REVIEW: Afternoon Tea at The Salt Room

Afternoon tea at The Salt Room Brighton savoury layer

I love the tradition of proper afternoon tea. Impeccable service, starched tablecloths, someone tinkling the ivories, fine china and silverware and an eye-watering bill to finish. But this has always involved a trip up to London where they have a wealth of options for the experience. Brighton just doesn't have the same attitude to luxury, I don't know why, we just don't seem to do it in the traditional sense - if we do it's always with a twist or quirk and that suits us just fine.

Which leads us onto the newly launched Afternoon Tea at The Salt Room, who are still flying high from that glowing review by Jay Rayner. The interior here is refined with a healthy dose of on-trend industrial aesthetic. Everything is well considered and the staff are stylish and professional in equal measure. Instead of a crisp white jacket and a plummy accent, our waitress had soft pink hair and a flower tucked behind her ear and had such a brilliant demeanour, both charming and fun, that she genuinely added to the experience.

Afternoon tea stand and table at The Salt Room Brighton

Every head in the room turned as the stand was brought in topped with two candy floss (could it scream Brighton any louder??), the visual is certainly impressive and a nod to The Salt Room's now infamous Taste Of The Pier dessert plate. Noone could help being impressed with this, it was absolutely beautiful.

Afternoon tea at The Salt Room Brighton savoury layer

Starting with the fish-based savoury layer, the Crab Scotch Egg was fragrant with tarragon and a nip of chilli and worked perfectly with the sweetness of the crab meat. I think Truffled Grilled Cheese is quite possibly the nicest things you could put in your mouth. Anything truffle and I'm in - this was glorious and such a welcome break from the finger sandwiches you'd expect. The Salmon and Squid Ink Bun was striking but somehow needed something, more seasoning maybe or more of a hit of flavour in the bun as it diluted the salmon and horseradish filling. A pig to eat was the Aged Beef Tartare & Egg Yolk Jam Sandwich, served between two crisp pastry layers that shattered on bite impact, but utterly, utterly delicious. Egg yolk and raw beef is a classic pairing but reworked into this little gem was inspired.

Scones and jam at Afternoon tea at The Salt Room Brighton

The little scones, served with home-made clotted cream and strawberry elderflower jam were the perfect size, not too filling and the only real nod to tradition. Still, I was happy they were there.

Sweet layer of cakes and chocolate Afternoon tea at The Salt Room Brighton

The sweet layer is a picture right? The crowning glory of the event. Present were the Chocolate Pebbles everyone seems to go crazy for - sugar coated chocolate truffles that are too sweet for me but I'm not a huge fan of chocolates (give me another slice of that truffled grilled cheese any day). Sadly our Rhubarb and Custard Macaroon had disintegrated into the plate - maybe we had been talking too long. Shame as they were nicely flavoured and the dehydrated rhubarb shards that topped them deliciously tart in themselves. Disappointing was the slice of heavy and claggy Pistachio & Raspberry Battenberg, I'm not really sure what the issue was here but Paul Hollywood would have pulled one of his faces for sure. Whilst I think they probably need to bring the sweet elements to the same exceptional standard as the savoury, we ended on a high with the most beautiful Orange & Yuzu Posset, really refreshing and light, served in a delicate meringue case.

Interior at The Salt Room Brighton

I have to say we didn't sample any of the tea - why would you when the bar here is one of the best in town and there's a Champagne option. Plus, I was with the effortlessly stylish Alexis from Style Memos - a dear friend and one serious social influencer, and meeting her always calls for a celebratory drink to supplement our hundred mile an hour chatter.

The teas are from JING and there is a reasonable selection or you can opt for a gin and tonic, Champagne or sweet wine (nice to see an ice wine on the list) or a tea-tail which is a cocktail with tea infused gin and vodka.

As the afternoon tea here is fish based I chose a Gin Mare which is becoming a bit of a favourite. It's slightly savoury with Mediterranean herbs and olive notes and served with samphire. Perfect choice for the savoury layer of food.

Price-wise it's a fraction of the cost of what you'd pay in the capital and excellent value for money too, starting at £24.95 with coffee or tea, £29.95 with gin and £34.95 with a glass of Taittinger Champagne.

Interior and Afternoon tea at The Salt Room Brighton

I always get asked for afternoon tea recommendations in Brighton and historically struggled, but now there are a few decent options (none in the main hotels you would expect). This one here at The Salt Room would certainly be up there, particularly for its celebration of the city and position by the sea.

The Salt Room
106 King's Road
Brighton

I dined as a guest of The Salt Room. However words and thoughts, as always, are my own. 

COMPETITION: Win a Limited Edition Graphic Foodie T-Shirt!


One for the carb lovers out there!

It has been a while since I've run a competition on the blog but this one is a little more special. I have five T-Shirts to give away, that have been designed by moi of my favourite food quote of all time. In these times of orthorexic Instagram feeds, carb bashing and general noise about healthy eating, I think Sophia Loren's famous quote "Everything you see I owe to spaghetti" is a refreshing memory of simpler times where food was concerned. I'd love to see Deliciously Ella wearing one of these :)



And I really hope it's true as who wouldn't like to look like the ageless Italian beauty that is Sophia Loren!

There are 1 Small, 2 x Mediums and 2 x Large T-shirts available, entry via Rafflecopter below and you can specify your size in the comments below. UK entry only, winners chosen at random and closes at noon on 27th March 2017. You can also enter over at instagram.com/thegraphicfoodie

Thank you to Printsome for sponsoring the production of the T-Shirts in Brighton.  

REVIEW: WeFiFo/Cabrito Shawarma Kid Goat BBQ

Wefifo headquarters

I like to think I'm a well seasoned supper club guest now. It was a number of years ago I found myself on the doorstep of a host's home, clutching a BYO bottle and scrap of paper with the "secret" location scrawled on and harbouring some mild anxiety about the whole situation. Back then it was a wacky thing to do, made a touch illicit by the common term "underground restaurant". 

Since then, I've dined in jaw dropping mansions, regular cosy homes, makeshift out-houses, tents, boats and attended private dinners in cafes and restaurants...I even went to one pop up on the good ol' Brighton Palace Pier! The hosts also varied from well-known chefs to the home cook. But in almost all instances, I've had a great experience, eaten well and met some fun guests. 

WeFiFo, in a nutshell, is a supper club listing site but one that has attracted support from some high regarded folks in the food industry. They also champion the social eating movement - connecting people and providing hosts with the knowledge and support to make extra money or build up the skills to a new career in food. You can also dine pretty cheap - some events are under £10 but they also have some interesting premium listings, including a family foraged Easter lunch by Tim Maddams from River Cottage.

Wefifo Shawarma kid goat bbq spit

We headed over to a glorious farm in Sussex, which turned out to be WeFiFo's HQ. The event was a Shawarma Kid Goat BBQ hosted by James Whetlor from Cabrito Goat Meat who supplies restaurants and now Ocado. 

Now goat meat is not something we eat much of, bar the occasional curry goat, and it never occurred to me why. Goat dairy is big business with cheese and the increasing demand for the milk. But male kids can't offer this and in the past have been euthanised at birth. It's crazy to think that we are discarding a source of valuable meat, especially with the struggle of demand. And it's flipping delicious.

Wefifo Shawarma kid goat bbq supper club

Amazingly the sun shone for the first time in a forever and we soaked up the rays in the beautiful courtyard as the horizontal spit, packed tightly with the carefully prepared goat meat, turned and enticed us with its gorgeous smoky scent. 

Shawarma kid goat bbq kebab wrap

After finding out about the produce, we finally got stuck in. The kitchen table was piled high with middle-eastern inspired salads including beetroot, red onion and lentils, roasted cauliflower and tahini and huge wedges of roasted squash. It was all delicious but the goat meat was indeed the star of the show, the flavour mild and sweet, I suppose most similar to lamb. Where it had been layered with the fat it was tender and succulent too.

I went back for seconds. (Ok, Ok, thirds and I may have picked at the spit too.)

After a short pause and a walk, trays of rich, decadent ice-cream were handed out, made by WeFiFo's founder Seni Glaister using eggs from the farm. Well, the ice cream was worth the drive alone.    

Wefifo HQ

My 5 year old son also came to the event and had fun exploring the estate as well as tucking into the food. On the drive back to Brighton asked him what the best part of the experience was. The goat? The ice-cream? The additional sausages put on for the children? After a ponder he replied: making new friends. 

I couldn't sum it up better. Maybe it's the Italian in me but food always tastes better shared in good company and this is exactly what makes these food events so special, connecting with people from all walks of life. Also worth noting that the tickets were just £20 each - bargain. 

Not tried one yet? What are you waiting for? 


I dined as a guest of WeFiFo, words and thoughts, as always, my own. 

REVIEW: Busby And Wilds Supper Club, Brighton


Busby And Wilds remains one of Brighton's seriously unsung heros. With their genuine passion for local produce and a consistently good standard of cooking there really should be more buzz about them.  

Whilst they may be best known for their impressive Sunday Roasts, that they are always packed to the rafters for, there's more to this neighbourhood pub restaurant than their voluptuous yorkshires. And now they are adding a local and seasonal supper club menu on the last Thursday of each month. Limited to just 20 seats, the one off 4 course menu can be supplemented with carefully matched English wines (one of the best matched flights I've had actually). A nice touch was that the sourcing is clearly stated for each ingredient with a brief bio on major producers or suppliers.

Busby and Wilds Brighton potted rabbit

We started off with a generous portion of potted wild rabbit, caught in Sussex of course. This was served with local pears that had been either pickled or candied and some handmade Shipton Mill crackers. The acidity of the pears really cut through the earthy, succulent rabbit and a nice detail that the pears had been treated a few different ways.

Busby and Wilds Brighton Beachy Head squid

We followed with the most tender squid I've had in a while which had been caught just off Beachy Head. Again a play of contrast to the sweetness of the squid was some purple sprouting broccoli and baby leeks that had been given a gorgeous char. The silky leek and hemp oil emulsion was all that was needed to unify the plate perfectly. (Even the hemp oil had been grown in Arundel - who knew?)

Busby and Wilds Brighton lamb loin and minted ricotta dumplings

The meat course was Busby And Wilds' style all over. The South Downs Lamb Loin was beautifully pink served with minted sheep's ricotta potato dumplings. Mint is a natural partner for the lamb but unexpected to have it in this form and a welcome break from potato. Carrot puree had been given a little kick with some Downlands Brewery Amber Ale and the whole dish was a lovely, lovely thing to eat. Chapel Down Union Red was a stunning choice with the course, really toasted and fruity.

Busby and Wilds goats milk pudding

The meal so far was faultless and the dessert read so well but sadly didn't hit the mark. A shame as I think I had one of the best desserts in my life here previously! But sticking to the brief of local and seasonal was clearly a bit tricky at this time of year. The honey and goat's milk bread pudding was a bit bland, and the honeycomb, made with honey rather than sugar, too sticky to comfortably eat. Emily brought it right back by pairing it with an incredible gin, infused with quince and a rare variety of plum which was delicious in itself.

Supper clubs are great fun. I've been to quite a few now, all in various settings and formats and I generally meet some really interesting people to get engrossed in conversation with. Tonight was a table of locals, including one lady who meticulously gardens a little public piece of land that I have admired for a few years, another whose vintage sports car I see all the time in the area. I sometimes end up going to these on my own and don't feel any awkwardness, but then I'm one of these weirdoes that doesn't mind dining alone either!

The environment here is really lovely. I get really flummoxed by the term "smart casual" (what the hell does that even mean?) But somehow, that's exactly how they have pitched the decor. It feels special enough for a dinner date, yet perfectly at ease for a casual bite on a weeknight. Go figure. Also worth noting is the garden, which is a nice spot on a sunny day, one of the few in the area too.

Their location, on the Eastern side of Kemptown, is maybe a factor of why they sometimes get overlooked but Busby And Wilds is a destination eatery seriously worth travelling for.

The Busby And Wilds Supper Club runs on the last Thursday of the month. £35 for 4 courses / £55 with matched wines.




Busby And Wilds
9 Rock Street
Brighton BN2 1NF


  1. I dined as a guest of Busby And Wilds. Words and thoughts, as always, are my own. 

REVIEW: Skyfall, Hove


Oh the name! Yup, the name is terrible and earned them, quite justifiably, some local ribbing on opening and gave me serious reservations about the whole place. Maybe there is more in the pipeline? Fry Another Day? Dr Pho? The Man With The Golden Bun? I have no idea the thinking behind this but it smacked of suits, patting each other on the back. I know my line of day job makes me particularly sensitive to the cause, but that aside, this stuff is important.

But we're here for the food right, not a branding masterclass, so I'll stop harping on and let's get stuck in.


Scallops were nicely fat and juicy with just enough of a wobble left in the middle. Typically they'd be served with something that accentuated their sweetness like peas or citrus or to contrast with it like the earthy tones of black pudding, chorizo or beetroot. The chowder foam and tiny spots of quince puree seemed to do neither and I can't put my finger on the unusual flavour on the plate. Sadly, the celeriac crisps, possibly parsnip, tasted of oil not having reached the right temperature yet.


I had a small taste of the smoked duck which seemed tender although not smoked deeply enough but was nicely and simply presented with a classic remoulade of celeriac and kohlrabi, smoked beetroot and orange gel.

A good half of the main menu is taken up by burgers which in the daytime I can understand but for the evening I find unexpected. (I think when they opened in 2015 they tried to go for a burger and lobster concept.) With starters in mind (soup, scallops, smoked duck...even textures of cheese - a hangover of millennial dining if I ever saw one), I have no idea who would pair these together.

But the mains really shone and at this point was surprisingly impressed. The fillet steak, cooked precisely how I like it, was rich and flavorsome. The oxtail and marrow croquette had a silky and decadent centre and perfectly crisp exterior. Everything was harmonious on the plate; confit potato, broccoli, artichoke purée...I really enjoyed the whole dish. It's the simple, solid cooking I think Skyfall should be offering as standard.


The "taste of the sea" was just that with a generous portion of hake, with mussels citrus pomme purée, fennel seed carrots and paella jus. This dish may have not invented anything new and the listed kale replaced with broccoli, but is the sort of dish you'd happily dive into, nicely presented and beautifully balanced.


Sadly, desserts took a turn for the mediocre again. My "salt-baked" pear and almond tart was over selling itself, the pears undercooked so the thin layers splayed out once you took a spoon to it. I'd be surprised if they were salt baked, or baked at all. And there was no basil ice-cream that I could detect on the plate and menu omissions without warning are really irritating. The bakewell-esque top was good and would have worked well with the fruit at the right texture.


I didn't get much of a taste of the rhubarb and rosemary crumble but judging my the overflow on the side of the bowl, I'd put money on the fact the the fruit had been zapped to boiling in the microwave before the crumble topping added. And the rosemary, a gorgeous partner for rhubarb on paper, was being shy.

Also, the "homemade" bread looked and tasted very much like a bog standard supermarket bakery loaf. If it was homemade, which I doubt, they did a good job to make it seem otherwise.


The interior is nicely done, smart, bright and with a modern flair. They have captured a style that works for both day and evening dining and the set menu, served every day excluding Sunday, is a steal at 9.50/11.50/14.50 depending on course numbers. The also do weekend brunch, Sunday roasts and the children's menu is a decent example. I noticed around all the walls were plug points so probably a good shout for meetings and freelancers to drop in in the day.

Service was fine, if a little quirky, but it's always good to have a bit of personality rather than formality at times.

Although there was some highlights for the meal, and the environment has been very well considered, Skyfall certainly needs to try a bit harder in areas. Despite this I was still surprised we were the ONLY diners in past 8.30 - I saw just one table being cleared on my arrival. Yes it was a cold and dreary Wednesday and the early part of the year is lean for many restaurants, but it's sat slap bang on Church Road and with other restaurants nearby doing well. The others have a clear niche though, in particular Fatto a Mano who offer everyday priced food and very good food at that.

I think the issue is that Skyfall is trying to offer too much and being presented in such a premium wrapper makes it feel like it falls a little short of its promise.



Skyfall
42 Church Rd
Hove

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

Brighton Best Restaurants Awards 2017


So, Monday was a TERRIBLE night to dine out in Brighton as the city's leading restaurant community left their kitchens to gather for the results of the Brighton Best Restaurant Awards. There are now a handful of local food awards which are public voted, but here they are voted for by local experts; critics, writers, restauranteurs*, chefs and bloggers. I suppose this in some ways gives a better reflection of the top level of dining on Brighton, with voters having greater exposure to the latest and greatest of restaurant happenings.

Also in the crowd were the ones to watch for 2017. I had a chin wag with both Steven Edwards (Etch) and Matt Gillan (Pike & Pine) about their upcoming openings - it's certainly an exciting year for Brighton food and I'm sure we'll be seeing them on the award boards next year. Also the lovely Aaron Dalton of Smoking Goat fame - fingers crossed he makes a permanent culinary home down here too. I recently dined at his FOUR Sharing pop up and suggest you do too - next one is on the 3rd March. 

The awards were set up by Brightonian food writers Andy Lynes, Patrick McGuigan and Euan MacDonald with Euan hosting in his, well, unique approach to these things. Award ceremonies can often be a little dry and monotonous but the delivery was hilarious throughout the evening with many casualties of the sarcasm and good natured jest. 

Even I didn't escape the eye-watering slideshow - thanks for my "mildly terrifying" character appraisal chaps, trés accurate as always. 

So to the winners...

1 - 64 Degrees | 64degrees.co.uk | Read my review
Probably no great shock, 64 Degrees remains the worthy poster boy for exceptional dining in Brighton. Owner and Chef, Michael Bremner also won the award for ‘Best Chef’ and there are exciting plans afoot for their next project. I can't wait. 

2 - Bincho Yakitori | binchoyakitori.com | Read my review

This is the place where chefs go to on their day off and there was huge celebration for its position (up a mighty 11 places from last year). This is probably the best value restaurant in Brighton, yet the food is consistently good. I absolutely love it.

3 - The Chilli Pickle | thechillipickle.com | Read my review

Got to love The Chilli Pickle - a Brighton institution now. There was almost a protest organised for their pork knuckle to stay on the menu following it's success in the OctoberBEST festival (which is also organised by Brighton Best Restaurant Awards). 

4 - The Little Fish Market | thelittlefishmarket.co.uk | Read my review

Probably my favourite restaurant in Brighton and the only one with three AA Rosettes to its name. Chef and owner Duncan Ray is a true talent who diligently works away at crafting some of the best dishes in the city. 

5 - The Set | thesetrestaurant.com
Forever pushing the boundaries and running multiple projects, The Set are worthy winners here. They also took away the Best Roast award for the Dizzy Gull at The Brighton Beer Dispensary.

6 - Cin Cin | cincin.co.uk
I was so proud of my fellow Italians Cin Cin who after only recently opening came straight in at number 6. Finally I can recommend some Italian food in the city! Owner David Toscano was also rewarded for his hospitality with the ‘Best Welcome’ award too. Forza Italia!

Another of my favourite spots for their delicious small plates and effortlessly stylish vibe, Plateau remain a reliable dining destination as well as one of the best places for cocktails. 

8 - The Salt Room | saltroom-restaurant.co.uk
Reservations are going to be tight following the enthusiastic review from Jay Rayner recently. Its certainly high on my list to visit next.

9 - Silo | silobrighton.com | Read my review

Silo is a real asset to the city. They offer something different with their sustainable, zero waste approach and elegant, unique plates of food. 

10 - Semolina | semolinabrighton.co.uk
Proving there are diamonds in the rough on London Road, Semolina is a well loved neighbourhood restaurant, and superb value too.

11 - The Gingerman | gingermanrestaurant.com
You couldn't have a food awards without the Gingers being mentioned and here they are with their original site, still making an impact. 

12 - Terre á Terre | terreaterre.co.uk
The well loved Brighton vegetarian restaurant in the top 20 and one of the best places for dessert in Brighton in my opinion. Terre á Terre, placed 12th in the rankings.

13 - Curry Leaf Cafe | curryleafcafe.com | Read my review

I think the Curry Leaf Cafe are going to have a big year. They have a new site in Kemptown and consistently delight with their fresh, vibrant Indian food. 

14 - Isaac At | isaac-at.com | Read my review
Personally I think Isaac At should have been placed much higher up. The team are unbelievably young but defy their youth with skills and talent in spades. My last meal there was one of the best in recent memory - unmissable.

15 - The Ginger Pig | thegingerpigpub.com
Another of the Ginger group, the more laid back Ginger Pig secures its place with their consistent quality and celebration of Sussex produce.

16 - Fatto A Mano | fattoamanopizza.com | Read my review

A couple of years ago any pizzeria in Brighton winning any award would have been laughable in my book but Fatto a Mano have brought authentic Neapolitan pizza to our door, finally! 

17 - The Urchin | urchinpub.co.uk
Another reason to cross the Hove border, The Urchin pub seems to be going from strength to strength with its shellfish and fish dishes. 

18 - The Coal Shed | coalshed-restaurant.co.uk
The Coal Shed is the sister restaurant of The Salt Rooms and offers a slightly more relaxed vibe but with solid cooking and one of my favourite places for steaks in the city. 

19 - Riddle & Finns | riddleandfinns.co.uk
Ever so stylish and a very romantic place to be wined and dined, Riddle & Finns is a great choice for fish and seafood in Brighton.

20 - Fourth & Church | fourthandchurch.co.uk
I have been hearing some really great things about Fourth & Church and clearly another I have to visit soon. The wine selection certainly a strong USP.
_

For more about the awards and winners visit brightonsbestrestaurants.com. Listen to Andy, Euan and Pat talk about restaurants on their podcast restauRANT. Click here to listen.

*Voters could not vote for a restaurant they own, invest in or work at.

REVIEW: Mediterraneo, Brighton

romantic interior at Mediterraneo, Italian restaurant Brighton

Ah, Mediterraneo! Although Italian food in Brighton isn't quite as dire as it used to be (with Cin Cin and real Neapolitan pizzerias finally giving us the real deal), there will always be a place in my heart for this restaurant.

romantic interior at Mediterraneo, Italian restaurant Brighton

Whilst the new places have appeared with their modern aesthetic and Instagramable fixtures, Mediterraneo is one of those increasingly rare restaurants; cosy, warm and hopelessly romantic. They have it all with their candelabras, crystal water decanters, baroque tablecloths and silver napkin rings, yes NAPKIN RINGS!

Their set up is also their USP. Run solely by a husband and wife team, their attention to diners in their tiny restaurant, open Friday and Saturday evenings only by reservation, is second to none. Giorgio out the front is probably the best host in Brighton.

The menu doesn't change very often. Hardly at all in the past year I'd say, but it doesn't matter. Although the food isn't the best Italian food on the planet, and reinvents nothing, Sonia isn't a professional chef but she does put out beautifully presented food served with a lot of love.

arancini at Mediterraneo, Italian restaurant Brighton

The arancini mignion were still there, each with a different filling and served with a cute decorated bread basket. It's a lovely little starter and I prefer arancini small like this. These are filled each with ragu, spinach and salmon.

aubergines at Mediterraneo, Italian restaurant Brighton

rolled meat and salad at Mediterraneo, Italian restaurant Brighton

For mains they have stuffed peppers, aubergine parmigiana, lasagne, and a spinach and lemon pasta dish I almost opted for. Normally I'd go for one of the rolled and filled meat dishes which are still quite delicate and a good option.

steamed cod at Mediterraneo, Italian restaurant Brighton

This time I chose the cod dish which was a beautifully light dish. The fish is steamed and served with courgettes, capers and garlic in white wine. I don't know what variety of potato they use but they were so sweet and perfect with the delicate fish.  If this is on the menu on my next visit, which it probably will, it will be hard not to order again.

chocolate and amaretto cake at Mediterraneo, Italian restaurant Brighton

Sonia's real talents lie with dessert though. The cakes I've had here have been some of the best I've tried. The limoncello torta is good but I adore amaretto and the fluffy layers of sponge with cream were just gorgeous.

The wine list has been well considered and Giorgio takes great care to ensure you choose a good option for your food choices. Also, they have the best stocked Italian liqueur selection in Brighton. Vecchia Romana, grappa, marsala...most Italians finish the meals with a digestive and possibly some cantucci biscuits, so it would be rude not to indulge.

interior at Mediterraneo, Italian restaurant Brighton

I've been out of the dating game for many moons (thankfully, looking at the scene these days) but this place is ideal for that special dinner. I say put that stupid Tinder app down and go for an old fashioned, classic date here. It's perfect.

Mediterraneo
2A Clyde Road
Brighton BN1 4NP
01273 674350