no denying they're a fun one and an affordable treat to yourself or awesome present. If you are a lovely boss, you can also order office boxes for your staff to sharpen up their efficiency post 3pm.

The box selections will change monthly and are beautifully designed (one of the founders is a designer - natch). But their differentiator is clearly their values. As well as supporting brands that already do good work, 50p from every box will go to community projects run by their charity partners. Their first partner is Point Foundation, who do amazing work in Rwanda, helping disabled and special needs children to get an education they otherwise wouldn't. Deliveries within the Brighton area will, where possible, be made using a local carbon-neutral bike courier called Recharge Cargo

Gift subscriptions are available as one, three or six month packages. The first box will be beautifully gift-wrapped, contain a personal message and a discount code to use in the Ethical Kitchen shop which has some lovely products. So ideal for that gift idea.

More over on the Ethical Kitchen website.

Also, they've been kind to offer a discount code for my followers to get 15% off their first order:

I was sent a box for review. Words and thoughts, as always, my own. 

PRODUCT REVIEW: Petit Ballon, wine subscription box

I've written about Petit Ballon before, a wine subscription service that does things a little bit more beautifully. One of their USPs, along with some very well selected wine of course, is the nicely designed and considered Gazette.

Often with these food and drink services, the informative pieces are poorly executed or purely functional. Any subscription service is a lifestyle luxury so each element should contribute to the overall product experience. Le Petit Ballon's look, as with their ethos, is unstuffy, youthful and approachable - refreshing in the sector - but content is still very much key. Along with the Gazette, which is filled with wine features, recipes, interviews and music pairing (of course!), are some clear and realistic tasting note cards with plenty of useful information such as keeping potential, serving temperatures and food pairing.

Wines are also categorised into sensible and approachable labels, or cheat sheets as they call them. These make complete sense ie. Relaxed Reds are easy to enjoy and light whereas With-it Whites are complex and edgy. No-one needs an education in wine to understand that.

Each month the box is themed and I received the "Around The World" collection.

First up the red - Las Ninas Mapuche 2015

BANG, this was my kinda red. A real Jessica Rabbit red. As vibrant as my favourite MAC lipstick shade, this had spice, richness and heady but very drinkable. We had this with a reasonably spicy Bimimbap dish and it worked well, so well, we finished the bottle for dessert. Delicious.

I particularly liked that this was a collaboration wine with Las Ninas of Chile and Le Petit Ballon themselves so it felt like an exclusive bottle and a labour of love. And of course, the unusual bottle, paper wrapped and covered in graphic Aztec patten did not escape my eye. 

As with all of the wines, you can buy them individually and at £10.90 for a subscriber or £13.08 for a non-subscriber, this is a really well priced red. 

Completely different was the white - Sula Vineyards Sauvignon 2016

This is India's first Sauvignon Blanc to have ever been made which was interesting in itself. We took it to a friend's dinner party as it was a bit of a talking point (pretending to be wine buffs much?) and although we were dining on Thai food, the wine seemed to complement the spices well. This was exceptionally light and fresh, more than I was expecting from anything from India which seems to throw it all at you normally. With a very pale colour, there was citrus and floral notes with crisp lemongrass. It was so light, it would be ideal on its own as an aperitif even. 

As before, I enjoyed both bottles and maybe bottles I would not have chosen myself. Unless you really know what you are talking about, wine can be an absolute mind field and services like this just filter out some great bottles that could well become your favourites. It's a really accessible way to get into wine, or just to enjoy a decent bottle.

Subscriptions are available at two levels - "Grape Expectations" is £24.90 per month and the "Age of Raisin" £39.90 per month which includes more prestigious labels.

I received samples for review. Words and thoughts, as always, my own. 

REVIEW: The Coal Shed, Brighton - "Cooking on Coal BBQ supper"

beef brisket bbq at The Coal Shed Brighton restaurant

The Coal Shed is a solid fixture in Brighton's dining scene - consistent, great quality and decent value for money. The main pull is their charcoal Josper Grill, so naturally a BBQ event would be perfect here particularly as it was National BBQ week too. But The Coal Shed wasn't exactly going to throw a couple of snags on the fire, each dish was worked into their elegantly crafted style.

I really like the feel of this place. It's casual but also incredibly smart, managing to feel special with elegant touches, but there is nothing stuffy about it at all.

Anyway, as is de rigeur at the moment, we started with a platter of "chef snacks" to kick off the meal. Sweet, savoury and nicely spicy was the miniature jerk ham hock taco that despite its size had a lot going on. Pork loves sweet partners so the pineapple chunks and sweetcorn kernels were ideal, the heat of jalapeno and pickled red onions contrasting nicely. Crisp jackets of baked Jersey Royals were filled with a delicately smoked creme cheese and topped with, I'll assume tobiko, caviar. Finally, tender, charred asparagus tips were drizzled with hollandaise and teeny cubes of cured sausage.

Beer Pairing at The Coal Shed Brighton restaurant

Wine pairing was available on the night with come absolute corkers included or a fresh alternative were the matched beers from Lost + Found Brewery based near Arundel. Naturally I chose the wines but I had my craft beer nut husband with me who, I'm sure, squeaked a bit at being served beer for a change. (I think this will become more common place, I have recently met a beer sommelier who is trying to switch the focus on wines in a mid to fine dining setting and apparently beers are easier to food match.)

beef brisket at The Coal Shed restaurant brighton

The strong start to the food continued with this incredible brisket dish. The braised, rolled then fried meat had been perfectly spiced, delicate but very much present. So tender, it just fragmented at the touch of a fork. Topping this was a charred Roscoff onion, kimchi, crispy fried onions and a thick, decadent BBQ sauce. The whole table fell silent with this dish - it was a charred, smokey, sweet and sticky triumph.

BBQ Monkfish at The Coal Shed restaurant brighton

I've always though The Coal Shed handled fish just as well as meat (and of course they have their fish-focused sister restaurant The Salt Room). Monkfish is sturdy to handle the grills as well as coping with some punchy flavours too. Classic pit beans were given a twist with chorizo and I adored the rich, smokey BBQ relish.

Rack of Lamb at The Coal Shed restaurant brighton

A fire roasted spiced rack of lamb finished the main courses with a Middle Eastern vibe. Perfect with lamb is aubergine, roasted and scooped from the skin. Baby gem lettuce gave the dish some much needed crispness and the meat was as succulent and sweet as you would have hoped for.

clotted cream parfait and strawberries at The Coal Shed restaurant brighton

Dessert was a British homage, it felt a bit Wimbledon which was nice. A clotted cream parfait was adorned with strawberry meringue, fresh and jammy strawberries and a lip-smackingly zingy lime Italian meringue. Beautifully balanced and made extra special with the paired Goring Rose Sussex sparkling wine.

Wines throughout were delicious and for £25, well priced. Maybe I'm lazy but I really appreciate wine flights, it takes the effort out of choosing! But another bonus is that there is always a variety or estate that is new to discover - I'll be looking up the Goring Estate for more and the reds were particularly gorgeous so I noted them down. Nice to see Greek wine too - we some recently at a visit to The Salt Room so something they are pushing.

The Lost + Found beers worked well too. Priced individually at £5, I think it would have been a struggle to fit in all five (although Mr GF pretty much managed - what a er, hero). I'm trying harder with beer but for me, I still want wine with food. The only beer that didn't work was the DIPA with dessert which was far too punchy at 8.8% for such a delicate dessert.

So yes, perfect evening. Seeing the interaction over a communal table that is typical with a supperclub setting is really nice. It didn't take long for couples and groups to start infiltrating each others conversations and the atmosphere was lovely.

The Coal Shed will continue to run specially crafted events and supperclubs like this, so even if you are familiar with their regular dishes, it would be well worth booking in to experience one of these. Amazingly this 50 cover event sold out in 30 minutes, so get in quick!

The BBQ dinner was £50 per person and optional wine pairing £25 (great value for both I thought). Beers were £5 each.

Details of upcoming events can be found on

The Coal Shed
8 Boyce's Street
Brighton BN1 1AN

I dined as a guest of The Coal Shed. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.

SPAR Prosecco range plus a recipe for the classic Venetian spritz

Apparently, Procescco sales in the UK will outgrow all other types of sparkling wine sales in five years - the fastest growth in the World (noone say Brexit, noone say Brexit). Total UK consumption is expected to rise 10.8% to nearly 74m litres a year by 2020*.

And no wonder, as Prosecco is a relatively affordable luxury, plus the rise of the popularity of the prosecco-based spritz is only amplifying the figures. I'm also seeing better quality, particularly in the wallet friendly supermarkets and at really decent prices too.

SPAR are not the only ones to jump on this and they have just release two of their own bottles in response to the demand. Their SPAR Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco is a pretty bottle that would actually be perfect for a gift. Really light, fruity and floral and very easy to drink, this would be the ideal bottle to sink for an aperitif, which of course is exactly what we did with it. At £12, it really is great value. I've had far more expensive Champagne and, truly, would choose this over the bulk of them. Valdobbiadene is known to be the best area for Prosecco production so is something to look for when shopping and I would recommend you enjoy this on its own.

The SPAR Extra Dry DOC is even more affordable and it's this that I decided to use to create a round of Venetian Spritz cocktails with, even though it was pleasant as it was. I'm not actually a fan of particularly dry white wines, I find them too acrid but despite the title, this was smooth and easy to drink. Again the price point at just £9 was also a surprise.

A classic spritz is such an easy drink to create for friends. Most people love them and they are trés en vogue - and you'll impress with very, very little effort. As soon as the temperatures get even close to warm, these start to get poured and as we had a small group round, we toasted the start of the summer with these in the garden.

1 part Bitter Liqueur (Aperol is sweetest but you can go for a 50:50 Aperol/Campari split)
2 parts Prosecco
1 part Soda Water
Skewered green olive (preferably with the stone)
Half slice of orange

Built the liquids in a tumbler style wine glass over ice cubes then add the garnish. 

*data by Vinexpo
This post was sponsored but words and thoughts, as always, my own.