REVIEW: Ole! Ole! Tapas Bar and Restaurant, Brighton

I have been hearing really good things about Ole! Ole! and being housed at the Chilli Pickle's former home, I was hoping some good food vibes from the former owners was residual in the walls of the place.

The welcome looked warm from the outside and I love the slightly hidden gem quality of the location. Inside, helped by a jug or two of Sangria, you could get yourself into a serious holiday mood. Ole! Ole! is decked out in typical Spanish restaurant style, including the scarfed uniformed waitresses. Luckily it just keeps on the good side of tacky. Just.

I think the fact that all tables were of four people or more diners speaks volumes about this place and this isn't somewhere I would dine as a couple. I think people genuinely have a really good time at this restaurant, fuelled by the energetic live flamenco sessions, which get practically everyone up dancing by the end of the evening. And there's nothing wrong with that. I had a GREAT time. There should be more dancing in restaurants I say, but the fact that a good time is had can muddy the perception of how good the food itself actually is.

Sadly, although my mind had drifted off to holidays past, my tastebuds hadn't been transported anywhere. There was nothing particularly wrong with any of the dishes, but there wasn't anything remarkable either. Tortilla, slightly soggy calimari, perfectly munchable ham croquettes, spicy patatas bravas... yep ok, the chorizo in cider was tasty (if slightly burnt on one side) but who can't pan fry chorizo in cider? All of the tapas is your usual tourist fodder, nothing inventive or creative. The seafood paella was nice. Tasty, generous mix of seafood. Yeah, nice, ok but at £14 odd a portion, it needed to be.

I wanted padron peppers, marinated Manchego, octopus, scallops, sardines, and some nice twists on them too. I wanted sherry! Can you believe there was no sherry? The horror.

Desserts were the usual too, I had the Crema Catalana. It was...nice.

Service was well paced and friendly.

I guess the problem I have with Italian restaurants in the city is the same problem I had with Ole! Ole!, it's just a manilla representation of the cuisine, not really an exploration of regional dishes, nothing groundbreaking, nothing educational. But I think that's what the general public want, with the minimum of fuss, just a reminder of Spanish coast package holidaying.

I don't mean for this to be a bad review as there wasn't cause for complaint. By all means go, have fun, marvel at the slinky hips of the flamenco dancers, get up and dance yourself. You'll like it. You'll tell your friends about it. Just don't go expecting more than a tourist taste of Spain on your plate.

Ole! Ole! Tapas Bar & Restaurant
42 Meeting House Lane,
The Lanes
Brighton BN1 1HB
Live flamenco shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9pm

RECIPE: Beetroot Salsa

This really zingy, versatile beetroot salsa is great with fishcakes or burgers or even part of a mixed salad lunch with cous cous, humous and mixed leaves. A staple in the Graphic Foodie household.

2tbs olive oil
Half an onion, finely chopped
400g of cooked beetroot (pre-packaged or fresh and boiled at home), diced
1tbs small capers or 3-4 finely diced gerkins
Zest of 1 lemon
2tsp of good, sweet balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Juice of half a lemon

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onion, cooking very gently so it doesn't colour until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the diced beetroot, capers (or gerkins), lemon zest (I like to use a zester for long zingy ribbons), balsamic vinegar and a good pinch of sea salt.

Cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add lemon juice to taste and more seasoning if needed.

Can be served hot or cold.

REVIEW: York Coffee Emporium

Although we have always had a Bialetti mokka pot on the stove for espressos, I've not been much of a coffee snob, happily consuming a well known Italian mass produced coffee for years. Now I have some pretty fantastic independent coffee shops locally, some of which small batch roast their own beans, my silver vac-packed coffee has lost some of its shine. The richer, deeper flavour and wildly different character of bean varieties have made coffee drinking all the more exciting. Something I want to bring to my coffee cup at home.

The York Coffee Emporium roasts small batches of beans daily for mail order. Their site has a pretty good online shop that you can select coffee based on use, taste and strength from a wide range of varieties, all roasted to order as well as some equipment.

Anyway, they sent me a few samples to try, which I also passed on to my Dad, an espresso drinker for 50 odd years!

South American Blend, 200g £4
Despite having a low-ish strength guide (3/5), this had quite a good full flavour, aroma and colour. An enjoyable, everyday coffee. Perfect for those who multi-cup. YCE's most popular blend for a reason.

Emporium Excelso Blend, 200g £5
This I liked. A lot. Had a great flavour and oomph without being too acidic. Again, good for the everyday but with a touch more character than the South American Blend.

Elk Hill Indian Estate Coffee, 200g £4
This one twisted my melons. I kind of liked it as it was really interesting but I felt there was quite a lot going on flavour wise with it. Not something I would choose for everyday but a good one for coffee enthusiasts or for those looking for something a little unusual.

Papua New Guinea Mt Michael, 200g £3.50
This I admit I have yet to try. Despite being in need of coffee on an hourly basis with a young baby on hand, I am trucking through the packs above and don't want to waste the freshness of the coffee by opening another pack as it goes stale in a week or so. Every time you waste something, even if it's free, a fairy dies. Word. Anyway, this is very enticing, suggestively labelled as "something different" from Mount Michael, a 2,863 mountain peak in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Will update once I've tried it.

Although I'll be sticking to my trusty mokka pot, I wouldn't mind trying out an Aeropress at home and a few other purchases, maybe a grinder, to start me on my coffee snob journey. If like me you are getting into your coffee then also worth checking out are the YCE's guides (in plain non-geek English) for making the perfect EspressoCafetiere or Aeropress coffee at home too.

I was sent samples to review.

REVIEW: The Chilli Pickle Canteen (take away)

I suppose one of the things I miss most about being a new parent is eating out as much. My bank statement looks like I've been on a year long diet, previously being made up of long lunches, evenings spent gorging oneself by candlelight and er, shoe purchases. And although my hips thank me for it, I do miss feeding my greed. (I still buy good shoes.)

Whilst dining out hasn't entirely been eradicated and is creeping back more and more, it does make you more selective, which is good, but it does mean you miss out on trips your old faithfuls not wanting to miss out the latest hot young thing on the restaurant scene with your precious night-off token. And one old faithful I dearly miss is my number one place to eat in Brighton, The Chilli Pickle.

So when I heard about their latest string to their bow, The Chilli Pickle Canteen take away, my heart raced and my stomach growled. Despite getting a tree load of takeaway menus though the door each week, I have never made use of them, it has never felt normal to me to get food delivered to my front door when my kitchen door is in view. But food I'm certain I can't cook at home, I love and I know has been cooked with passion and pride? Pass me the phone...

There is a good selection to choose from without being too over the top. The curries and accompaniments are similar if you order the Grand Thali or the Railway Tray, the latter being smaller with fewer accompaniments. There is also the Biryani set or the curries, sides and pickles all individullay priced. Meat eaters, vegetarians, pescatarians and vegans are all catered for.

We ordered the Tanjore Mutton Curry Grand Thali (£15.50) and the Old Delhi Chicken Railway Tray (£12.95) and they really did make a good impression when they arrived.

Think that's a little expensive for a take away? Well with the Railway Trays you get your curry, rice, dal, plum chutney, garlic pickle, yogurt and roast cumin dip, a sweet little carrot salad, chapati and roast pappad (poppadom) and with the Grand Thali and additional millet and green pea curry, onion and curry leaf fritter, a little baked pastry and a creamed rice pudding. And remember this isn't really a traditional take away as we know it, it's restaurant food served to your door. Yes exactly, bargain.

And it did taste as good as the food in the restaurant itself. The mutton was fall apart soft and sweet, the chicken aromatic and rich in its butter and cream sauce. As for all the accompaniments, it was like Christmas all over again! All the different tastes, textures; the heat and tang of the pickles (especially my favourite green coriander chilli pickle), the cool of the yogurt, the crunch of the salads, the chew of the bread... it's exciting stuff to eat. At no point do you get that monotonous sauce and rice feeling as with your bog standard UK curry house. This is solid, exciting regional Indian cooking.

The packaging is far more appealing that a stack of silver foil trays piled into a sweaty carrier bag, although I did think a tad excessive. Beauty and function is a tricky balance and it would be a shame to get rid of the originality of how the food is presented. Even all the little pots sitting snug in a smaller box with a lid rather than an additional slip case would still look good with the Chilli Pickle sticker. Don't know, tough call but if you ordered for 6, you would need a full recycling box for it all. It will be interesting what other people think. It is however, all recyclable and compostable and even the delivery cars are low-emission Smart cars. Brighton, innit.

Still, I am now super happy to have the option of eating some of Brighton's best food more frequently at home in my pants and although not a take away convert, restaurant food delivered to the door at such a reasonable price is something I want to see more of.

Order home delivery online at or visit the restaurant (details and full menu on