DESIGN: Grow Your Own Calendar from Bold & Noble

I'm a big fan of Bold & Noble screen prints and have three of them hanging in my home now. This new print, available in 2 colours, would be an ideal gift for the keen gardner or those starting out growing their own veggies. 

Grow Your Own Calendar, £43.00 + postage

REVIEW: Browns Bar and Brasserie, Brighton

Browns has been in Brighton since 1973, a claim not too many restaurants can make. I know people that always (and I mean ALWAYS) go here and I can understand why there is such a high proportion of return customers. The menu is a brasserie suits-all from pies and pastas to salads and steaks. There are menus for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner to ensure maximum capture of diners at all hours.

Saying that, Browns has never been an obvious choice for me. Like all chains, big or small, I almost seem to go out of my way to avoid them but now with a baby (and buggy) in tow, and often with more friends with more babies and more buggies, the chains are often the easier option, certainly in Brighton where restaurants tend to be on the cosy side. And that is a shame as Browns is actually a very attractive restaurant and clearly appeals to a wide range of people judging by the diners there; young and older couples, friends and family groups.

For starters, Mr GF chose the Roasted Goat’s Cheese, £6.95, which sat prettily on slices of yellow beetroot. The pomegranate molasses vinaigrette was super teeth-tingly sweet but with all the component was a nice little starter.

A lot of the main dishes have two prices, the lower I assumed to be a starter portion so I chose the Ricotta, Beetroot and White Truffle Tortellini, £7.45. The plate was rather gargantuan so not sure if the main size turned up by mistake or the portion was generous to a fault. Anyway, the flavours were good; ricotta and beetroot filled pasta makes for a very pretty dish as the beetroot stains the dough pink and with the truffle worked really well. The broad beans and the cherry tomatoes (not semi dried as stated) helped lighten the dish a little. The niggles, and I did enjoy the dish which is why I say niggles, for me were that the cream sauce congealed in globs and the coriander microherbs to decorate added an unnecessary and distracting flavour. Also, being ultra-picky and to show my pasta nerdiness, the dough was not worked enough and too stiff when passed through the pasta machine as it didn't have the silkiness as it could have done.

For main I chose the 21 Day Aged Sirloin Steak, £18.95. This was cooked exactly to my liking and the chunky chips were crisp and fluffy on the inside. Watercress, tomato and mushrooms are a natural accompaniment choice for the steak. Now I like anchovy and used wisely, it is a handy ingredient to enrichen flavours and is a classic partner with beef. Unfortunately, the huge patty of anchovy butter was so overwhelmingly pungent and melted into everything on the plate which was a bit of a shame. Poor steak. Poor me.

Far better was Mr GF's Wild Boar and Chorizo Burger, £12.95. A tasty burger with a nice twist and slim fries as good as my chunky chips. I particularly liked the trio of accompaniments, garlic compote with lime and chilli mayonnaise, apple and celeriac coleslaw and the textured house ketchup.

We were sadly too stuffed for dessert but the menu was tempting with plenty of classic puddings and a selection of Browns Brownies (see what they did there?).

Service was friendly and smart.

Whilst you may not be blown away with invention at Browns, it is a useful place to keep in mind when dining with groups or that fussy uncle as the menu is a crowd pleaser. The restaurant itself, which has recently had a lick and spit, is a classically tasteful and comfortable place to spend a lingering lunch or casual dinner. Maybe the reason it has staying power is that it hasn't pushed the boundaries too far and continues to appeal to mainstream diners for 40 odd years.

Browns Bar and Brasserie
3-4 Duke Street Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1AH

I was invited to review Browns.

EVENT: Christmas Ice Skating & Pop Up Restaurant at the Brighton Royal Pavilion, November 10th – January 20th

Where the heck has this year gone? Seems like yesterday I posted about the Royal Pavilion Ice Rink. Anyway, it's back again this year and still a perfect place for some festive skating. The pretty, twinkly lights over the backdrop of the Pavilion's domes is enough to even get a Christmas grouch like me all excited. I suppose with a kid in tow now I'm not allowed to hate this time of year anymore! Bah...

This year the adjoining restaurant will be taken over by Jamie Oliver's events catering venture, Fabulous Feasts. The restaurants in the past have has so-so success. Either they have been too up-market or the food offering a bit too obscure. This year I think it is pitched better as naturally the bulk of visitors are families and most locals would have dropped by Jamie's Italian and "get" his sort of food. The style and setting f the restaurant is far more approachable too. Unhelpfully there is no menu or prices on the website, but the canapes on the launch night were a taster of what's on offer and were cured meat platters, sausages and cous cous, brownies and toffee apples. They'll also be sandwiches, soups and stews as well as an interesting bookable hamper option for groups of 10 or more with soups in retro thermos flasks, cheese chilli straws, bubble & squeak, brownie parcels and mince pies. There's a bar and it's quite a nice spot if you just want to pop in for a hot chocolate. Food is served all day from 9.30am - late.

Prices for skating vary depending on time, age, group size and own skates so check on the website for details.

The Ice rink and restaurant is open daily from November 10th – January 20th (except Christmas Day)

REVIEW: Soup-urb, Urban Food Cafe, Brighton

I was all geared up to visit Nia Cafe for one of their delicious brunches on a rare Sunday morning "off duty" in Brighton. But when I turned up I found it had changed to something called..hold on to your hats...Soup-urb. Along with the pun-tastic name, the slightly nauseating strapline and the elecro facade almost made me turn right back round again if I'm honest. And anyway I wanted flipping brunch not soup. On closer inspection the menu did extend beyond the name of the place. Let's hope others don't assume this is a one trick pony either. Branding people, branding.

Once inside I couldn't see too much change from the previous Nia interior apart from some more garish colours but the menu is actually pretty good here. Brunches are your usual full-ons and things on toast. I liked that there were boiled eggs with Marmite soldiers for the young and the young at heart.

Although here for the brunch, the soups seemed inventive and inviting (Mexican Bean & Coriander Yoghurt, Smoked Haddock, Bacon & Spinach Chowder, Sweet Potato, Chilli & Coconut Milk) and there was plenty of choice for salads and sandwiches (Smoked Mackerel and Beetroot, Belly of Pork & Bramley Apple, Chicken, Tarragon and Pancetta Mayonnaise) with lots of local, seasonal produce. They are also quite keen on the environmental impact of the business and special dietary requirements too.

And actually, when I'm at work I often fancy a soup for lunch, especially during the cold snap season. Handily it's not too far at all from the studio and I can't think of anywhere close that has this range of daily changing flavours to keep you interested. I'm looking forward to seeing if they taste as good as they sound.

Anyway, I really enjoyed my Eggs Benedict (£5.75) and the full English Breakfast (£8.50) was good too. I would have preferred some thick, home-cooked and hand-cut ham but that's a minor grumble, especially when considering the price. There is a huge seperate Tea Pigs menu, served in those funky Stump teapots as well as quality branded bottled juices, beers, wine and freshly made smoothies.

Prices are reasonable and staff were really lovely and friendly.

Although I'm sad to see Nia gone, I think Soup-urb, branding aside, is a decent replacement and you couldn't go too wrong for a lunch or a brunchtime visit here.

87-88 Trafalgar Street, Brighton BN1 4ER