REVIEW: Wild Flor, Hove

Wild Flor, modestly pitched as a neighbourhood restaurant, is an unquestionably classy little joint. The bistro-inspired interior is stripped back with just enough elegant touches and wine is given as much status as the food.

And rejoice; this really is a restaurant for people who enjoy eating. You're not left picking at curious chef-foraged garnish, components are not 10cm apart on the plate - instead the big flavoured dishes here draw you in like a hug. 

Ingredients are used at their seasonal peak, so much so that by the time you read this, the chalkboard menu will have undoubtedly changed, but the style and tone of the classic dishes are consistent.

Simple dishes like unassuming pea and goat cheese toasts are sophisticated and surprising and sweetcorn soup was given a perfect partner in a salty and spicy nduja focaccia.

Salt cod rings alarm bells for me, the ghosts of putrid baccala past haunting me from my childhood, but here, as the classic dish brandade; soft, silky and creamy with olive oil and potatoes given a summery makeover with ripe tomatoes and fragrant herbs. I'm a convert. 

Roast chicken leg, is again, a humble dish elevated to something more with seasonal runner beans, a rich chicken broth and a brightening aioli. This is true comfort food, and I'm totally here for it. 

Lighter was the dish of pink trout, cooked within seconds of perfect, a balance of fresh cucumber and earthy notes from horseradish to complement this fish.

Never miss the potato dishes here though. Mark II of the crispy beef fat potatoes that were a rave from their launch, the Pommes Anna are even better, more refined and a gorgeous side dish to anything. Don't kid yourself that you'll share. 

One thing I've noticed here is that desserts are very grown up and tend to be herbal and fruit based rather than sticky and sweet kind - a good thing in my book. The gooseberry fool leant toward savoury, with the unmistakable tartness of gooseberries. A small rice pudding with jammy figs and fig leaf oil was equally as good, and would be perfect with a dessert wine. 

Service is something that deserves a mention. Effortless and casual, yet finely tuned and exactly on brand for the food in terms of knowledge to help diners navigate the menu and wines.

From their opening in 2018, Wild Flor were an instant hit, landing them a well-deserved number 3 spot in the local restaurant awards and gaining national coverage where Brighton sometimes gets overlooked. Founders Robert Maynard, Faye Hudson and James Thomson have all come from the front line of the best hospitality in Brighton. They know their onions as well as their patch and have created a place that this city seemed to have needed.

New to the team however is head chef Chris Trundle who joins them from Michelin-starred Manfred’s in Copenhagen and Lyle’s in Shoreditch, along with sous chef Laurence Kinghorn-East who began his career at acclaimed Gingerman Group in Brighton before taking positions at the Michelin-starred kitchens of Matt Gillanat The Pass and with Merlin Labron-Johnson at Portland in London and latterly at Osipin Bruton, Somerset.

The kitchen changes haven't altered the strong ethos and style of Wild Flor, but seems to have pushed them that little bit further forward. Dishes appear more polished and refined and I have a hunch that this will evolve further.

42 Church Road 
Hove BN3 2FN

The Italian Wine - Save 15% on the range of small production Italian wines

2020 has changed a lot of things for us, including our buying habits. A natter with my mate, who just happens to be a consumer behavioural specialist (oooh), agreed - we are buying less, but better where we can, and investing in our homes both in a practical way and enriching our experiences whilst there too. Makes sense, we’re stuck indoors more so why not! And it’s not just the big extension or garden landscaping - small purchases from those really posh candles, luxury beauty, to cooking kits from fine dining restaurants, quality foods and better drinks…anything to fill the void of restricted freedom, or maybe we’ve saved a fortune not going on that overseas holiday.

The Italian Wine is a new delivery service offering unique collection of limited production wines handpicked from small production vineyards in Italy. Often these come with a hefty price tag but because of TIW’s buying power direct from the vineyard, you get them at a much better cost. Based in Brighton, but with national coverage, the local/Italian link was a perfect fit for me to share with you.

Italian wine is brilliant (yes I would say that) but like everything you consume from this country it often comes with a story or passion behind it, be it the source of the ingredient or a multi-generational link. There are many niche grape varieties and small producers, Italian wine is really more than just Montepulciano or Prosecco. The wines come with a back story and technical information if you are interested, which you can use to impress/bore your mates with (limited to 5 as this goes live - thanks Boris) or just enjoy it, but the knowledge of provenance really adds to a product’s appeal to me. Yes I am that person that drives 126km for a particular truffle.

I tried a bottle of the Pinot Nero Brut Rosé from Conte Vistarino. Carlo Giorgi di Vistarino introduced the Pinot Nero grape from Burgundy to Oltreò Pavese, the north-west Italian region of Lombardy, between 19th/20th century. So successful, the region remains to this day Italy’s largest Pinot Noir cultivation area.

The Vistarino family have gone on to improve and hone their wines since the work of Carlo Giorgi di Vistarino in 1850, gaining well deserved awards and recognition. Leading the winery into the present day is refreshingly a woman from the family, impressively named Ottavia Giorgi Vimercati di Vistarino, a big plus for me and something I hope to read about more. 

The Pinot Nero Brut Rosé is produced exclusively with Pinot Nero grapes using the Charmat Method (which Prosecco production uses). The colour is gorgeous, a soft peach pink and has notes of red fruit, cream and a touch floral with good, crisp acidity.

This wine is perfect for the last hurrah of summer, alfresco dining and lighter meals, particularly seafood, or just enjoying in the sun as an aperitif. At £13.95 it’s a very good price, for a very good wine.

I’ve been given a discount code so you can enjoy 15% off The Italian Wine range. Visit and enter the code THEGRAPHICFOODIE.

AD I was sent a bottle of wine for review, words and thought my own. Post contains an affiliate code. 

REVIEW: Med. restaurant, Brighton

Med is the Brighton restaurant I've been waiting for. A swathe of casual eateries have popped up in the city during Covid times and, hand on heart, my enthusiasm had been waning for local food for the first time in decades. Because, if I've been craving anything right now after a spot of enforced abstinence from restaurants, it's going to an actual restaurant. With napkins, plates, nice wines, a bit of pampering and food you eat with, you know, cutlery. 

Despite Covid, we have also had a large hole in our dining arsenal for simple, but elegant Mediterranean food. But Med has arrived with sunny small plates of holiday memories, which is what we all need right now, particularly those mourning the loss of their summer holibob abroad. 

Although I visited on the opening weekend and my rule of not reviewing until a few weeks have passed, due to common teething issues until a place beds in, plates and opinion have been pretty consistent from the off here. The people behind Med are by no means new kids on the block, having held up a pretty strong local presence with Wolfsmouth and their numerous pub popups, as well as  the slicker small plate operation at Paradiso Social. All of that is now concentrated into this new spot and their delivery seems rather faultless.

If you're an eye roller to the small plate format, this could well change your mind. Here it truly does work and you can mix and match to your heart's content without creating either a monstrosity of a meal nor a colossal bill. 

Grown up hummus was given a pop of flavour from the unquestionable flavours of crunchy dukkah sprinkled on top, and scooped up with their excellent focaccia is an easy way kick off to things here, washed down with one of their cocktails from the short and sweet menu -  a very good negroni sbagliato hit the spot for me. 

The main "big dish" option is a market fish of the day. A simple grilled fish to share is a thing of beauty and today the choice was plaice, one of my favourites. De-boning whole fish at the table is an enjoyable ritual, so glad we were left to our own devices with it. Add in the patatas bravas and charred artichokes and courgettes and that's a meal complete. 

Of course don't stop there though. Dish of the night for me were clams with chorizo in a fragrant wine broth, served with a spoon I imagine, not to serving the clams with but to ensure you drink up every last drop from the bowl. Do that.

Portuguese style chicken is worth the order, a gooey chourico croquette and piquant romesco.

Most surprising was the cantaloupe melon dish. I've had thousands before, mainly depressing fridge cold wedges at wedding receptions, but this was a head turner; dressed up with avocado and cured cucumbers, with a combination of gorgeous herbs making for a light, fresh, sweet and delicious dish.

Wines have been treated equally well with a carafe working out the same cost as half bottle so you can work your way around the list a little with your meal. The list is nicely curated and unpretentious too. 

Dining here was a true delight actually, and it wasn't just the thirst for returning back to restaurants. It really is good full stop; the attention to detail is everywhere. Crowd pleasing, simple food, which hits that sweet spot of being well executed but relaxed and priced honestly.
2/3 Little East Street
Brighton. BN1 1HT

REVIEW: The Ginger Dog, Brighton

The Brighton dining scene is crazy, even I can't keep up at times. Openings, closings, pop ups, residencies, collabs, start-ups, non-starters, and often don't get to a place before they shut the doors. The night before this I was in a box fresh opening being assaulted by a 100 dish strong menu, service from the textbooks of Faulty Towers and a tongue curling sauce that featured in almost every dish (I can't vouch for the dessert, I wasn't going to find out). It was new and packed to the rafters with excited diners...for now. It's easy to be carried away with novelty, but where the truly good stuff is often found is in ones that have survived the years.

And OGs of Brighton restaurants will always be The Gingerman Group, flying their flag since 1998. The Ginger Dog may have taken time to stand tall next to the Man, Pig and Fox (and Flint House) as the more casual sibling of the bunch, but I think it's very much ready to stand on its own four feet.

Refurbed with a more moody tone; less quirk, more luxe, it speaks volumes about the quality of the evening and food you can expect.

Don't overlook the snacks, even if you're fully dining; A classic hummus is given a sultry souk make-over with ras el hanout spicing and a lively, grassy green olive puree. Absolutely delicious dunked with fat soldiers of fried gluten-free bread. As I'm building myself up to being the leading local authority on margaritas (hells, everyone needs a hobby) I had to order for research and can vouch for the fact it's a good one. Lip puckeringly sour and the ideal aperitif to gently browse menus with. If you, however, prefer your drink like any good woman; pretty, cute, yet stealthily dangerous as hell, then the raspberry and lychee martini is a good choice, like drinking a Jo Malone candle, in a very good way.

You can tell the group have worked hard on their drinks menus throughout the restaurants, particularly the cocktails. You won't find showy garnishes like clouds of candy floss to navigate your philtrum around, just a carefully curated list of drinks as good as their food, yet another art most miss the mark on.

Surprisingly good was a vegan starter of fried, spiced cauliflower. This often overlooked veg was amplified with a perfectly acidic and spicy cucumber kimchi, cooled with the smooth cashew and miso puree.

Whilst that dish may have screamed January 2020, my Duck yolk with gently spiced duck leg ragu sat on top of fried bread was the opposite end of the spectrum; unctuous, rich and decadent in a classic, yet modernised way.

Talking of classic, can you really beat a good steak and chips? The Salt-aged Delmonico steak, translated to rib-eye in this instance, juicy and flavour loaded with possibly the best chips in East Brighton, prob the whole city. Simple is wonderful, if it's the best it can possibly be and this really was.

Showcasing more of the Ginger Dog's creativity however, was the roast cod with a substantial cauliflower steak, clementine, fennel, hazelnut dressing. Whilst I found the dense puree a little murky, the fresh, clean flavours of fennel and clementine were enough to brighten the dish and bring back the balance.

To finish, I chose a silky white chocolate delice with orange and thyme, any risk of sickly sweetness levelled out with a herbal tone, and I always welcome that in a dessert. The kitchen didn't flinch either at making up a dairy free pudding, they transformed the pineapple clafoutis effortlessly.

However, don't dare leave without trying the salted caramel martini. They are well known for their drinking desserts, I'm sure they'd be a protest if they ever took this particular one off the menu, and after finally trying one, I'd be painting up a placard myself. It also reminded me, being in my 'hood, that I should use the bar here more for drinking and save myself a shlep into town every now and then.

The Gingerman Group touch everything with class. It's all rather relaxed but service, environment and touch points of the meal are always well considered and elegant. Their formula of running successful restaurants despite a challenging time for hospitality is testament to their experience and confidence to stick to what they do, yet evolve only when they need to, whilst resisting the fads and trends, in order to create a brand that diners can trust in. Whilst the Ginger Dog has been tweaked, it is still, if not even more so, very much part of the family brand.

This may not be the cheapest pub meal in town, but it will exceed your expectations in terms of quality and finesse, and is the standard of what premium modern pub gastronomy should be.

The Ginger Dog
12 College Place,
Brighton BN2 1HN

I dined as a guest of The Ginger Dog. Words and thoughts, as always, my own. 

REVIEW: Nanninella Pizzeria, Brighton

Brighton's love affair with pizza continues, and you won't hear any complaining from me. I've even had to fire up a separate to eat list on my phone's notes app just for pizzerias. (Everyone has a to-eat list, right?) There are three new spots that I needed to try, three! Never would I thought I'd see the day where I couldn't keep up with my pizza schedule.

Anyway, top of this list was Nanninella in Brighton's revived restaurant row, Preston Street. Any new restaurant worth its salt builds up interest with social media tasters and they did a very good job here. Followers were brought along for the ride to see murals being painstakingly painted and the general graft of building a restaurant from scratch.

And because everything in Italy has to have significant meaning, Christ, refer to pasta shape names alone, the name "Nanninella" was taken from a traditional Neapolitan dream book, where each dream is given a specific number. The building number on Preston Street is number 26 so this dream is of Nanninella; a moniker for St. Anna, mother of the blessed Mary and protector of families.

Lucky as other dreams in the book include breasts, bedpans, death, nude women and thankfully they didn't move into number 16 or else their restaurant would be called "Bum". I digress.

I don't normally go for starters before a pizza but these seemed too good to miss. A mixture of stuffed fried Neapolitan street food was a delight to find on the menu; panzarotto (mashed potato balls with chesse), zeppoline (dough balls with seaweed), frittatini, calzocini and the more wider known arancini. Delicious and perfect with an aperativo, but something to dip them into would have been welcome.

Meatballs (I was with Rosie and god forbid we don't go whole hog with ordering) were traditionally made with coarse breadcrumbs, but these were sadly too cloying, dense and dry. Certainly not like my mamma makes.

Despite that, I will say that the selection of starters sound so good you could come here for these, reimagined as small plate dining. Parmigiana, a side of friarielli (broccoli hybrid), a caprese salad and some sgugnizielli (dough strips topped with tomatoes and basil) is a decent meal to wash down with one of their well-priced reds.

Anyway, the main draw is of course the pizza. The oven is electric (too much grief from the council for a wood burning one) but domed and traditionally built, so you do get results close to the real deal, but I'm yet to be convinced of electric mimicking wood entirely.

The pizzas checked a lot of boxes with the typical Neapolitan soupy centre, great leoparding, but I'd say oven temperature was a bit low so the cooking time was a little long resulting in a dryer base. We're talking seconds probably, but hey, I'm a pizza geek. Shame for me that I don't have the same understanding of the share market, eh. The crux of it is this is a good pizzeria, hugely enjoyable, generous toppings, good quality and balanced. I chose the Napoletana, my staple choice, and I was treated to quite a lot of capers and anchovies, resulting in a desert-like thirst the next morning but the suffering was worth it.

Nanninella will do well; it was chock full of Italians when I visited, a good sign, prices are spot on, service is charming, and the interior is a delight with cute booths, hand painted tiles and lots of lovely details (the painted ceilings in the loos are adorable). It just has that loving touch of an independent that the chains, even the small ones, can't compete with.

26 Preston Street
Brighton BN1 2HN

REVIEW: The Coal Shed, Brighton (Brunch)

New year resolutions eh. My inbox is flooded by restaurant veganuary invites (I'm ignoring you all), #dryjanuary is in full swing, my social feeds are promoting every diet under the sun and I'll be joined by tens of extra runners on the hills that will tail off before February, leaving me on my own again. (Great, because deep down, I really hate people.) But in amongst all that is somewhat of a backlash with #NewYearTrueMe and endless self love memes. Wince-worthy maybe, but I'm all for this new antidote to this month long macro guilt and pressure. Enjoy yourself in moderation all year round I say. Eat that cake, order those fries, drink the wine...and savour this gratuitous plate of meat. For breakfast.

I've been drooling at the pictures of The Coal Shed's brunch menu on the social media feeds. Headline act is of course this Surf n' Turf and in the flesh, it still commands a gasp.

And knowing what awaited me, I had purposely starved myself short of an espresso, rolling into the freshly refurbished restaurant at noon ravenous. Being a Saturday also made it entirely permissible to order cocktails - plural. Hell, let your hair down love.

It kind of feels like stage fright, the pause of not knowing where to start, but the plump, soft mussels cooked with nduja seemed a good a place as any quickly followed by the tiger prawns and scallop and pork belly skewers.

The flavour of the maple-cured Tamworth bacon chop, king of chops, was immense and a smart addition to make the dish more breakfast, along with the two fried eggs and smoked black pudding. However, when I think of The Coal Shed, I think steak and the salt aged sirloin didn't disappoint. The charcoal grills give the meat those delicious charred edges and undeniable smokey flavour whilst sealing in all that juicy goodness.

There's plenty of choice for your two sides; crisp, slightly charred broccoli with garlic and chilli or an iceberg wedge with blue cheese and stilton for a bit of greenery. For those blasé about carbs or mortally hungover; beef dripping chips, truffle mac n’ cheese or mash with burnt ends. I chose one from each camp. Balance innit.

At £32.50 per head the Surf n' Turf platter may be at the top end of what you'd normally spend on brunch (lighter options are available) but along with hearty portions, quality is paramount here, so confident in both their produce and cooking, that they don't shy away from simplicity. Thoroughly enjoyed, I don't know of a more luxurious, or decadent brunch in this city.

And this ethos is evident throughout all their menus, wine selection and cocktails. The new decor is elegant, as moody and sexy as ever, a good eye for taste and refinement but still on-brand for an upmarket steakhouse and date night gold.

God, I need that run now though.

Brunch served Saturdays only 11am-4pm, alongside the a la carte menu.

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

also at

One Tower Bridge
London SE1 2SE

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

REVIEW: Franco's Osteria, Brighton & Hove

Ah, Franco's...that intimate and romantic little Italian you've been meaning to try for ages, but it's that bit of Hove that escapes your mind post 7pm. And I'm the same. I can't recall how many times I've banked that memo in my mind, probably from the days they still used to put the Italian Disney red and white checked tablecloths out. But when I speak to resident Hovites in the area, they are fierce in their protection of their 'hood restaurant. A good sign.

And it's a lovely place to come. Stripped back, simple, rustic, yet utterly laden in charm. The kitchen in full view from your table. Salami hang in the windows. I'm glad I'm finally here.

Format follows tradition here. Antipasti, Primi, Secondi and dessert. I felt very at home and could have been in any similar restaurant in Italy, the authenticity is refreshing. The owner is also very (like very - I was DMd about its importance) keen to let people know this is not a restaurant, but an "Osteria". So what the hell is that?

There’s a pecking order with eateries in Italy (we Italians love rules, man. That Catholic guilt runs deep). Restaurants are at the top; formal, larger menus, professional service and linens. Trattorias are small, often family-run and offer simple, home cooked food. An osteria is even more casual than a trattoria, they used to be more of a wine bar with a dish or two, but have evolved to be more in line with trattorias. And there’s more; tavola calda, rosticceria, taverna…get it? Frankly, I don’t really think people here care about that at all. A restaurant is a restaurant is a restaurant to most people's eyes, but for the nerds out there, you're welcome. 

You have the option of a la carte or the well priced sharing menu at £30.50 per person which I think reflected good value, even with its recent increase.

Antipasto lent on the gratuitous side as Italians like it. This part is a bit of a show off really, with the dishes arriving in stages. The cured meats were of great quality and surrounded with olives, cheeses, wonderful aged balsamic, cubes of home-made focaccia and fine little slices of tomato topped bruschetta. Then came buratta with pomegranate and beetroot, polpette (balls) of fennel sausage and aubergine in a fine deep-fried crumb with basil pesto and baked prawns with lemon and garlic. A feast to start a feast.

Primi, your pasta courses, come as a smaller portion as they should in this format. Tronchetti with a rich, deep ragu that had a hint of sweetness, maybe from a little nutmeg were delicious. The ravioli however were exceptional. Literally to-the-second perfection cooking on the pasta with an ideal thickness and texture. They were simply filled with vegetables and with a classic lemon, sage butter sauce. Had I a piece of bread I would have fa la scarpetta without hesitation.

The mixed roast meats for the secondo, were very typical and nice touch that the meat was sourced from the mighty Westdene Butchers. Between us there was a lamb chop, piece of steak and fennel-rich, course Italian sausage. All just simply grilled. The fish option was a large single fish I didn't make out, filleted at the table and looked equally as good.

For the sides, fried potatoes over fries would have been preferable to me, but grilled aubergine slices with pomegranate (nodding to a Sicilian influence in the kitchen I feel) made an ideal and interesting side.

Food-wise it can't be faulted. I love that the OSTERIA hasn't caved in to adapting the food, you certainly, and thankfully, would never find a spaghetti bolognese on the menu and dishes have not been tarted up or tweaked in any way.  No foams, smears, streaks or dots adorn the plates to confuse - just plain, old fashioned good cooking. 

Service was well-paced but could sharpen up. It was a bit young, bit absent minded in places yet friendly. The owner was away when I visited, thankfully it seems, as some messages I received alluded to a gruff and unwelcoming vibe on occasion. I looked up Trip Advisor and there seems to be a theme about this, the management replies on there only strengthening the claim. However it seems children are very welcome here, my kids would adore the food and I'd bring them in for lunch without hesitation. Family dining options that don't limit you to the chains get a big tick from me. 

Brighton is no longer a barren wasteland for Italian food. We were once left to fend for ourselves (well yourselves, I had my mamma's cooking) in the trenches of pizza pasta menus. Now there's a small celebration of good Italian food from some of our city's pizzarias, gelaterias, restaurants and of course, our only osteria.

Franco's Osteria
4 Victoria Terrace
Hove BN3 2WE