Syphon coffee at Brighton's Small Batch Coffee Company

If you like your coffee you should really head down to the syphon bar at Brighton's fantastic Small Batch Coffee Company. Far from being a gimmicky punter pull in, coffee syphons have actually been around since about 1830 and create a rich yet clean flavour due to the stable temperature the process can maintain. But yeah, taste-aside, the chemistry style equipment is pretty cool to watch!

Now for the science part. Concentrate…
Using a very hip Japanese halogen heater, water is boiled in the bottom glass chamber which is then pulled up a tube to the top chamber as it expands. Freshly ground coffee (ground coarser than normal due to the longer brewing time) is then added to the water in the top chamber. It is carefully teased into the water with a spatula rather than mixed to bring out the best of the flavours rather than all of them. It is then taken off the heat and as it cools, the vacuum created pulls the coffee through a filter back to the bottom chamber. It's then decanted and left for a few minutes to open up the flavours. You can see a video of the process here.

Best bit is the prices are not far off a standard cup of coffee ranging from £2.95 to £3.50. The coffees they had on that day (these change on rotation) were India Balmaadi, Guatamala Finca Santa Clara and Kenya Gethumbwini Peaberry.

I really like Small Batch, they are a local family-run company, starting out as a small roastery, expanding into a little espresso bar and now have a couple of coffee shops. You may know how I feel about the identikit big boy coffee chains smothering the city, but with local heroes like this you don't need to frequent them. I particularly like the design of their interior with custom wooden stools, fat industrial lamps and slick vibe, somewhere I could easily pass the time nursing a cup or two.

For more details about Small Batch, their locations or to buy their blends visit
For a syphon coffee go to their coffee shop at MyHotel, Jubilee Street, Brighton.

Brighton Chrismas events and food gift ideas

The Angel Food Kitchen (Part of the AF Bakery) offer cake decorating and edible gifts classes - handy for this season's baking. But a voucher for their French macaron or pastry workshop would also be on my list to Santa.

Perfect for the coffee lover in your life, Small Batch are offering intensive 3-hour Barista lessons (£150). The course works with typical home coffee brewing equipment and will also cover coffee origins and an introduction to tasting. Further 'advanced' course can be also be purchased and will see you qualified as a barista. Vouchers are available from Alan at Small Batch Coffee, myhotel Brighton.

It wouldn't be Christmas without a hamper would it? Thorne's Foods are offering 2 sizes, which they will tailor to your needs or you could choose your own mix of local treats. £35-£75. Thorne's Foods 39 Upper Gardner Street, Brighton.

For other foodie gifts from our locals, you can stock up at one of the mini markets at Brighton Station which are being held over the first three weekends of December. You'll find stalls from some of our best Brighton food companies like Metrodeco, Micarmo, Bonjour Breakfast, Suck It & Sea and Cave a Fromage. 3/ 4 December, 10 /11 December and 17/ 18 December from 11am - 7pm. Further details at

You've got to go for an ice skate overlooking the Royal Pavillion. *In the voice of Greg Wallace* Christmas doesn't get more more Christmassy than this. When you've knackered (or shamed) yourself out you can chill out in the bar or visit the restaurant. Go with a gaggle of 8 mates or more and order their whole suckling pig, Prince Regent would sure be proud. Other decadent choice would be oysters or er, the fondue! Open til January 22nd.

Again, non foodie but spectacular and so very, very Brighton is the annual Burning Of The Clocks on 21st December. It's a parade of extravagant paper lanterns that are marched through the streets finishing on the beach where they are all burnt on a massive bonfire.

And if you've still to settle on a venue for some festive dining, check out my guide to alternative and classic selection in the city.

All images from respective websites.

Delia's Classic Christmas cake kit

I have to admit, cake making is not one of my strong points. Italians generally are a bit crap at cakes - remember my wedding cake disaster? Give me a pasta machine and I'm away but the ten billion things that can go wrong in baking like oven temperature or types, too much or not enough mixing or air, the temperature of your eggs or butter, which way the wind is blowing, the phase of the moon...well all seems too much of a faff for someone who hasn't really got a sweet tooth.

Still, I was on the fence about Delia's Classic Christmas cake box from Waitrose, £10. Surely it would be perfect for idiots someone like me? Dry ingredients are neatly measured out for you so you only have to tip them in a bowl (along with additional ingredients like eggs, butter, citrus zest, brandy, decoration ingredients AND you will also need a 20 cm round cake tin, baking paper, string, paperclips, newspaper, oil).

Thankfully I had 4 years of art college under my belt as you first had to construct this. I have no idea what the newspaper is for.

The mixing was pretty straight forward and actually made for the least mess in my kitchen during a spot of baking which is a real bonus with this kit.

Delia did warn NOT to peek in the oven for at least 4 hours, which I duly obeyed as the instructions stated the cake would take at least that if not 30-45 minutes longer. However 4 hours seemed to be too long for my oven as the cake came out a little, er, dark. Well borderline burnt if I'm honest. I would say 20 minutes too long but that's the variation issue of everyone's oven.

Fearing dry cake (quelle horreur), I wrapped it up and fed it brandy for a couple of weeks hoping a good soak and the waft of booze from it would eliminate any scorched aroma.

Now for the pretty bit. Delia does a lovely simple (easy) decoration example that would take no time at all and looks really nice. I, however, decide to go for it despite having never properly decorated a cake or attempted sugarcraft.

P.s. people. When cake bloggers and experts say to use the fancy colouring paste to colour your fondant, take the advice. I ended up with a block of soggy intestinal pink icing after taking a punt at it with some liquid colouring I had. Not good. But I'm really pleased with my impromptu plan B using thin piping and silver balls. I even made a fondant bow!

I'm actually quite chuffed with the result (overcooking aside) and probably would not have got round to making one without the kit as Christmas cake seems a bit of a task. For those lacking a little confidence the hand-holding element is good and time saving beneficial as the fruits are pre-soaked etc. It's just measured ingredients at the end of the day but the step-by-step guide and online videos will soothe the inexperienced baker. However you do need to purchase quite a few additional extras and that can tot up so this vs. a purchased cake probably isn't value for money, but at least you feel like you are creating something.

Will update with a taste test when we slice this up.

I was sent the kit to review.

Alternative and traditional festive dining in Brighton

UPDATE: Aloka has now closed its doors. Review for historical purposes. For vegan food in Brighton try Terre a Terre, Infinity Cafe, Lydea or The George Pub (Trafalgar Street).

Although Brighton has restaurants happily serving the full turkey shebang, we of course have to put our alternative slant on it (without having to resort to putting a Christmas dinner on a pizza - you know who you are!). Here are my picks for something a little different yet still decadent from Indian and Scandinavian festive menus to raw and vegetarian treats as well as some good ol' British warming food.

Aloka who specialise in botanical (raw/vegan) cuisine have probably the most alternative festive menu at their snow white restaurant with items such as a raw Mince Pie which translates to king oyster mushroom & prune ragout with ruby sauerkraut and hazelnut infusion dressing and Caribbean Christmas Pudding with mango chia pearl, maca bourbon vanilla ice-cream with lime and coconut crust. Think Saf but at a more wallet friendly cost. Now we have had a chance to get our heads around Aloka, this multi-use establishment has really found its place in Brighton. I was in there at the weekend for a rather lovely pregnancy massage at their day spa and the place was packed with diners in the cafe and restaurant.

Vegetarian favourites, Terre a Terre, have a special menu and I'm pleased to see that they have not let us down with their typically pun-tastic dish titles we have come to love from them like Baby Cheeses’ (Pumpkin verrine and beet terrine, with baby sheep cheeses’ soaked in caraway and dill, parsley and mixed pepper salt, served with star anise and scrumpy vinegar damsons walnut brittle crumble) and I Did It My Sleigh (Panforte pain perdu crammed full of pied de mouton mushroom ragout, served with roast rosemary parsnip potato pave, buttered sprout tops with sage and onion crispy, poached cranberries and big rich mulled Merlot sauce.)
Available from December 6th to January 6th.

Ah, any excuse for a visit to Chilli Pickle! Their festive menu looks divine with the likes of Banjra Venison, Goose MoMos, Crispy pork belly vindaloo and Parsnip Pakoras. Sad to see their amazing Venison Tandoori (in the pic above) I had the other year wasn't on the menu but I'm sure it will be fantastic regardless.

Or maybe you fancy something a little cooler and Scandinavian inspired? Northern Lights is probably the only place where reindeer is on the menu as well as dressed egg halves, Nordic Christmas ham, smoked fish balls and of course proper Gravadlax.

Although if you did want to stay classic this Christmas, you should really check out the following menus from restaurants who can always be relied upon for decent, local and solid cooking.

Due South has a lovely sounding menu with Whole Roasted Partridge with Bacon and Chestnuts and a twist on a classic with a Hay-Smoked Rice Pudding with Christmas Spiced Ice Cream.

The Gingerman Group will be serving a cockle-warming Oxtail and Kidney Steamed Pudding. Oh yes.

I've always liked Sam's of Brighton for their no-nonsense approach and I would be more than happy tucking into the Braised Blade of Beef, Creamed Potatoes, Curly Kale, and Braising Liquor.

Next up Brighton Gifts and Event guide!

All images apart from Chilli Pickle from respective websites.

REVIEW: BBQ Shack at The World's End pub, Brighton

To find great food in a seemingly bog standard boozer in a part of town that is more Pound Stretcher than Phillip Starke would be a surprise. The design studio I work with has recently moved to the area (said to be the new Shoreditch... er, yeah) and unless you venture into the Laines you basically have the delights of Subway, Maccy Ds and a few questionable cafes.

So I almost spat my tea right out at the screen when I read Jay Rayner singing the praises of the Texas pit barbecue food being served literally round the corner, not in some chandelier dripped Brightonian "gastro pub", but in a proper, bonafide, sticky floor boozer. At the heart of it is chef John Hargate who is nothing short of a Barbecue champion with plenty of awards under his belt and a CV boasting work under some of our treasured celeb chefs.

This was too good to be true, especially in this carrot munching city. The menu had me hyperventilating – what to have? The ribs have become something of legend around town, but what about the 18 hour brisket, hot dogs, chicken or pulled pork washed down with piles of spicy rice, beans, chilli or mac and cheese. You can even have the Texan delicacy, the er, Armadillo Egg, a sort of sausage meat and bacon wrapped jalepeno stuffed with cream cheese.

I finally settled on the Hickory and Apple Smoked North Carolina Pulled Pork sandwich with homemade coleslaw and Sweet Apple BBQ sauce as my into to the BBQ shack. As I waited I could now focus on the surroundings which were as I expected but the boozers and diners offered an awkward mix of locals and middle class Hove yummies. That’ll be the Guardian readership for you, oh hang on that’s why I’m here.

Anyway, the sandwich arrived, served, how can I say this, "rustically" on Aunt Mildred's discarded crockery, this isn't a feast for the eyes by any stretch but one bite in and I would have been happy to dine on this at the dump. Heavenly, smokey, succulent porky goodness. Forget the napkins, I was going to have to have a shower after this, the BBQ sauce and coleslaw slip sliding around in the bun, down my chin, on my lap. Thank goodness Mr. GF and I had been together for 14 odd years because this ain’t no first date food! He was more than happy with his pork burrito but think he was kicking himself for not going with the ribs. Next time!

The only think I would change would be the bun, which when half saturated with coleslaw juice wasn't really up to the challenge of holding together the outrageous amount of pork filling it had, but really the BBQ Shack is all about the meat.

The BBQ Shack is available for home delivery or at The World's End Pub, 60-61 London Road, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4JE. Update: it seems home delivery MAY not be available now (see comments), please call the BBQ Shack to check though on 01273 275757/07960 654 402.