Brighton ethical food guide with Leisure Range Cookers


A little while back I had the pleasure of representing Brighton in a brilliant online guide about ethical eating in the UK for Leisure Range Cookers. I listed my favourite local independent shops, butchers, bakeries cafes and restaurants and as we all know, we are reasonably spoilt for choice in this city, lucky us!

They'll also soon be publishing my dinner party menu using produce from some of the places I featured including:
  • Seared scallops (Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales) with celeriac puree, truffle honey and apple
  • Lamb Stifado (South Downs Lamb from Bramptons Butchers) 
  • Espresso Pannacotta (Botanical Punk from Red Roaster)

But as the festive season approaches, how about supporting some of the independent food businesses? We all love a good feast, but food has got to taste better when you know where it's come from, right?
  • Real Patisserie have the CUTEST decorated Christmas logs I have ever seen
  • Hisbe is a good shout for well-made preserves and chutneys from boutique suppliers
  • You can't go wrong getting your Christmas meat from Bramptons Butchers - how about goose this year?
  • Make a lighter starter with fish from Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales 
  • Fin & Farm have brilliant Christmas veg boxes with everything you'll need
  • Infinity Foods always have a great range of chocolate gifts at this time of year
  • The festive Sussex-inspired menu at Isaac At is a great Christmas party option
  • Blackdown Spirits have produced a limited edition Walnut Liqueur that sounds dreamy
  • Red Roaster is the place to Christmas lux brunch this year with their sage & onion waffle, fried turkey and hazelnut crumble
  • Purezza have invented a vegan Christmas calzone
  • You don't need Christmas as an excuse to visit my favourite Little Fish Market 
  • Murmur Restaurant is a Brighton newcomer and the most gorgeous setting on the seafront for a festive catch up meal with friends. Try their hot cocktail menu! 
To read more about these great businesses have a look at the Brighton guide (and other cities too) over on www.leisurecooker.co.uk

And if Santa is reading a Leisure Range cooker would be alright with me ;) 

REVIEW: Harvey Nichols The Crowd Pleaser Christmas Hamper


You can't avoid it. The adverts have started and the music is in the shops. Like it or not, the festive season is well and truly upon us. But it's not all lugging too-big Christmas trees home or dealing with your difficult in-laws. The best bit is the indulgence (oh yeah, and spending time with your loved ones). And how better to achieve indulgence than a Christmas hamper?

But one other thing a hamper must do is impress. Lifting up that wicker lid you need to gasp. No gasp? That ain't no hamper. This one from Harvey Nichols, so big it came in two parts, certainly did the trick. It was so beautifully presented and the internal products were all stylishly packaged. I really appreciate it when a brand see beyond the gold and red of Christmas tradition - this is no less festive, exuding all of the celebration with none of the clichés.



I also adore the black wicker hamper itself too - somehow more luxurious than your standard straw one and beautifully lined in canvas with subtle branding. That will find its way onto my wardrobe for storage, as it would be criminal to dispose of.



The Crowd Pleaser, pictured here and priced at £300, is certainly that, getting the party started with a decent selection of festive cheer, including two bottles of Champagne Brut NV and a bottle each of Malbec, Treixadura, Late Bottled Vintage Port and Gin - they even included four individual bottles of Tonic Water With A Hint Of Cucumber And Lime.

And the rest is perfect for dipping into across the festive break; to healthily supplement gatherings or placed beside the sofa within reaching distance for that gout inducing Christmas film marathon.



Inviting a few friends round for drinks, we tucked into the gin and tonics. I topped the Olive Oil & Rosemary Biscuits with some smoked salmon pate and fried capers (the easiest canapé in the World) and enjoyed them with plump Green Olives stuffed with lemon and almonds and little Cheddar Cheese Nibbles.

The Dark Chocolate Florentines were particularly good and didn't last long! Also in the sweet section were Dark Chocolate Crunch Biscuits (I'm eating one of these right now, naturally), a Giant Chocolate Coin, a beautiful box of assorted Chocolate Truffles, Mint Thins and what has become impossible to miss at Christmas, a Panettone. Luckily they included large tins of Breakfast Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate. 

The rest of the hamper included the festive condiments such as Cranberry Sauce, Christmas Mustard and a Date & Orange Chutney. For your toast, Blackberry & Apple Jam and a Grapefruit & Ginger Marmalade that has really got my name on it.

And finally, no Christmas should be without a Christmas Pudding or Brandy Butter, right?

I liked that they also included a lucky dip stick game that looks fun.

This hamper was heaving with produce and even though was at the upper price bracket (and they have bigger ones for those that have been very, very good this year), Harvey Nichols offer a wide range, starting at just £25.

If you are struggling to choose a hamper then check out their personalised hamper guide or view the the full range here.

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

REVIEW: FOUR Pop-Up with Aaron Dalton



This was my second visit to chef Aaron Dalton's FOUR pop-up series. I was impressed with my last visit but there was a marked evolution in this latest meal.

What I like about this pop-up is that it still feels like a pop-up. Hosted in some sort of former print workshop, prettily adorned in fairy lights and nicely decorated tables, it's intimate, cosy but still not your average dining space. It's strange but some pop-ups feel too restaurant-like or are hosted in a standard environment. Too polished, too ordinary. A pop-up should have a little bit of an edge, a little of the unusual about it. I'm quite happy traipsing over the odd storage box or walking through a make-shift kitchen in my heels - it gets back to the roots of the illicit nature of these suppers.

However, the food here is certainly restaurant grade (Brighton boy Dalton has worked with the likes of Chez Bruce, Fera and was Head Chef at the Smoking Goat before returning to town). Dalton also has a lightness of touch to his dishes that are elegant and refined, without compromising on taste and I also noticed that presentation had been pushed that extra inch. His celebration of ingredients over unnecessary technique is a real forté, yet somehow still manages to craft intriguing plates of food. 

A bit of a shame I can't really show you this to full effect, forgetting my decent camera in a taxi related incident (I remembered the BYO though, priorities eh!). So apologies for the phone camera snaps in advance.


I'm liking all this attention to pre-dinner "snacks" and here they set the tone of the meal perfectly, particularly the tender little ox cheek croquettes topped with pickled shallots and a wild garlic mayo.


Next was a beautiful dish of monkfish carpaccio that had the wow factor. Keeping it light were tiny cubes of elderflower jelly and edible flowers. But perfect, and giving it depth, was a fish bone broth, wild garlic oil and a silky almond purée. I'm sometimes let down by raw fish dishes but this one I'd eat again with no complaints. 



Dish of the night for me was this quirky number served in an egg shell. Underneath a layer of rich, decadent savoury sabayon was a fresh, sweet and fragrant tomato consommé. The contrast was very clever, and topped with smoked tomato powder. When creativity and taste meet, that's the sweet spot for me. Impressive stuff.  


Another strong dish was the pan fried mackerel served with a delicate herb espuma, pickled walnut puree, apple and walnuts. Everything belonged on that plate and the play on textures made it particularly enjoyable to eat. 


Although lamb isn't one of my favourite meats, given a light treatment made me rethink. Sweet lamb rump was served in a pool of pickled cucumber juice with shallot puree. A really interesting addition was the chocolate mint and dehydrated lamb heart, grated on the top. Both new to me but worked very well.

I didn't get a good shot of the tray of smoked meat, somewhat a signature of Dalton's. If I'm honest, this is what I really look forward to. It's unashamedly delicious and I like to see diner's lose their politeness when this is passed round, shelving the meat onto their plates without thought to others and quite rightly so! This is probably a good place to put in a request for a smoked meat supper as I think it would go down so well. Pretty please?    


The idea of the dessert appealed to me, a honey cake with sheep milk ice-cream and honeycomb, but for me there was something missing from this dish, lacking the smart details or twists of the other dishes. Seeing as the rest of the meal was a delight, I'm not sure if I'd been a bit spoilt though!

They seem to have a good team behind the operation now, having just celebrated a year anniversary. Service is restaurant-smart and informative, sometimes this is lacking in this format but really adds to the experience.

There are a number of really great regular supper clubs around Brighton, and they form an important part of the dining scene along with our booming restaurant scene. FOUR pop-up is certainly worth the visit and at £40 per person is brilliant value for the level of cooking and ingredients. Plus, it's often a BYO venue which makes a fine dining experience much lighter on the wallet.

The next pop-up is Saturday 2nd December and the menu looks great. Full details can be found over on www.fourrestaurant.co.uk. This would actually be a brilliant Christmas do alternative if you are a small business (if they still have space!).

You can also follow FOUR over on:
Facebook.com/foursharingkitchen
@chefaarondalton

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

REVIEW: New menu launch at Pike & Pine, Brighton

Cocktails and Pike and Pine restaurant brighton

Well this is embarrassing. It seems like I’ve written nothing apart from dinners at Pike & Pine, and here we are again with another. The summer break plus a break of another kind has put paid to my reviewing for a while, but here I find myself again, propped up at the marble pass. And it’s not a bad place to get back into the swing of things, that’s for sure.

New menu design at Pike & Pine Brighton

Where change seems to be the order of the day, Pike & Pine have reworked their menu, bravely in some ways, replacing their taster menus with something altogether more flexible. They certainly don’t seem to be ones for bucking the trend and where everywhere else seems hell bent on the formality of tasters, Pike & Pine are relaxing their vibe. Good news for people who were previously prohibited from a visit due to high cost, but this also opens up the restaurant to non-celebratory dinners. Not many people around these parts can be dropping £££s on meals for no cause, let’s face it. The new format is smart - bites, sharing plates, mains and desserts are laid out for a pick and mix approach so you can come in for cocktails and a few sharing plates, a main and dessert dinner or splurge on banquet of plates from across the menu.

The quality and excitement, thankfully, hasn’t been diluted and save for a few wild cards in there that chef Matt Gillan seems to thrive on, it offers great food with enough twists and surprises to make the meal feel special regardless of what your visit is for.

Squid XO sauce at Pike & Pine Brighton

Don’t disregard the “bites”. The fried XO squid in a devilishly dramatic black sauce are well worth the order and dare I say it, arancini better than any Neapolitan versions I’ve had, soft as a luxury down duvet and topped with fried capers to wake up those taste buds.

Pork belly at Pike & Pine Brighton

cerviche and tapioca crisp at Pike & Pine Brighton

The sharing plates were a mixed bag for me. Stone bass ceviche was lively with a chilli and mango salsa, although technically it was sashimi, having not been cured in any citrus. Pork belly sure looked the part and the jammy dehydrated prunes, apple puree and pork scratching powder were perfect with it, but I would have loved the pork belly itself to be rendered more to meltingly tender. A namesake Pike & Pine dish, served in a little bowl that only particularly intimate people could share, was a clever nod to the daytime business - a silky coffee espuma, mushroom puree, truffle and confit egg and a Parmesan crisp. Completely twisting my melons though were the picked blueberries - too much of a departure from the earthiness of the rest of the dish for me.

Roast chicken, wet polenta and truffle at Pike & Pine Brighton

On to mains and who doesn’t love the comfort of poached and roast chicken? And served with some of my favourite things; wet potent and truffle. The battered leg pieces were also delicious - something that would work well on the daytime menu with the oyster sauce alone.

Halibut and sand carrots at Pike & Pine Brighton

Just as good was a hunk of halibut, topped with a fennel crust to enhance the sweetness of the fish, served with charred sand carrots (no idea either, but I liked them) and vibrant purees of carrot and basil, this dish was harmonious and nutritious with spiced quinoa.

Chocolate cremeux and pistachio dessert at Pike & Pine Brighton

Desserts particularly shone and were visual masterpieces. Normally I’m no fan of chocolate desserts, but the smooth 63% cremeux with cherry sorbet, marzipan and pistachio paste almost turned me. Almost.

Lemon and matcha dessert at Pike & Pine Brighton

However the lemon and matcha dish was very much my type on paper and plate; fresh, lively and with the right amount of quirk. A ball of lemon cheesecake, matcha meringue and sticks, green tea sorbet, croutons and a lemon curd that brought all of the guns. Perfect.

My drinks writer friend always laments about booze being seen as the poorer sister in a lot of restaurants but here they have been given the attention they deserve. The wine lists are really carefully crafted and cocktails well balanced, unique and worth popping in for alone.

New menu launch night at Pike & Pine Brighton

I see from social media that this menu is already being tweaked - perils of attending launches of any kind I suppose, but I’m sure its evolution will still be one of Brighton's most interesting dining options. It's a great move for Pike & Pine and seems a better fit for the environment too. The daytime menu for Red Roaster will also be revamped with a nod to both healthy eating and indulgence which I'm eagerly anticipating - the cafe remains one of my favourite spots to work and brunch from.

Dining events are also still on the cards which is good news. I still think about (and probably talk too much about) the Ridgeview dinner hosted in early September. It was a triumph for food and one of Sussex’s best drinks producers. Next one up will be with renowned chef Brad Kilgore from Miami-based Alter in November. Well work a look up.

Pike & Pine
St James's Street
Brighton

I dined as a guest of Pike & Pine. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.

REVIEW: Pike & Pine X Ridgeview "Root To Fruit" Dinner




Although my last visit to Pike & Pine wasn't too long ago, I returned for one of their first events, a collaboration with Ridgeview, one of our best Sussex wine producers, as part of the Brighton Food Festival. Although paired wine dinners are nothing unusual, it was clear even from the radical menu format that this was going to be something else.

Pike & Pine Brighton Matt Gillan Ridgeview dinner menu design

Instead of a typical food and drink flavour pairing, the concept of the dinner explored the growth cycle and environment of the vines, from the chalk and soil to the leaves and fruit. And tonight, Pike & Pine brought it with elegance, glamour and delight throughout.

Pike & Pine Brighton Matt Gillan Scallop and radish dish

We started with the foundations - chalk - which some believe that the fact we share the same chalk as the Champagne region is why we're able to produce great sparkling wines in Sussex. One of Ridgeview's signature wines, the NV Bloomsbury Brut was perfect with the scallop; clean, fresh, mineral flavours with a coil of nutty celeriac remoulade and a sweet hit from the corn.

Pike & Pine Brighton Matt Gillan beetroot mushroom parfait and soil

The "soil" course worked hard for the theme in taste, texture and visual. Earthy notes ran throughout the dish naturally in the parfait, Beetroot, mushrooms and rolled duck prosciutto as well as a technical crumbled "soil". This was served with the toastier, richer Cavensish Brut 2014 to carry all of those bold flavours.


The chicken in the "Roots" dish was so tasty; sticky, tender and sweet. Charred salsify had been cut and arranged to look like roots, and remaining with the underground theme was king of earthy vegetables; artichoke, in puree and a perfectly prepared half heart form. By now I had given up on sipping my wines as they were far too good and enjoyed the entire glass of Blanc De Noirs 2103. It's made using black skinned grapes, but pressing gently so the colour from the skins don't taint the golden colour.

Pike & Pine Brighton Matt Gillan crab cod and seaweed dish

The next course showcased my personal favourite in the Ridgeview collection - their Blanc De Blancs. Unlike the Blanc De Noirs, it uses only light-skinned grapes and is 100% Chardonnay. If I come into serious money, they will find me on their drive with a van to take away their annual stock of this, believe me. And until then, the occasional £45 bottle will have to do and is always money well spent.

I have a savoury preference so maybe it's the slight saline notes in this wine that make me adore it but it's so creamy and fragrant too. Pike & Pine did this justice with their clean and delicate Leaves and Flowers course; a succulent crab beignet, cod, lime spheres, samphire, charred leek and a thin dehydrated seaweed shard.

Pike & Pine Brighton Matt Gillan venison elderberry squash dish

Dish of the night though was the venison for "Young Fruit". The haunch and loin were beautifully treated and I think it's certainly one of the best venison dishes I've ever had. Any sadness for the end of summer were swept away by this autumnal celebration - with squash, elderberry, chestnut and surprising addition of pickled grapes. The 2008 Knightsbridge Blanc De Noirs was extra special too - a bottle from the Ridgeview archives, so they were clearly out to spoil us.

Pike & Pine Brighton Matt Gillan pre dessert

Although the pre-dessert gave us a reluctant, yet needed, breather from the wines, this was one of the best plates conceptually. It reflected the development of the grape in colour and taste from the tart pale apple gel to sweeter flavours and intensifying hues. An impressively thin sesame tuille contrasted, so rich and almost fragrantly burnt, maybe to represent the bitterness of grape pips?


We ended with show-stopping magnums of Rosé De Noirs which was an ideal end, with its beautiful pale pink colour and notes of berries and honey. It's no wonder the dessert had so many red fruits and juicy flavours to showcase this wine so well.

Pike & Pine Brighton Matt Gillan ridgeview supper night

Now Pike & Pine has had time to settle, it's great to see them incorporating special events. Their creativity and take on the food was surprising, smart and fun and was one of the best supper nights I've been to for a while. I'd love to see them collaborate with other key local producers, and although I was a big fan before, has certainly made me see Ridgeview in a differently light too. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

You can sign up for notification of future Pike & Pine events on their Facebook page.

Pikeandpine.co.uk - Ridgeview.co.uk

I dined as a guest of Pike & Pine, Ridgeview and Brighton Food Festival. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.

REVIEW: Woodbox Pizzeria, Brighton


I remember a time where I was complaining about the lack of good pizzerias in Brighton. Now we have a really decent choice, so much so, that you have the luxury of being particularly particular. Along with a small handful of new independent places, the small chains have also expanded, so you're never too far from a good slice. But, of course, there is still a complete plethora of pizza that I wouldn't touch with yours. 

Woodbox is one I've been anticipating. For one, it's in my Kemptown 'hood, and the fit out has been done beautifully; very modern, crisp and white with that rich blue across the whole facade. The attention to detail spans to everything; plates, glasses and the weight of cutlery, so for me, it's hitting a lot of pleasing criteria. Length of the menu is perfect - 6 or so pizzas, a smattering of starters and a dessert or gelato. Basta - it's all you need.

This place started out as a mobile pizzeria, and came to my attention by serving the Saint George's pub on certain evenings to wash the pints down with. I tried to go but the opening times and days were, well, eclectic. But now in its permanent home, where Sam's Bistro used to be, it should prove to be a useful neighbourhood restaurant.

Service was friendly, if a little shaky and slow. Drinks orders weren't taken (actually, at all) and food didn't arrive for about half an hour. For a not-that-busy pizzeria where the bulk of the food cooks in minutes, is something they need to address sharpish. 

They were also out of burrata (happens of course, but with such a streamlined menu and the booming popularity of the stuff, a bit irritating).



You know I never have a starter with pizza, but I was with Rosie again and the girl MUST have starters, God knows where she puts it. To be fair the pizza strips with dips were good and I enjoyed them whilst muttering about how wrong a pizza/dough based stater before a pizza is. Of the three dips the Pecorino was a firm favourite; sheepy, farmy and the definite saltiness a real bonus.


The benchmark for all pizzerias due to its simplicity is the Marinara and I'll tend to order this when visiting somewhere new, although here is it technically a Napoletana which is odd (Marinara should have just sauce, garlic and oregano). Bases were the crisp kind, none of that pillow-like Neapolitan squidginess. I'm not a stranger to this style, and I understand why some like them more than the softer bases but Jesus, that dough was tough and dry. My jaws certainly got a workout.



The issue was that the oven was too cold, so the pizza cooking time had to increase, therefore contributing to a dried out dough. On the other hand, Franco Manca, to cope with the demand, sometimes have it too hot which is why the dough in the cornicone, the thickest part, is sometimes a little raw.

The dough was also slightly under seasoned (as well as the sauce and the puzzling use of marinated, not salted, anchovies). For the first time in any pizzeria, I had to ask for salt. The rich, fatty nduja on Rosie's pizza added that needed oompf in flavour. For once, I think you would do better ordering an option with more topping (I never say this). 

Overall it wasn't a bad pizza, and at a time, may have even been thankful for it against the majority of mediocre we had in the city. But with more choice than ever in Brighton, it may prove to struggle against the strong competition. Prices for pizza are around the £10 mark, which is also up there for Brighton although I see they do good offers at lunch.

It was great to to see La Mucca Nera gelato for dessert though. They have superb gelato, made down the road in St James' Street and I'll often be found in there post dinner with a scoop of their proper Bronte pistachio or an Aperol and bad Italian TV on. I love it.


I know people wind me up about my lack of enthusiasm for fast food other than pizza but to get it right really is an art. The dough needs knowledge of craft and handling and the cooking environment critical. It's not easy! Maybe on another night the temperature will be better (drinks orders taken, service sharper, ingredients in order... ) so you will get a better result, so even though my visit wasn't entirely successful it's still very much worth a trip, particularly as they are baby new and will hopefully iron out those niggles.

Woodbox Pizzeria
Paston place
Brighton 

REVIEW: Pike & Pine, Brighton



There's no denying that Red Roaster is one of my favourite daytime spots. Be it brunching with friends, dropping in for coffee or using it as a separate office to wow clients and a bit of freelancing; it does it all, and with serious style.

But with the lights dimmed, its evening incarnation—Pike & Pine—takes on a more intimate feel, perfect for luxury dining which oozes modern glamour. I am ridiculously seduced by a beautiful interior, visual sucker I am, and the marble surfaces and botanical features look even better by night.

There's the option of sitting up at the counter, show-side. Watching creatives at work never gets boring to me but if you want a more relaxing dinner or want to keep the beauty of the plating a mystery, without seeing the Tupperware, vac packs, pokes and prods of a working kitchen, then book a table. Interestingly, main man Matt Gillan is slightly off stage, partly behind a wall, which will be surprising to some.

You can choose from a 6, 8 or 10 course tasting menu (£55/£65/£75) which do differ rather than cutting out courses. There's also the offer of 4 courses at £40 on certain nights too.


Impressive as they were to look at, like an artists palette, I wasn't a fan of all of the snacks. The "tomato explosion"; a delicate sphere bursting with flavour and a cheeky hit of heat sparked the palate but the dehydrated pork scratchings, topped with a delicious bacon jam, needed to be crisp not chewy. I'm also not a fan of these clay coated potatoes, fun to look at and thumbs up for gut health, but quite flavour neutral.


The consommé however, was beautiful in its entirety. Concentrated summer flavours were poured over the freshness of raw asparagus and bean shoot stems, glossy broad beans and semi dehydrated tomatoes that added an intensity and punch.


A delicate slither of braised ox tongue followed, topped with raw celery and celery sorbet lending a satisfying fresh, sweet contrast to the meat. Charred onion and a quail's egg added some much needed richness to the leanness of the dish.


"Carbonara" manifested in a clever little parcel, wrapped neatly in Parma ham. Coiled inside were enoki mushrooms cooked in a miso stock, masquerading as some otherworldly pasta. Topping this was a glossy confit egg yolk for that glorious fattiness the carbonara is loved for. The only, only thing I would have liked to see is the parma ham cooked or treated somehow to mimic the rendered, slightly chewy lardons of the real deal. The Sylvanian Family sized pickled mushrooms that scattered the plate - I'd eat a whole jar of.    


A decent hunk of pollock came next with à la mode broccoli in slightly charred, raw and puree form. Hidden away inside were a surprise of tiny, opalescent lime spheres.


"Pork - Onion - Peas" dish smelt incredible, so tasty. This was more classic, simpler but didn't suffer for it. The pork, naughtily blushing, was partnered with a pea foam, freshly podded peas and an onion puree. The slight hint of anise or fennel added a lovely sweetness and fragrance to the dish.


I've never taken so many photos of a slice of cheese, but deserving the attention was a ripe Wigmore, taken to the beauty parlour and treated with honey, pollen and honey cake crumb before being adorned with compressed watermelon cubes and colourful flowers. All of those sweet notes with the farminess of the Wigmore was delightful. And so. Darn. Pretty. 


Pre-dessert was a white peach number, dotted with a fragrant peach gel and croissant crumb. And if I'm not mistaken, pieces of sweetened tomato in there which somehow really worked. They should do a daytime version of this for Red Roaster's brunch menu, it's perfect for summer.


Dessert-dessert was a dramatic ode to the mango, the hero being a silky gel topped mousse. The black olive element pinged out at me instantly on the menu. I love the weirdly brilliant use of black olives in desserts (and olive oil in chocolate based ones) so would have appreciated an even bigger hit of the flavour as the dish could have taken it. 

Wine flights are available for any of the menus and, in my opinion, if you're going to do it, do it. To keep my head, we opted to share a flight which may be an idea if you are keen to keep focused on the food. The pairings were a highlight and clearly a lot of thought has gone into this side so it would be smart to the guess work out and go with the expert selection. The dessert wines were particularly stunning - a honey rich Chateau du Levant Sauternes that I already have on order and a strong reminder to drink more Madeira.


Service has found a groove now; busy, energised, efficient and tinged with a slight coolness of the good kind. And they were confident at describing both the food and wines which is expected with this style of dining.

Of course we need to discuss price. Because it's up there for Brighton and a few years ago, a meal for two hovering round the £130 mark (£230 including wine flights), quite unimaginable for these parts. But the room was packed and lively and I saw no guns being pointed when the bills arrived. People are happy to pay for the experience and gourmet tourists will want to tick this off their list.

Food is a visual delight; it's exciting, challenging and intriguing. The style is very involved, very worked, which naturally doesn't always result in every dish being something that everyone will love. It's contentious and part art - forget the Turner Prize, the husband and I are going to be arguing about that Carbonara dish for another month. At least.

Some will relish in this and for some, it just won't be for them at all, but almost everyone will turn up with great expectations and preconceptions for this cost and profile chef. And that can be a particularly tough crowd.

Five years ago the naysayers were stating that fine dining has no place here. I disagree. Brighton dining is exciting, varied and that quality bar is going up, up, up.

Pike & Pine
St James' St
Brighton

I dined as a guest of Pike & Pine. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.