Happy Easter

Happy Easter to everyone! And 10 points, actually make that 100 points, for anyone who can tell me why there is a horse biscuit cake here.

Italian easter horse biscuit

REVIEW: The Little Fish Market Restaurant, Hove

Well this doesn't happen often. I think I have found a new favourite restaurant in Brighton (certainly top three anyway). I almost don't want to tell you about it!

Open for a mere few weeks, I had been hearing great things about the Little Fish Market Restaurant, tucked in the residential streets near the Old market venue. Formerly a Fishmongers, Duncan Ray has taken it over as his new restaurant (keeping the name and the branding which may have confused people a little - it's nothing to do with the former business).

And it's good. It's REALLY good. Beautiful, fresh food, refreshingly served up simply, yet elegantly, minus any cheffy nonsense of scattering your food around the plate so one piece of potato is a 5 minute drive from the other. Ray, despite his impressive CV, wants to feed you not his ego here and God love him for that.

The interior suits the food and the location. Well considered and designed, smart yet relaxed and understated in modern beachy tones. Perfectly matched to the food.

Fish is obviously the dish of the day here and Brighton sure as hell needs more decent fish restaurants. You'll find a meat option or two but vegans and "proper" vegetarians will struggle here.

My Smoked Trout Salad was a perfect starter, light and interesting. I loved the pretty discs of beetroot, the contrast of the freshness of the salad and the smoke of the fish with spikes of horseradish. Nice slithers of trout too which were pleasant to eat as I'm not one for great hunks of raw textured fish. The paper thin shards of crisp potato were something new to me and made the dish so interesting texturally.

Mr GF's fish soup with little brown shrimps and chunky cubes of soft hake was lovely too and gobbled up with the homemade bread and hand churned butter.

Starter sizes were spot on as we were really revved up for the main courses.

I chose the Seabass with Fennel and Pink Grapefruit with a Crab Ravioli. The way the ingredients of this dish were treated realy allowed the gorgeous buttery seabass to deservedly shine. The fennel and grapefruit made it a light (and actually quite feminine) dish. The pasta of the ravioli was thin and toothsome, and held a decent portion of soft crab. I'm smilimg as I write this as it's one of those dishes that sticks in your mind, not for gimmicks or showmanship, just for beautiful, memorable tastes, executed absolutely perfectly.

Mr. GF was clearly on a hake bender with his Hake, Pea Puree, Bacon and Mint dish. Peas, bacon and fish are a winning combination and they got first place here. As with mine, the textures were great. This is the style of food presentation I really like. The duck fat chips were crisp and moorish. Essentially this was a Rolls Royce version of the classic Fish and Chips, again, elegantly presented.

I enjoyed my frozen hazelnut meringue dessert. After my light and fresh meal a heavy or overly chocolaty pudding would have been a bad choice so this was just the ticket. Delicate and satisfied my need of a sweet treat to finish. Again, textures kept things interesting; some element of crunch and crumb to contrast the smooth frozen ones. The passion fruit sorbet was excellent and all of the desserts seem to come with a serving of home-made ice cream in different flavours like gingercake or banana.

The miniscule spoonful of tarte tatin I mananged to wrestle from my husband (the bit of our marriage about sharing our possessions went out the window here) was a darn, darn good example. I thought the raw shreds of fresh apple were a nice touch and texture combination with the caramelised gooiness of the tarte tatin.

When we visited, they were still in the process of getting their booze licence so it was BYO, but this is now in place and they have a good wine selection to choose from. Worth noting is that it is still cash only payment.

Prices were good for what's on offer here. Some fish can be expensive but starters and desserts were around the £6 mark and mains £12-18. When you concider a rack of ribs in one of the generic chain restarant is hitting the £16 mark these days, i say the prices here are more than fair. If they keep the new wine list sensible then this place is incredibly good value for money.

Although not on the main streets on Brighton, I like the fact it is a bit of a hidden gem, and if a restaurant is good, people will come, so I'm sure the 20 odd covers will be filled no problem. With such great cooking, passionate people and wonderful produce, I just know that The Little Fish Market Restaurant is going to be big.

The Little Fish Market
10 Upper Market Street,
Hove, BN3 1AS

DESIGN: Anatomy of a cupcake

Infographics are everywhere at the moment but love this one of a cupcake anatomy from www.smallbatchcreative.com

DESIGN: Gourmet papercut garden salad‏

There is something I really love about food illustrated as papercuts. The tactile nature, colour and intricacies of food can be better represented than flat designs. These ones from Sarah Dennis are particularly gorgeous. And interestingly, her brother is the sous chef at Sussex restaurant Jeremy’s.

“I was thrilled to take on this job and worked hard to create a conceptual plate of gastronomic art inspired by the delicate garden salad. I sketched out the idea for my dish, then individually cut each element by hand from paper before arranging each piece onto a clean white paper cut plate. I particularly enjoyed curling the paper into a courgette and cutting micro cress to create texture. I loved working on this piece which has inspired me to create a whole range of food inspired artwork. I'd love to see a restaurant capture the magic of their creations in this creative way.”

Check out her shop here.

REVIEW: Mange Tout, Brighton

You may remember I posted a lunch review of Mange Tout a while back. Well since then they have gone on to open Plateau, which has been very well received. Mange Tout has also firmed up as a dinner destination as well, and, not having returned risking the European-paced service during my lunch hour again, I was more than happy to try MT again where time was not so much of an issue, as dinner I am happy to linger over.

There is something about MT that I really like, as per my first visit the interior is very appealing, striking the balance between cool and sophisticated perfectly. A very modern French bistro it is.

The chalked up plats du jour are select, yet varied enough to satisfy most tastes. Pumpkin & Saffron Velouté, Crab Cakes, Terrine en Croute or Snails to start. Steaks and Mussels for mains (bien sûr) plus other options like Hake, Guinea Foul or Crispy Gnocci (vegetarians, that token one's for you) were on offer. It all read deliciously, the meats were local and seafood Cornish.

The amuse for the night was a welcome little mushroom and truffle soup.

With the winter nip in the air, the Choucroute Alsacienne (French version of sauerkraut) with sausage and boiled potatoes seemed appealing and something a bit different, but I did crave steak. And as per my last visit, I think I chose badly again. 

Now I've come round to having steak pink, even bloody, but I do not and will not ever like gnawing raw meat like a savage beast. Why would I do to a restaurant and pay for something I could eat straight out of the wrapper from the butchers? That's not cooking, it's a serving suggestion with a marked up price. Now this time, my medium steak was meduim on one half and rare on the other (quite some skill!). Had the meat been extreamly tender then it would have been palettable for me, but the rib-eye in question really took some chewing and I didn't even attempt the thick white ribbon of fat in the middle. The fries, well chips really, were heavily salted, but I like that, but most importantly crisp. The Bearnaise sauce was a decent example although a little cheeky charging an extra £1 for when the steak was £17 I thought. If I'm honest, I would have preferred to spend my money on the fillet steak at Cote down the road for the same price.

Round the table, the gnocci were gorgeously crisp althought the dish lacked a little dimension but the Ginea Foul got a thumbs up and the generous portion of Mussels smelt lovely. 

Desserts were nicely presented. My Winterberry and Almond Torte was rich but not overly sweet or sickly and perfectly matched with the licorice ice cream for a grown up dessert. The shortbreads that seemed to be on most people's desserts were a little bland. 

Service was perfectly paced for dinner, very French and rather charming too.

I think going on reviews I have read, Plateau may be a better option for dining. However, I wouldn't rule out a return to Mange Tout though but will lay off the steak option next time. Nice, intimate restaurants are few and far between in Brighton so I would say give it a go if you are in the area.

Mange Tout
81 Trafalgar St
North Laine
Brighton BN1 4EB

EVENT & COMPETITION(now closed): Brighton Foodies Festival, Hove Lawns, 4-6 May 2013

This competition has now closed. Congrats M Stafford! 

You can still use the 2-4-1 discount code though - see bottom of post. 

Brighton kicks of the first of eight Foodies Festivals this year on Hove Lawns. There have been a few events there now and is pretty decent way to spend the day sipping bubbles by the sea.

I suppose what I quite like about these sorts of food festivals is that they are targeted at everyone, not just die-hard food geeks. And it's a good way of showing off talented local food businesses, chefs or restaurants to people that may not have come across them before.

Anyway, at the Brighton event there is quite a lot on. It's a decent sized site which will have;
  • Bake and Cake Theatre (G&T Steampunk hands-on baking demos - I have no idea what this is but I like it)
  • Chocolate Theatre (demos from Divine Chocolate and Sciolti Chocolates)
  • Homeware Village
  • Pop up restaurant from Fishy Fishy & Jamie's Italain
  • Local and national award-winning Producers' Market 
  • Street Food Avenue
I've already had a cuddle with one of the Two Greedy Italians and hope to get a squeeze of the other one, Gennaro Contaldo (love him!) at some point, although I'll probably be picturing him with that octopus down his Speedos which is etched on my mind from the TV series *shudder*. As well as Gennaro, a few local chefs (including Stephen Crane of Ockenden Manor, Jake Northcote Green from Yum Yum Ninja and Matt Gillan from The Pass) will be doing a spot of live cooking too.

Booze seems to feature heavily with a Wine Village (lots of villages featuring here. It's Brighton. Wot you sayin'?), hay bale bar area with British cider and ale and a double-decker bar bus. Ding ding.

There will be plenty for the kids too with a Children's Cookery Theatre, where they will be creating panda cupcakes and bee muffins (obviously not with real pandas and bees, that will really rile the Brighton veggie massive).

Me? Well, I'll be heading over to the City Beach for ice-cream and sand castle building with the bambino. Happy days.

Competition (now closed)
I'm giving away a pair of passes for the full 3 days worth £36. All you have to do is subscribe to this blog (if you don't already) AND do ONE of the following;
  • leave your name and email address in the comments below
  • email me at thegraphicfoodie(at)hotmail.com with "Foodies Comp" in the title
  • tweet me @graphic_foodie
T&Cs at the end of this post.

And the winner is Malcolm Stafford. Well done! 

Voucher code
If you are not successful, you can still get 2-4-1 tickets using the code "FOODIES 241". The code is valid until the day before the festival and can be redeemed when booking tickets through  www.foodiesfestival.com

2013 Foodies Festivals full details and tickets are now available from www.foodiesfestival.com

  • Competition closes at GMT midday Friday 19th April 2013. 
  • A winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator. 
  • The winner will be contacted, and prize sent direct from Foodies Festival. 
  • The prize is two x 3-day passes for the Brighton Foodies Festival running 4-6 May 2013. 
  • No part of a prize is exchangeable for cash or any other prize. 
  • The judges’ decision will be final, and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • Your email details will not be used for any purpose other than to contact the winner and will be disposed over after competition close.

REVIEW: The Bull, Ditchling

The Bull in Ditchling is lovely. One of those pubs that smells of old wood but has moved with the times to satisfy modern rural pub goers. It's a good example of a historic pub that has had a sympathetic facelift, with modern touches compementing the old. Somewhere that would appeal to all ages. Comfortable with a hint of luxury about it, y'know? It's a tricky one to get right, and so many get it wrong, but the Bull storms it*.

And everyone agrees because when we arrived at midday on Sunday for a roast, it was already rather busy. Seeing as you can't book for Sunday lunch, it's really worth getting there on the early side to secure a good spot. Staff don't seem to be hell bent on turning tables (thankfully) so you may have to endure a bit of a wait. There is talk of extending the pub into an adjoining building which would help but for now I'm sure you could find something to do in the bar area!

Anyway, I'm not one for starters before roasts so we launched straight into the main event. My chicken supreme was soft, soft, soooooooft. So good I stupidly let Baby Foodie try it and he pestered me until I gave him over half of it. Critter. The 5 baby carrots, all stood up, were sweet touch, although some would argue contrived, but I think the concept here is to offer something a little different or an element of surprise as the powers that be here are clearly keen on details. Cabbage was nicely acidically spiked and the firm slice of stuffing aromatic. The only thing I would say, which was a shame, was the plate was cold so the gravy, having been made properly with the fats, congealed unappealingly on the side but thankfully didn't ruin the dish.

Around the table, as per mine, the beef (two nice thick slices) and the pork belly went down a treat. The belly could have been cooked a touch longer as that would have help render the fat down further and made the meat more tender but it was a thick ol' slab of it.

Those wanting that borderline grotesque pile up of a pub Sunday lunch may be disappointed but I think portions and vegetable variety were spot on (and as you know I'm greedy), and what you got was good quality which I'd take over the former any day. Best bit is that it left room for desserts and room they should be given.

Personally, I only got as far as the first option on the menu as it was written for me. Pistachio and Olive Oil cake with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. They must have known I was coming. The vivid green line of crunchy pistachio crumbs, soft, crubly cake and sticky caramel sauce were a fantastic combination of textures and really beautiful flavours. Seriously, I could have given a Sunday sermon on it. I really don't like overly sweet desserts, certainly not after a roast, and this was one gorgeous grown up treat.

And how pretty is the Rubabrb and Apple Pie (top picture)? Tasted lovely too, great hit of just-right sharpness from the rubabrb toned town with the Calvados Creme Anglaise.

I'd think that the cheeseboard would be worth a try, although only featuring only one local on there (Sussex Charmer). But seeing as I've now tried most of our (fantastic) local cheeses, the Burwash Rose (washed in rose water), Afterburn Cheddar (exactly what you are thinking) and the Flower Rose Sheep's cheese (love, love sheep's milk cheese) would be a nice taste journey around the UK. Maybe next time.

Roasts were priced around the £12-13 mark which is pretty good value for the quality and in comparison to others in the area.

Staff were great. Friendly, professional, smart. None of that teenage weekend staff malarky. Baby Foodie was welcomed and they have those nice Stokke HandySitt booster chairs so he could sit right up to the table. There's a children's menu available with decent, proper food options for them too.

As Sunday roasts tend to be more of a laid back affair for proper "gastro-pubs" this has left me really wanting to try out more off the standard weekday menu at the Bull. If you want to get out of Brighton but don't want to travel far, the Bull is a stellar option.

The Bull Ditchling
2 High St Ditchling, West Sussex BN6 8TA
01273 843147
*Apart from the scary frosted glass loo cubicles becasue i was wearing a particularly high-contrast outfit and noone like peeing with an unesy feeling, hear me?