Get a flavour of this laid-back, south-coast city with micro-roast coffees, crunchy rabbit croquettes, buttermilk sponge and spicy bloody marks. Here's a round up of our favourite spots to eat and drink in Brighton
Looking for Brighton restaurants and places to eat in Brighton and Hove? Eating out in these coastal towns is made easy with our foodie guide to the best restaurants in Brighton and the best Brighton cafes and bars. Try the Flour Pot Bakery for freshly baked pastries, The Salt Room for afternoon tea (a Brighton seafront restaurant) and Pascere for elegant fine dining in Brighton.
Best restaurants in Brighton
If you want an elegant Brighton restaurant, visit Pascere, where dishes reflect the seasons. Share small plates such as chicken béchamel croquettes with caramelised chicken skin mayo, or go à la carte and tuck in to slow-cooked beef-cheek pappardelle followed by buttermilk sponge (a lighter sticky toffee pudding).
The Set is one of our favourite places to eat in Brighton. Colourful art, sackcloth cushions and a large breakfast bar liven up brunch at The Set, as do the spicy bloody marys. Watch chefs prepare seasonal dishes in the open kitchen – heritage tomatoes with salty seaweed pesto, super-crisp pork on squidgy potato waffles(learn how to make potato waffles with our easy video), and eggs covered with Marmite hollandaise.
The evening menu’s puddings are spot on; cereal milk, milk ice cream, homemade spelt sugar puffs is a comforting bowl that takes you back to childhood. Menus start from £32 and there are a few surprises thrown in (homemade chicken nuggets and ketchup, a bag of poshed-up sweets to take home), making it good value.
In a nutshell: Brighton favourite Chilli Pickle is a spacious, modern, knowingly kitsch Indian restaurant offering imaginative spins on classic regional dishes from the likes of Pondicherry, Delhi, Kashmir, Hyderabad and the Punjab featuring.
What’s the vibe like? Chilli Pickle has a cool, if heavily branded, canteen vibe – the décor is bursting with vivid Bollywood colours and furnishings are cool shabby chic, with café-style wooden tables and chairs, and metal jugs and tumblers for water.
What’s the food like? The menu’s pretty comprehensive, ranging from set menus of two (£24.95) or three (£28.95) courses, to à la carte options (including curries, biryani, tandoori grills and kebabs). There’s a good selection of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu too, the latter including idli sambhar pumpkin (steamed rice and curry leaf dumplings with sambhar vegetable curry, masala crushed pumpkin, coconut chutney and pickle).
The obligatory poppadums (a mix of roasted and fried) come with four condiments, including a tangy sweet chilli ketchup and a peppery yet sharp lime pickle. Starter-wise, the pretty, down-in-one dahi puri stand out, their crispy shells encasing a creamy spiced yogurt filling with whole chickpeas and a subtle, escalating background heat. Also good is the jhol momo, thick Nepalese steamed chicken dumplings, to be dipped in a chilled tomato and timmur chutney, each bite releasing a satisfying slow-building heat at the roof of the mouth.
For the main course we loved Chilli Pickle’s take on the classic Goan fish curry – the meltingly tender sea bass fillets were nestled in a beautifully sweet tomato, coconut and curry leaf gravy. The light, puffy peshwari naan we ordered alongside it was lent its subtle sweetness by a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a drizzle of honey.
And the drinks? The cocktail menu includes drinks with an Indian twist, such as the Star of India (house-spiced Gosling rum with vanilla and cinnamon syrup, and lime) and chilli and mango margarita (Hornitos tequila with mango purée, chilli and lime). Non-alcoholic coolers such as Persian lemonade, with fresh lemon, rose essence, mint and cucumber ribbons make refreshing counterbalances to the spiced dishes. Be sure to finish with a theatrically twice-poured-at-the-table Kerala coffee, an eye-opening cross between a chai tea and a flat white, laced with that evocative infusion of cardamom.
olive says… Anything you don’t eat can be taken away in doggy bags, and should you be tempted next time by a Friday-night takeaway it’s worth bearing in mind that Chilli Pickle’s Canteen has won Best Takeaway in Britain at the British Curry Awards for the past four years running.
Cin Cin is the best Italian restaurant in Brighton. Sit at the counter to watch staff carve smoked speck, Tuscan finnochiona speckled with fragrant fennel seeds, and slice Prosecco-smoked pecorino cheese. Seasonal small plates rotate, but the giant rabbit croquettes have been on the menu since day one, filled with the creamiest béchamel and lean rabbit meat.
Choose from the bar’s homemade pasta dishes, including black squid-ink pappardelle with little pops of capers, and sturdy gnocchi with Tuscan sausage, crunchy courgette cubes and a light tomato sauce.
Italian cocktails are top notch – start with a spagliato aperitivo, a sparkling prosecco-based negroni drink, and finish with a refreshing sgroppino (lemon sorbet, vodka and prosecco for the perfect cocktail/dessert combo) to set you up for a night on the town.
Douglas McMaster’s ‘zero waste’ restaurant in Brighton has caused quite a stir with its 60-kilo composter that stands in pride of place, at the entrance. Once inside the restaurant, its airy interior and striking reclaimed furniture belies the work that’s going on behind the scenes, where Douglas and his disciples are busy brewing alcohol to serve in recycled jam jars; culturing butter to spread on their own, slowly fermented sourdough; curing local meats; and cooking delicious dishes with ‘intercepted‘ ingredients that would otherwise be destined for the scrapheap.
Dishes such as the brown rice risotto combine waste-free wizardry with culinary know-how. The recipe uses fermented brown rice paste stirred into a fresh, short brown rice risotto along with ‘espresso mushrooms’ that are grown in the used coffee grains from the on-site coffee shop. Curd made with leftover milk from the coffee jugs is added, along with a salsa verde made from herbs grown on the premises in wheely bins.
Try ‘Catch-box fish’ – a dish of ever-changing poached fish caught via the local ‘catch box’ scheme, whereby the restaurant takes whatever the fishermen land. Served with plum vinegar, caramelised onions, seaweed salsa, grilled cucumber and oyster emulsion.
The best seafood restaurant in Brighton. Many people head to The Salt Room to enjoy the catch of the day with a view of Brighton’s original West Pier, but we recommend going for the afternoon tea. It’s a step above the norm with its comforting crumpets, crisp mini toasties (try our top ten toastie recipes here) and a sweet stand heaving with chocolate pebble truffles, scones with elderflower jam, and sticks of candyfloss to take away.
Pike and Pine
In a nutshell: Matt Gillan’s latest venture, since leaving Michelin-starred The Pass in West Sussex, is a café/restaurant in Kemptown offering taster menus of six, eight or 10 courses showcasing the chef’s signature intricate small plates.
What’s the vibe? Walking into Pike & Pine, with its lush greenery hanging from a high ceiling, vast white-marble counter and spare, sleek décor, feels more swanky Balearic island than rough-around-the-edges Brighton. The welcome is attentive and friendly; and the seats to nab are at the striking eight-metre counter, bang next to Matt Gillan’s busy but harmonious kitchen, and right opposite his team as they plate up before you.
What’s the food like? The choice is between a small-plate à la carte menu and three taster menus – six, eight or 10 courses – with optional wine flights (some interesting choices here, including a pleasingly sharp-tasting Slovenian ferment). Gillan makes beautiful-looking plates of food, tiny little details always catching the eye. Despite a timid first half, perfectly tender octopus, earthy black pudding and peppery radish really sets the ball rolling. This was followed by two cuts of pink lamb combined flawlessly with strawberries, onions, samphire and aromatic curried quinoa. Next, a slice of nutty Wigmore ewe’s milk cheese was given a new lease of life attractively adorned with cool watermelon cubes and warming drops of honey. To finish were a lighter-than-a-cloud coconut foam with raspberryice cream, followed by a fluffy chocolate mousse that contrasted pleasingly with little sweet-shop-chewy bites of marzipan and a tart cherry sorbet.
olive says… Visit the restaurant’s daytime coffee-shop alter ago, Red Roaster, for velvety, deeply rich espresso.
A casual all-day restaurant headed by 64 Degrees chef Michael Bremner on Brighton’s newly restored promenade, serving healthy, modern British plates.
Murmur has a great range of gin cocktails, try The Refresher – gin, maraschino, elderflower and lemon or the Hurri Kane – gin, apricot brandy, lime, passion fruit and prosecco – a satisfying mingle of tart and sweet.
Starters include fat, sweet and succulent miso-glazed scallops with lemongrass purée and slow-cooked pork shoulder on a spiced chestnut taco with pickled cox apple and crunchy strips of crackling. A stand out main was a hefty chunk of flaky roast cod smothered in brown shrimp butter with crunchy cauliflower covered in an almond crumb and a deep-green parsley purée. Finish with gorgeously springy sticky toffee pudding with a rich, glossy butterscotch sauce and a chewy ginger snap sombrero holding up a scoop of just-melting vanilla ice cream.
For Flora McTeare, sustainability and being socially responsible has been a huge part of what she set out to achieve at her Brighton restaurant. Lucky Beach now holds the highest rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association and it was chosen as the UK’s favourite sustainable restaurant in 2017. And it’s not just making a difference in the Brighton restaurant that Flora and her team care about.
Each year, Lucky Beach shares its profits with the families of Rwandan coffee farmers. This has resulted in them constructing a school in Musenyi, which has provided safe water, a community centre, farm equipment and a health post to 900 patients a month.
“In 2016, some of our team were working out in Rwanda and we realised that if we changed our business just a small amount then we would be able to make quite a sizeable difference to the lives of the coffee farmers and their fellow villagers. Since then we have donated some of our profits to the project, and have sent some of our team out to help.
“Our first classroom for the Musenyi school is now complete and the construction has started on the medical centre, which is part of wider project which will lead to self-sufficiency for the farmers and the community.
“It makes us feel extremely proud, and makes us want to do more and more, not only for those in Rwanda but also for our community in Brighton. Whether its seeing the kids in Musenyi enjoy their new classroom or staff here working for free on days when we donate our profit, it really does feel special to be at the forefront of such a great project.” luckybeach.co.uk
Want to find the best Brighton café for locals? Meander through North Laine to Pelicano, an espresso bar and micro-roastery where hip locals hang out over coffee and homemade cakes. Huddle inside or shelter in the courtyard with a cup of Brighton blend.
Want to buy tea in Brighton? The Bluebird Tea Company creates unique tea blends ranging from spiced banana bread chai to tropical pineapple. Choose a pretty tin for a Valentine’s Day gift or perch on a yellow, patterned cushion in the rustic tea bar and order your cuppa of choice.
Flour Pot Bakery
Another of the best Brighton cafés, Brighton and Hove’s mini baking empire, Flour Pot Bakery, specialises in artisan breads, inventive bakes and fresh pastries. Try a piece of banana bread at the original Sydney Street branch, or head to the Hove outpost for a huge slice of carrot cake in Scandi surroundings.
Small Batch Coffee Roasters
Coffee is big in Brighton with independent cafés seemingly on every corner. One of the best is Small Batch Coffee Roasters. These guys have been roasting since 2006 and source beans from over 20 different countries, developing relationships with growers to bring the best back home. As the name suggests, the team roasts beans in small batches to ensure freshness, and have a strict quality control process that really makes a difference. They’re really knowledgeable but not snobs, so get involved, have a chat, and discover something new. smallbatchcoffee.co.uk
Best bars in Brighton
The Cocktail Shack
Hidden in a townhouse on Regency Square, The Cocktail Shack is a dinky bar buzzing with tropical vibes. Wiggle to a hopping soundtrack of reggaeton, ska and reggae while folk in patterned shirts shake up cocktails with tongue-in-cheek names like Rye ’n’ Gosling or Banana Del Ray.
Bison Beer Crafthouse
If you thought Brighton couldn’t get any more hipster, think again. Bison Beer Crafthouse, on the edge of The Lanes, is the epitome of the city’s up-and-coming craft beer movement. Hundreds of bottles from small, independent breweries line the walls of its tiny shop. One corner is entirely committed to local beers (including one produced by a guy who grows the hops in his back garden) and it even brews its own version in-store. It’s a beer guru’s paradise, complete with its own loveable sausage dog. The beers aren’t cheap here but which serious craft brew is? If you want something fun and a little different, grab a bottle of the Sippin’ Into Darkness chocolate and martini porter by Hoppin’ Frog and Lervig – it’s seriously good. Bisonbeer.co.uk
In the brand new Harbour hotel, overlooking the seafront, HarBar is fast becoming a hot destination for Saturday night drinks. This award-winning bar has an extensive cocktail menu designed by award-winning mixologist, Alex Palumbo. If you’ve got something to celebrate or are just looking for a classy evening out, this is the place to be. Perch on a red leather stool and watch as bartenders, clad in braces and perfectly pressed shirts, build your drinks with flourish and flair behind the smooth marble bar. Brighton-harbour-hotel.co.uk
Other Brighton cafés, bars and foodie spots to try…
Purezza opened in Brighton in 2015 as the UK’s first vegan pizzeria and it has become so popular with vegans (and non-vegans), that owners Tim Barclay and Stefania Evangelista have recently opened a second site in Camden.
The couple started Purezza simply because they couldn’t find decent Italian vegan food but they also identified the growing trend of people reducing their meat consumption and a greater awareness of where food is coming from.
As well as meat-free pasta dishesand burgers, Purezza serves 15 different wood-fired pizzas made with hemp flour doughs and a low-fat mozzarella-style vegan cheese the owners developed using a blend of organic Italian brown rice, chickpeas and oil. purezza.co.uk
The Open Market
Via the back of Brighton train station (away from the sea) is The Open Market, home to meat, fish and bakery stalls as well as beauty, art and local crafts. Sit in little Greek café Kouzina for hearty home-cooked classics such as moussaka and spanakopita, or grab a falafel (read our guide to making falafel) and some hummus from Smorl’s to take to the beach.
Stop off at tiny Brighton off-licence Trafalgar Wines to stock up on quaffable souvenirs. Though it also sells wines and spirits, it’s especially big on craft beer. Choose from local Sussex brews (Brighton Bier, 360 Degrees, Hastings Brew Co) or explore the world via Sweden’s Omnipollo, the Kiwi Yeastie Boys or Stone from the US. Check out our guide to craft beer to find out more.
No trip to the seaside would be complete without an ice cream. If a 99 just won’t cut it, head to North Laine where you’ll find queues outside Gelato Gusto for flavours made using milk and cream from a local Sussex dairy. There are up to 30 intensely creamy ice creams and sorbets available at any time, from sea salted caramel, to syrup sponge pudding. Sit in and you can make the most of their dessert menu, which features a gelato burger – a warm brioche bun stuffed with gelato. gelatogusto.com
La Cave à Fromage
For the best foodie bargain in Brighton, follow savvy locals to La Cave à Fromage in Hove, for one of its cheese or charcuterie platters. The Sussex platter is a fantastic introduction to regional cheese including Brighton Blue from High Weald Dairy. la-cave.co.uk
Riddle & Finns
It would be a crime to come to the coast and not indulge in some seafood. For fresh-off-the-boat dishes, Riddle & Finns is the place to go. The company was founded in 2006 with the original tucked away in a tiny space in the winding Lanes, but it has recently opened another, bigger, site on the water. Expect oysters, mussels, braised octopus, bream ceviche and frito misto with basil mayo among many more dishes. riddleandfinns.co.uk
The best Brighton hotel
Doubles at Artist Residence Brighton (where you can tuck into a locally sourced full English at the funky breakfast bar, or enjoy a brew in bed, with a view of the West Pier) start from £90 per night, b&b (read our review of Artist Residence Brighton hotel here). This Brighton hotel also houses The Set restaurant and The Cocktail Shack, so you don’t need to leave the building to enjoy some of Brighton’s best food and drink.
The chalk soil of the South Downs provides perfect conditions for grape growing which is why, just a short drive from the city centre, you’ll find multiple English wine producers and vineyards. Harvesting season starts in October and, for two weeks a year, you can get stuck in helping to pick Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Visit Bluebell Vineyard Estate (named after the famous steam railway that runs alongside it) or Court Gardens and learn about the process from vine to bottle, try award-winning wines and meet the people paving the way for English sparkling wine. Bluebellvineyard.org; Courtgardens.com
Words by Alex Crossley, Dom Martin, Sarah Kingsbury, Jordan Kelly-Linden and Mark Taylor
Photographs by Getty, Justin De Souza, Maria Rivans, Paul Winch-Furness