REVIEW: Salt&Sea suppers, Seaford

By day, Salt&Sea operate as a cafe and bistro with cooked breakfasts and substantial lunches. But for select evenings on Friday and Saturday, as well as one off events, the menu changes to a very different style reflecting more of what chef and owner, Ross Pavey, is about. He has formerly worked in the kitchens of Moonrakers in Alfriston, The Griffin in Fletching and South Lodge in Lower Beeding so clearly knows how to cook more than Eggs Benedict with suppers including Olive oil poached fish and 8 hour roasted shoulder of Sussex lamb.

I came along to the first of a new concept for them, a small plate fish dinner where you can order plates as you fancy. I don't know what I was expecting but I certainly left very impressed. Some of the fish dishes would blow a few of Brighton's best fish restaurants clear out of the water.

Starting with the salmon ceviche, this had a fantastic heat in the shallot and peppercorn dressing, lightened by the citrus creme fraiche. A really great start, by far one of the nicest ceviche I've tried.

I have a really acidic palate, eating jar after jar of pickles as a kid (still do!) and the chef is on my wavelength here. Soft, gentle pillows of cod cheeks were given a sharp textural contrast with paper thin slithers of pickled swede and turnip and layers of pickled onion with a mellow onion cream. The balance was spot on and the pickles didn't over power. I liked the attention to griddling the onion layer edges so the dish didn't look too pale.

My dining partner's favourite dish was the bream with a velvety parsnip puree and vanilla and saffron sauce. Personally, I've not been much of a fan of the vanilla in savoury dishes trend but here it added a luxurious edge by enhancing the sweetness of the fish.

Also good was the salmon served classically with dill and a little caviar with an unusual addition of whey. We finished with three fat scallops each, with thin strips of pickled cucumber and lime. The croutons did go a little soggy in the lime juice which is the tiniest of gripes after a line up meal like that.

The desserts were equally as well crafted. The chocolate parfait (top image) rocked allotment chic (yes that's a thing) surrounded by perfect little beetroot, a chocolate soil and frozen yogurt. Stunning to look at but a treat to eat too, you can't go wrong with chocolate and beetroot in my book.

My Rapeseed oil cake was more unusual and one if you are not particularly sweet toothed (me). This was a really nice cake, good for carrying the flavours of the cider poached apple, cider foam and buttermilk ice cream. The powdered pine oil was something I don't think I've come across before which at first I thought was Coffee-mate (remember that 80s office workers?!).

The individual plates ranged from £5.50- £7.50 which I think is ridiculously good value for the quality of ingredients and level of cooking. Maybe pitched to the prices people are willing to may in the area but certainly you would expect to pay more in Brighton. I really enjoyed my meal here and loved the style of elegant, sophisticated food which had enough clever twists and touches to make the dishes interesting but still something you relish in eating.

Sometimes dining in the evening in places that are more suited to daytime food can be a little strange but the interior was lovely, a smart, beach hut theme with natural woods and soft muted colours. I was amazed that the food was created in the tiniest of kitchens and you can see Pavey single handedly making everything behind the counter.

You can get to Salt&Sea from Brighton in just 30 mins by car or practically fall into the restaurant from the train station. So lesson learnt: some things are worth travelling for. Go.

Find up and coming events via or or book a table for Friday or Saturday night dinner.
2 Dane Road
BN25 1LL

I was a guest of Salt&Sea. Opinions, as always, are my own.

Indian Tadka spice blends

Remember the home Indian food lesson I had with Indian Tadka? Well in addition to their lessons (which I thoroughly recommend) in the Brighton area, you can also buy packs of spices from them too. Would make a great Christmas gift for serious foodies I think. Kirthi from Indian Tadka found that her clients were always asking about the spices used in the lessons and how they could get them.

Their spices are particularly special and I was amazed at how fragrant they were with so much more depth than the standard supermarket spices (which are a bit bland and dusty to me now!). They even have more vitality than the ones I normally buy from the Asian supermarkets which I thought were a step up from the supermarket jars.

Their fabulous garam masala which they left with me last time is their own family blend, handed down through the generations. Seriously, the blend has really helped lift my curries and no wonder why it became in demand really. 

So, Kirthi's mother in India started buying spices from local Indian farmers at a fair rate to the farmer. Then the spices are all are hand blended in small batches at their family home in India before being shipped over to the UK.

In my pack (which smelt unbelievable when I opened it!) there was tumeric, chilli powder, coriander powder, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and the special family recipe garam masala. All of which are really useful, basic spices for a huge number of recipes. 

If you fancy adding vitality to your spice collection then you can get hold of these packs through Kirthi Mundada on 07715416572 or

The price for the packs as shown here with 6 spices in 30g jars is £25 or you can get two sets for £40.
You can order single spices, priced individually, and the cost depends on weight. Businesses (or avid curry lovers!) can order large quantities.

Spices can be posted for £4.80 or collect from Hove for free.

The last orders for Christmas for postal orders is 14th Dec or 24th Dec for personal collection.

Indian Tadka sent me one of the packs for review.

Festive food safety and tips for poultry cooking

Not exactly the sexiest of posts, but people do get in a right tiz about cooking around Christmas especially with the turkey/goose or chicken. Crikey, even the NHS have a poultry safety checklist to save their Boxing Day A&E admissions.

Basically, don't be silly.
  • Store it sensibly and check your fridge temperature (below 5°C).
  • Defrost it completely if you've bough a frozen bird (over a couple of days for huge birds).
  • Don't let the juices drip all over the fridge (everyone on Come Dine With Me, I'm looking at you).
  • Don't wash the bird. Bacteria will be killed in cooking and you won't be spreading them all over your sink etc.
  • Thoroughly wash the kitchen sides and utensils that have been in contact with raw meat or allow raw meat/juices to come in contact with any other food that you intend to eat raw.
  • WASH YOUR HANDS (TV chefs, I'm looking at you).
  • When you cut into the thickest part of the turkey, none of the meat should be pink. Juices should run clear.
  • Eat leftovers within two days or freeze them as soon as they have cooled.
If you are unsure, then follow a good recipe and check the timings—as a guide—on the packaging if you have purchased a supermarket bird. If not your butcher will be able to advise. I like the look of Gordon Ramsey's spiced goose, Jamie Oliver's classic turkey or this Italian-style turkey crown with roast garlic & pancetta & lemon ciabatta stuffing.

If you still need reassurance that your bird is properly cooked then a temperature probe may be useful. OXO Good Grips is a seriously good brand for kit and their OXO Good Grips Digital Thermometer is no different. 

Their products are really well designed, very simple to use and robust. The temperature reading was very clear and it comes with this handy sleeve that not only protects the delicate probe itself, but has a handy temperature guide for different meats when you twist it.
As for what temperature cooked poultry should reach, insert the temperature probe in the thickest part of the bird (between the breast and the thigh) and ensure it reaches at least 70°C for two minutes.

Also, because they are nice, OXO sent me some silicone spatulas which I will be using for my festive baking (Jewelled biscotti ALWAYS make an appearance here) and these are so much better than my old ones. For one they don't have wooded handles and are very thick in the centre but very pliable on the edges. And they have a great weight to them, most are quite flimsy. I've been using them for all sorts already, not just baking as I am a bit obsessive about scratching my kitchen pans.

OXO supplied the products for review (and I do LOVE THEM!)

COMPETITION: Win a Jar of Gourmet Chocolate from Yumbles

Did you know that Brighton was the chocolate capital of the UK? The average Brightonian spends a staggering £672 a YEAR on the stuff as opposed to the £348 UK average. The dentists down here are probably getting fabulous Christmas bonuses this year!

So in the spirit of festive gorging giving, and to save you some of your chocolate fund, I'm giving away a jar of Gourmet Chocolate by Yumbles maker, Ellie's Chocolates for two lucky winners!

Ellie's Chocolate is made using only the best ingredients and hand-dried fruits and flower petals with no additives or preservatives. And looks a real treat in that jar I think.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The chocolate research was conducted by They are a place to discover deliciously different indie food and gifts this Christmas. The online marketplace showcases hand-picked food and drink, made by the UK's most talented food makers. With everything from show-stopping cheeses to an exquisite range of innovative chocolates, you'll find the perfect gift for your favourite foodie.

Personally, and if my secret Santa is reading, I'm loving the Laura Oil and Vinegar set in their almost perfume bottle packaging. Also the Cocoa Garden's hand painted chocolates are a nice touch or if like me you have a weakness for posh tea, then a jar of flowering tea bulbs, handmade with white needle green tea leaves which are interwoven with chrysanthemum flowers and topped with a rose bud, is as posh as it gets!

Thanks to Yumbles for allowing me to run this competition.

REVIEW: The Restaurant at Drakes, Brighton

Brighton has just a small handful of restaurants you could call classic fine dining. I don't know why, but that's just the way it is. We tend to sway between the casual and the conceptual but I always think there is a place for the proper on a plate.

The Restaurant at Drakes has evolved over the years but think it's in a really strong place at the moment. It feels special, grown up, yet far from stuffy. 

The silky chicken liver parfait amuse was carefully presented (I'll let them off my pet hate of slate as this was the only appearance of it on the night!) and the homemade bread with a dash of ale was a nice start to the meal.

Truffle will always have a place on my menu. It's virtually impossible for me to resist them. The single raviolo was filled with potato which is a great carrier for bold flavour like truffle, and reasonably common in Italy. The filling was creamier and more luxurious than classic potato filled pasta and the pasta itself well crafted. Spinach and beurre noisette were classic partners but all that was needed to allow that earthy truffle to shine.

Gnocchi again were spot on, achieving that difficult balance of firm yet light. At first I thought the dish was wildly under seasoned but with a small slither of the Sussex cured ham, the gnocchi, in a creamy sauce with wild mushrooms, were absolutely perfect.

For my main, I chose something I knew they do well at Drakes - meat. The pork three ways included pork belly and a perfectly rendered slice of pig head. There was also a boudin noir (French black pudding) which was almost Christmas pudding like. I love blood sausages and this was really rich, spiced and sweet. The creamed savoy cabbage and carrot was an interesting twist and punchy spiced apple puree helped cut through the pork fat. A thyme jus married the dish up and an additional pot of it was placed on the table. Bonus points. Had I been in a different setting I would have licked the plate.

Our usual incessant nattering (sorry to anyone who ever sits near us) was hushed to silence throughout mains, and across the table, Mr. GF was also a happy chap. I really liked the grotesque theatre of the single leg sticking up on the plate of his partridge dish. This little leg was stuffed and wrapped in ham with the sweet breasts simply roasted. Emmer wheat is something we eat a lot of but it's called farro to us Italians and is a fantastic, toothsome, nutty grain, ideal with game.  The broccoli stems, as I've had before at Drakes were very al dente. I love it, those with dentures maybe less so! 

Wines were well chosen for us. I don't see the issue of drinking reds with pork if there are robust flavours on the plate and the wine isn't too heavy. I liked my Little Beauty Pinot Noir and the name was a bonus too. Mr GF however, prefers to practically chew on his wine. It needs to be rich, full, smoky and heady. The wine list was sensible with half bottles and plenty of wines by the glass. I was a little surprised to see so few Sussex wines though with just one sparkling from the Bluebell Vineyard Estate.

Pre-desserts were a nice touch with a fresh clementine jelly layered with vanilla panna cotta.

I'm not a sweet toothed person so the tartness of the Brillat-Savarin cheesecake was a good choice. Those expecting a sugar hit typical of sickly cheesecake may have been disappointed though, but for me the almost cheese option in a dessert format was to my taste. I didn't get much fruit from the cherry glaze on the cheesecake or in the cherry sorbet though and think it needed that sharp, fruity lift. But the chocolate truffle dipped in some sort of gel and given a stalk to masquerade as a cherry was a nice detail. I noticed the praline soufflĂ© with Kentish cobnuts were flying out of the kitchen on the night and looked great.

Service was calm, professional and friendly throughout and the ambiance is really comfortable in the restaurant itself. Prices for food I think were reasonable for the quality with two courses at £29.95 and three for £39.95. There is also a five course chef's menu which would be a good choice for a special occasion or a splurge.

Head chef Andrew Mackenzie is an increasingly rare breed of chef at this level whose primary ethos is to still feed the diner well. The classic, elegant and confident food doesn't smack of shock tactic ingredients and gimmick formats that more often than not repulses rather than delights the customer. The wow factor in his dishes relies on smart detail and flavour as well as beautiful presentation. A man after my own stomach for sure.
43-44 marine parade
brighton BN2 1PE

I was a guest of The Restaurant at Drake's, opinions, as always, are my own.

COMPETITION: Win tickets to the Periodic Table of Cheese night at La Cave a Fromage, Brighton

I love this. This sounds like an utter geek fest and curd nerds are amongst my favourite geeks. But even if you just love cheese or want to know about it in a fun environment at the fabulous La Cave a Fromage in Hove then this will be a great event for you.

The Periodic Table of Cheese is a cheese tasting game. Apparently competitive cheese tasting events exist (!), but the way the PTOC is played you can score points for getting close. Which is great even if you are a novice cheese lover that.

10 mystery cheeses are laid out with crackers and you have an hour to taste all the cheeses, and decide which 'element' on the table you think they are. At the end of the hour, hand in your card and your choices will be checked and scored by computer followed by an onscreen gameshow! 

Sounds absolutely hilarious and there will be a prize for the winning team. 

For your chance to win one of two pairs of tickets for the game at La Cave a Fromage Hove on Sun 07 Dec 2014 at 7pm, enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

REVIEW: VIP Pizza, Brighton

Currently I'm conducting an almighty Brighton pizza review post where I am visiting the main pizzerias to find out if anyone can make the darn things. As you can imagine, I'm kissing a lot of pizza frogs in search of a prince. Also what I'm finding is that there are few nice venues to eat pizza and fewer wood ovens, but this is one of them so I thought it deserved a post by itself.

VIP Pizza cropped up a little while back in the same location as Oregano, who also served wood fired pizza with a bit of a hit and miss reputation, more often missing on my visits to be honest. But VIP has transformed the space. Gone is the heavy wood and the daft huge tables that minimised dining space. They've successfully achieved a modern take on Italian tradition style with a little industrial edginess thrown in to boot. Good quality produce lines the shelves and the troughs of herbs behind the seating benches are a nice touch.

They also have a deli counter with hard to find meats like speck and I saw some regional Italian specialities like the coned arancini, smoked scamorza, jam crostata, ciabatta and some cakes that may be worth a look in, especially for impromptu summer picnics on the Old Steine lawns.

It’s been said that this is the place where Italians go and yes the place was positively bursting at the seams with Italian students. There were also a couple of Italian families and their beautiful babies who were gurgling away happily as they gnawed down their little pizza slices. The owners shouted out a few ciao’s to passing countrymen too. Quite a good sign.

The pizza menu is quite large with almost 30 choices, mostly good although was sad to see the Hawaiian and the chips and wurstel topping which is more popular with the Italian youth than would like to admit to. They also serve a panuzzo, which is a relatively new thing and something not really seen in the UK. It's a pizza base that's folded and stuffed but not a calzone but more like a filled sandwich pizza.

As I've said before I always opt for a Margarita on a first pizzeria visit. Mr GF went for a Diavolo, much the same just with some spicy salami and black olives on top. The dough was well seasoned and a good consistency (the cooked bit anyway). I still think there was far too much cheese, despite making a point when being served to lay off it a little, but the sauce was nice, the right amount and good quality.

I’m not one of these people that nods like a Churchill dog when asked if everything is alright with my food when I have a quibble, especially if I’m writing about it after. That just isn’t fair. When asked I did point out the pizzas were undercooked, mainly on one side as they hadn't been turned in the oven (burnt on the other), and I was told quite flatly that I was wrong, they were perfect. Instead of infuriating me I did have to chuckle as I then KNEW for sure I was in an authentic Italian place. That is precisely the reaction you would get over there! Despite half of it being slightly doughy and the cheese on Mr GF's not even melted, it had all been a figment of my imagination. Of course! God bless the Pope.

I did show the pictures to a professional baker I happened to be meeting and they did say the dough didn't look too bad, it had just been undercooked. Looking around at other people's orders I do think we got a swift cook as the other pizzas seemed just a little more crisp and had they been then it would have helped.

The arancini, shaped in a traditional cone rather than ball, were absolutely delicious. Nicely firm and filled with the classic pea and meat sauce combination, which was tasty and well seasoned. These really were as mamma would make them if your mamma was particularly gifted in making them. Be sure to grab one of these if you see them on the counter.

So, not altogether bad and the good outweighed it. There is a good selection of beer and wines, and San Pelligrino soft drinks, even Crodini which you don't see often too. They also do pasta dishes which looked popular and there is a selection of antipasti.

One thing though is that I would strongly ditch the mayo and ketchup from the tables. I was quite shocked to see them on there to be honest. If heathens request it they can jog on down to Dominos I say.

Clearly it's going to attract the students and a younger crowd in general due to the natural lower price point. Their money is better spent here on fresh produce than some chain fast Frankenstein food anyway. Prices start at just £5.50 for the basic to £12 for porcini and truffle toppings.

Service is friendly (as long as you don't complain about anything!) but can be a tad too slow for working lunchtime turnarounds. You can also just grab a slice to go too.

There's clearly been a lot of love and time invested in this place which you can't help but admire. If you want your pizza served in an Italian atmosphere by real Italians then this is the place for you in Brighton town centre.

VIP Pizza
19 Old Steine
Brighton BN1 1EL