REVIEW: The Cow, Brighton


The Cow can be found in the heart of Seven Dials, where the very popular Tin Drum used to be.  I have been hearing some very good feedback about the food, including my boss about the Sunday roast and he is one hard man to please with dining!

The interior is large, pleasant and attracts quite a variety of diner. There is plenty of buggy space for parents and there were also a few workmen, single diners and workers on laptops in when I visited at lunchtime. I think they have tried to go for a rustic, eclectic look which at some points looks like the Wild West section at Disneyland - all cow print and Western fonts, but overall it just about works. Being owned by the local Indigo pub group, there is always that corporate brand touch that comes with chain ownership I suppose.

The menu is quite varied with bar snacks and cakes for the minor munchies plus small bites, sandwiches, burgers, sharing plates and a few mains.

The deals are also reasonable and the lunchtime 3 small plates for £10 seemed pretty good. Junior Foodie was with me and a variety of food is damage limitation on potential rejection of a single dish. (All parents of toddlers nodding right now.) I also ordered a plate of fish goujons which on reflection was a bit crazy as the three plates were a feast in themselves. There is a kid's menu available, but to be honest, these days my three year old is more at home sharing my food or with small plates off main menus.


My favourie dish was probably the lightly spiced cauliflower pakoras. There was plenty going on in there with fresh herbs and were well seasoned.


Calimari wern't too bad. The herb batter was good and carrot ribbon and rocket salad fresh and crunchy. I wouldn't expect the best quality calimari in a pub and this met my assumtions by being on the chewy side. Still, not the worst I've ever had and I've paid far more in the past in fish restaurants for a plate of essentlially tyre trimmings.

As the beef noodle salad went down so well, I didn't even have a chance to get a snap before kiddo had half devoured it. The little guy is a noodle monster. The Asian dressing on the rice noodles was fresh and vibrant with crunchy raw cabbage. The thin beef strips were very interesting, cooked to almost a beef jerky driness (I don't mean that to be a bad thing) and were very savoury and crunchy.


Sometimes fish gougons are just reformed, gloopy fish pulp but I was happy to find fat white fish strips that flaked beautifully, held together by the crisp batter. These were only about £5 or £6 so not bad at all.

The only niggle I had really was the generic pots of dip that seemed to accompany every dish which could have had a bit more thought put into.

But I was quite impressed with the food  I tried and will definitely return for more of the menu (although pretty difficult to order burgers with the excellent Coggings and Co next door). Don't go expecting fireworks or anything particularly inventive with the food, but as modern pub grub goes, the Cow does it very well.

The staff were also very accommodating to children with kids cutlery etc., I guess being in the popular family area of Seven Dials they must be used to little diners. As the space was so large, you also don't feel like you are in the way or disturbing other people too much, which makes for a more relaxing experience for parents.

This pub also champions craft beer with a choice of "craft on draught" and bottled beers from the UK, USA and further afield. I can imagine that The Cow feels very different come nighttime with a bustling atmosphere and I like places like this that nail that round the clock use from breakfast to boozing. Every neighbourhood should have one.

The Cow
95/97 Dyke Road, Brighton



For more buggy friendly cafes visit my guide:
http://www.thegraphicfoodie.co.uk/2014/04/gf-guides-buggy-friendly-cafes-in.html


Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Awards 2015



I am very proud to say that I have been chosen to judge a category this year for the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Awards. I'll be heading out as a secret shopper later on this year when public votes have been counted. (I'm thinking some sort of secret agent outfit but maybe that's taking it a tad too far.)

The awards are run by the team behind the city's food festival, and are the annual celebration of the best in hospitality in the city including restaurants, cafés, pubs, cocktail bars, retailers and individuals who are making a significant contribution to the city's food and drink industry (which I may add is getting bigger and better each year).

Chef Michael Bremner of 64 Degrees who won gold last year for both the Best Restaurant and Newcomer categories said: "The whole team at 64 Degrees was truly honoured to win not only best newcomer but also best restaurant. It was a real surprise and an amazing achievement in our first year. We love being involved in the food festival and it is great that we are all working together on truly putting Brighton on the map as a food destination."

Henry Butler of Butler’s Wine Cellar, winner of Food Hero 2014, said: “I was very chuffed to be acknowledged as the food award’s Food Hero, and for once I was a little speechless. Butler's are very much part of the Brighton community, we are enjoyers, and like to consume what the Brighton food scene has to offer. I look forward to defending my trophy.”

Public nominations for the food awards are now open at www.brightonfoodfestival.com/foodawards2015 and run until 31 August with winners announced in October 2015.


Also do remember the Food and Drink Easter Weekender and also the Food Festival itself. More information can be found on www.brightonfoodfestival.com and also my choice picks from both events on http://www.thegraphicfoodie.co.uk/2015/03/event-brighton-hove-food-and-drink-food.html

REVIEW: Yo! Sushi, Brighton

I'll hold my hands up and admit my knowledge of Japanese food is limited. Probably not as limited as those thinking it's acceptable to serve pasta with a duck in Hoisin sauce and front loading it with an order of garlic bread for that authentic Italian experience. (Clue: It's frigging not.) I also do not generally like the wipe down, generic environment of a chain restaurant.

So here we are in the Anglo-Japanese chain restaurant Yo! Sushi. The Brighton branch has actually had a bit of a make-over and is all shiny new and sparkly.

As open to variety as we are in this city, Japanese restaurants in Brighton are actually quite limited. Emperor of them all, Moshimo, is a gorgeous environment and I always enjoy a visit and then we have the ramshackle but popular E-Kagen, Fatboy Slim owned Oki-Nami which rarely sets pulses racing, you'll find Sushi Garden down the laminated menu street for tourists and there's Pompoko where you can worryingly order a 30 course meal and get change out from 50p (sort of). There are a few smaller sushi and ramen places starting to pop up but again, I'm not the best informed of this cuisine. (By all means, leave me tip-offs in the comments.)

But one think I am sure about is that a conveyor belt sushi restaurant has my inner child and greediness squealing with glee. A constant stream of food passing under your nose as you dine? They should be in every restaurant I say. As is standard, cold sushi and dishes are taken off the belt but there are plenty of hot dishes made to order.



So, needless to say I tried a few things. Highlights were the beef and garlic teriyaki. The coating was crunchy and glazed in a sticky sweet sauce which I could have happily ordered again straight after. The spicy pepper squid, which surprisingly had been marinated for 24 hours on-site, was crisp and tender, but let down by the coating which was slightly floury.

Fresh and vibrant was the salmon and yuzu salsa tataki dish, with slices of salmon sat in a ponzu dressing topped with a tomato and cucumber salsa. 

Most dishes average around the £3-4 mark but there are a few more luxurious items like the seared tuna sashimi with caviar (£6). Being marinated in sake and soy, I would have expected a more dynamic flavour from the tuna, but it won a few points back for prettiness.



The sushi rolls were enjoyable enough. The Yo! Sushi signature roll I suppose is a must order. Fresh salmon, avocado, mayo and orange smelt roe. The fried salmon skin and chicken katsu rolls also left little to complain about.


All in all, I enjoyed my meal. I wouldn't go in expecting the finest Japanese fare any more that I would the highest authenticity from Pizza Express. You can only expect so much from a restaurant that has a key to icons in the menu and an A-frame outside.

This is clearly crowd pleasing, safe food which I suppose is why the chain restaurant is so popular. Whilst I ate, I notice a wide demographic of diner from the working lunchbreaker, daters to families. And I would say this is a great place to bring the kids where they can freely experiment with their palettes in an engaging, interactive format. The families in the booths behind and in front were having a blast and I think my three year old, who is pretty gung-ho with food, would love it despite the high probability of leaving me with eye watering bill and a metre high tower of plates.

I would like to see a better drinks menu with freshly squeezed juices rather than Frobishers and that hideous tooth-tingling Zeo drink. They could also do with a few more beers, but apparently this is in the pipeline.

Staff are young and fun and add to the buzz of the place.

Yo! Sushi
6 Jubilee Street, Brighton BN1 1GE

I was invited to review Yo! Sushi. Opinions, as always, are my own. 


PRODUCT REVIEW: Bacco Tipicita' al Pistacchio Colomba

The UK is well and truly sold on the Christmas panettone. Before, my family had to go to very specialist delis or someone would send one over to us from Italy, but now they are stacked sky high in most supermarkets and delis. Even my husband's traditional British family have ditched the fruit cake in favour of them!

Lesser known though is the Easter Colomba. Traditionally, this is similar to the panettone but contains no dried fruit and is normally topped with sugar paste, pearl sugar and almonds. It is also shaped as a dove (but is always a very, very abstract, minimal version of a dove!). Anyway it's delicious and if you ever need a break from the Simnel cake, then this is it.


But here I have a particularly special version of the Colomba - this one is made by Sicily based Bacco Tipicita' al Pistacchio who specialise in products made with pistachios grown on the slopes of Mount Etna. Bronte is a village renowned for its special kind of pistachio, known as Etna's 'green gold', and believe me, this ain't no ordinary pistachio. The plants (which can live up to 300 years!) are grown on lava soil so the nuts receive unique properties and a flavour that distinguishes them from your typical bar snack. They can only be harvested every two years and the whole village of Bronte, young and old, get involved in shelling the nuts one by one. I love that thought!


I don't like overly sweet things but this is just gorgeously fragrant with the taste and aroma of good quality pistachios. The emerald colour is natural and the thick paste injected throughout adds interest to the plain base.  It is also topped with frosted paste and chopped pistachio nuts. I thoroughly enjoyed it and try as I might, I doubt the rest of it will see Easter day.


I was sent this to review but you can order one direct from Sicily in three days for £20.28 (inc P&P). It's available from http://www.artimondo.co.uk/pistachio-colomba-easter-cake.html 

Buona Pasqua!

REVIEW: Stanmer House, Brighton



I've been meaning to get to Stanmer House for far too long. But if I'm honest, the heinous, shouty pub chain website has kept me away, making me expect laminated bangers and mash menus.

Here's an example of the menu for Mother's Day. "She's in for a treat!" and "Book early to avoid a Tantrum" slogans - I kid you not. And a breakfast menu that would be more at home down West Street on a hungover Sunday or a motorway service station. Either orchestrated by two design geezers in a loft studio somewhere or, more likely, two marketing geezers in a loft studio somewhere. What works for the other Whiting & Hammond pubs, clearly shouldn't be applied at this venue.




Despite being taken over in 2011 by the chain, the interior has been more sympathetically renovated than the website and print collateral portrays and is modern and comfortable without detracting from the elegant 1722 heritage.



A jaunt across Stanmer Park on the first sunny day since, well forever, the outdoor dining area looked just too inviting to ignore. Walking through the heavy doors of the entrance the house is just stunning, there are cosy little nooks with open fires, a bar area or a more formal dining room to choose to dine in. But on a day as glorious as this, sitting outside is a must. Children (and dogs) are really well catered for with space to roam in, I can't comment on the children's food as they hadn't printed any menus yet. This was despite it being a freaking busy lunchtime and the sun was clearly going to bring in scores of diners. Duh. So I had to make do with a half blank waitress recalling what possibly was on the menu whilst being corrected by another member of staff. Ideal. So we kind of ordered haphazardly. 


I finally did get to see a menu, which was huge and a clear nod that we are in pub chain territory, but there were some good ideas on it. It was a Sunday but we wanted a lighter lunch as we had dinner plans, and they do a roast ciabatta which is their roasted dinner meats served as a sandwich with roast potatoes and gravy. Now. I eat out a lot and see some pretty daft presentation materials but a gravy boat served on a twatplank wooden board is up there for utterly bonkers impracticality. I assume you are meant to dip the potatoes in gravy? Anyway, meat could have been better, there could have been something green to lighten the stodge factor, but yeah, as sandwiches go it's been elevated enough to be classed as a little more special.



My choice of smoked salmon terrine and bream rillettes was a nice light option from the starters. Again, it was ok but the ciabatta toasts were almost stale, not enough of them, and served on my pet hate of slate. Watching the poor staff weaving around the large garden trying to find diners whilst keeping capers on flat slates was like some assault course inspired by Manuel from Fawlty Towers. Anyway, the bream rillettes were actually lovely, light and a good texture. The salmon terrine was enjoyable too and even though the salad wasn't dressed, the inclusion of it made the dish suitable for a light bite.

Generally, people seemed to be ordering the sausage rolls to wash down their chilled beers with but I did see a few roasts go out with huge Yorkshire puddings. Maybe inside people were ordering full meals, but really, with the sun blazing, I think everyone was giddy on vitamin D and wanting just drinks and nibbles.



Junior Foodie had to make do with a plain scone alongside bites of our meals as I was worried about the wait time following my mathematical equation of (bumbling staff + massive queues) = horrific toddler meltdown². He just threw it down his neck and was more concerned with running round and round the pond, squealing with glee anyway. The scone wouldn't have me rushing back for afternoon tea but it was fine, although I did see a tweet of their homemade cakes that did look pretty good.

All the food was just about acceptable really so yeah, go along for a light bite at lunch or a nibble to keep you going on your hike across the park. Prices are a little high but you have to accept you're in wonderful surroundings. Would I come here for a special occasion dinner? No, of course not. Despite the amazing venue, there is too much that winds me up about the design, staff, slates not plates and manilla ownership of the place. But an hour or two spent in their garden in the sunshine, or tucked up inside in front of the fire on a cold winter's day for that matter, is time worth spending, even if just to soak in the atmosphere.

www.stanmerhouse.co.uk
Stanmer Park
Brighton
BN1 9QA

On a side note, the following (read below upward) is a prize example that highlights that this is a heritage property with a chain pub mentality. Nothing like protecting your brand with good PR, eh. Kerching boys, kerching.

Read Rosie's review of the full roast dinner here. (At least that was served on a plate but possibly the only redeeming feature.)



The Graphic Foodie at Glug Brighton



Last week I spoke at Glug which is a really fantastic series of events for the creative industry. The format and venue changes each time but generally involves speakers in a really informal, welcoming environment. There is normally a bar (which seems pretty key too - it's Glug innit) and is great for catching up with old mates and meeting new people. Industry meet ups always seem so cringy in other sectors but this is far from the business card, handshakes and grey off the peg suit thing you would expect, trust me.

Although it started in London, there are now six other cities in the UK and abroad that have regular events and our Brighton ones are well hosted by design agency Crush and illustration Agency Rush.

The event last week was at The Sallis Benny Theatre, a place I hadn't been back to since my university days an eye-watering aaaaaaaaaggggggeeee ago. The theme this time was "Passion" with speakers from the design industry who have branched out and followed another path instead or alongside their day job.

The talks were brilliant actually, with Adam Kemény and his Photobot business (a photobooth completely out of the ordinary and a fantastic start-up story to boot) and Matt Sewell, the "Banksy of the bird world" (yes really).



To be honest I've never spoken to a large audience like this, certainly not in a bona fide auditorium and certainly not 8.5 months pregnant with my lung capacity at like 20% either. By hey, I wheezed my way through it and it was pretty good fun. As you can imagine, pizza featured quite heavily (what, no really?) as well as how and why I started the blog and where it has led me to today, in a completely unforecasted twist actually - one that I couldn't really say much at the event or here yet either!

Still, the feedback was great (as well as all the tweets and emails I received - thanks!) and even managed to wangle someone a table at a packed out restaurant that night. I like to be useful at least.


Afterwards they showed the incredible film The Man Whose Mind Exploded by Toby Amies - a touching documentary of local Brighton resident Drako Oho Zarhazar, an eclectic man (understatement) in his 70s who suffers shocking memory loss after a series of accidents. I loved it, especially the relationship that formed between Drako and Toby over the course of four years filming. Check it out if you can.

For upcoming Glug events visit www.glugevents.com



Images via Glug and www.alice-jacobs.com

REVISIT and REVIEW: The Chilli Pickle, Brighton



The Chilli Pickle is a restaurant I've returned to the most, not that I get much chance too, flitting to new openings and reviews, but since it's opening in 2009, it still remains fresh and exciting as those early days in Meeting House Lane.

Maybe it's because the owner, chef Alun Sperring, continues to keep a close eye on things (he was on the pass at lunch today even) but the quality has never slipped and complacency never set in. And that is their success story.

But enough gushing, how the heck was lunch?

Well, to be honest, trying to fit a Chilli Pickle King Thali into an hour lunch bread is probably bordering on insane as there is a lot to get through. You choose a main curry and this is presented on a silver tray, peppered with pick and mix dishes of chutneys, pickles and raiita, snacks and breads. Deliciously gluttonous and for what you get, I think, pretty good value for money.



Mutton they do very well here so Mr GF went for The Mutton Nilgiri curry, with soft chunks of tender meat, roasted coconut, poppy seed paste. It was sweet, fragrant and perfectly spiced. I had the Methi Keema, again mutton but in mince form. This was also very good, tempered with onions and curry leaves.

The main pull of thali is the accompaniments and today the curries were served with a creamy black lentil dal (dal Bukhara at a guess), the most delicious grated beetroot and coconut chutney, a spiced aubergine chutney, classic mango chutney, saffron Raita and chunky tomato chutney. You could then dip away with naan bread or the crisp pappad.

In the middle of the dish were my favourite Indian "snacks"; a very nice onion bhaji and a crunchy potato kadak (like a croquette) filled with cheese and green chilli. Absolutely delicious and great idea with the crushed poppadom crust.

There was also a perfect square of what I assume was corn bread. To be honest this didn't have much flavour but maybe intended to be a dipping sponge for all those amazing flavours on the plate.

If you survived all of that there was a small dish of sweet condensed milk with a little crunchy topping. Indian sweets are not my forte but this tiny dish was the perfect sweet not to end on a meal of robust spices and flavours.

The rest of the lunch menu includes lighter meals, street food, roti and dosa and a pretty amazing sounding Indian fried chicken dish. Kids are also catered for well with their own menu which I'll have to bring back the not-so-baby Foodie in for. Dinners involve more of the tandoori, roasts and kebabs (you KNOW how I feel about the tandoori platters here...oh my...) as well as curry, dosa and biryani.

But whenever you come in I think you'd be had pushed not to enjoy your meal here. The Chilli Pickle remains one of Brighton's very best.


www.thechillipickle.com
17 Jubilee Street
Brighton
BN1 1GE

See my previous reviews here

And also a review of their take-away service