olive’s top must-visits for foodies in Brighton
Wild Flor is an intimate, smart, welcoming neighbourhood bistro in Hove that matches affordable, high-quality wines with classic British and French food. The à la carte menu offers a choice of snacks, and a concise selection of starters, mains and desserts (plus cheeses), focussing on comfort classics and seasonal ingredients. The service is jovial, relaxed and familiar, and you’re given a sense that those front of house have a passion for what their restaurant is trying to do – especially when it comes wine-pairing suggestions to match your personal tastes.
This modern British outfit (run by the canny former owners of popular Brighton vegetarian restaurant Food for Friends) has an ethos of ‘being kind’ to the planet, and there’s a strong emphasis on high-welfare meats, sustainable fish, local fruit and veg, and preserving and pickling to extend the seasons. The interiors are warm – rattan chairs, cascading plants and a pretty-in-pink marble bar – and the chefs make the most of an open fire while creating zero-waste, maximum-flavour dishes. The restaurant has bigger environmental ambitions, too, with plans to use 100% green energy in the future.
Cool and unpretentious, Etch is a casual and intimate space offering fine dining, with two weekly changing tasting menus. The interior features dark blue walls, bold orange leather seats, trendy neon lighting and clothless tables, while staff look the part, dressed in tweed waistcoats, ankle swingers and pin rolls, and brogues. Chef Steven Edwards works with local producers from the surrounding Sussex countryside to pick the freshest seasonal ingredients for their intricate dishes – expect the likes of Sussex Trenchmore beef with charred Hispi cabbage, locally caught scallops with squid crackers, and cherries filled with crème fraîche.
The Salt Room
A modern British restaurant on Brighton’s seafront focussed on Josper-grilled fish and meat, and local, sustainable produce. The restaurant has a contemporary, refined look, with a mixture of whitewashed, bare-brick and wood-slatted walls, bistro-style tables, curvy dark-wood Scandi-esque seats and banquettes – in summer, the terrace looking out across the sea is the place to be. The fish main courses are the outstanding reason to come to The Salt Room, including the likes of lemon sole on the bone, with purple-sprouting broccoli, wild garlic, miniature capers and red grapes; and tandoori monkfish with roasted cauliflower.
The Little Fish Market
With just 20 covers, one-man-band chef Duncan Ray’s diminutive restaurant certainly lives up to its name. But, what it lacks in space, it more than makes up for in quality, which should come as no surprise considering the fact that Duncan’s CV includes a stint at The Fat Duck and time spent working under Marco Pierre White and John Burton-Race. Cooking single-handedly, this might sound like a modest operation but the £69 no-choice five-course tasting menu displays plenty of ambition and talent, with dishes such as monkfish, mussel curry and apple followed by Gigha halibut, celeriac, seaweed potato and Hispi cabbage.
Sit at the counter to watch staff carve smoked speck, Tuscan finocchiona speckled with fragrant fennel seeds, and slice prosecco-smoked pecorino cheese. Seasonal small plates rotate, or choose from the bar’s 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 sbagliato 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.
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, 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. The three-course set menu is £39 and there are a few surprises thrown in (chicken nuggets and ketchup, a bag of poshed-up sweets to take home), making it good value.
A casual all-day restaurant headed by 64 Degrees chef Michael Bremner on Brighton’s newly restored promenade, serving healthy, modern British plates. Set within the promenade’s newly restored Victorian arches, with several folding doors opening out towards the beach, Murmur has been designed with summertime al fresco dining in mind. The à la carte menu includes the likes of spiced coconut fish soup with toasted garlic focaccia to start, and a main of baked cod, sake butter sauce, cucumber and red dulse; while the strong cocktail list features a grapefruit aperitif with yuzu tonic.
Stay at this quirky boutique hotel overlooking the iconic West Pier: each room has its own unique style, plus there’s a cocktail bar hidden in the basement serving up bespoke drinks. Rooms at Artist Residence (where you can tuck into a locally sourced full English at the funky breakfast bar, or enjoy a brew in bed, with sea views) feature bespoke artwork and are decked out with Robert’s radios, mini Smeg fridges and Tunnock’s caramel bars for nostalgic snacking. The 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.
More places to eat and drink in Brighton
It’s a little off the beaten track but Moksha is a big favourite with local Brightonians and well worth a diversion if your looking for brilliantly cooked, well-priced food in a smart, spacious, buzzy café. The coffee’s top-notch, and with award-winning brunches including huevos rancheros, shakshuka and the Moksha Breakfast (free-range Sussex cumberland sausage, bacon, eggs, grilled flat mushroom and beef tomato, homemade baked beans, toasted sourdough and optional black pudding), a diversionary stop-off at Moksha is a guaranteed win.
This tiny neighbourhood restaurant run by husband and wife team Orson and Linda Whitfield punches well above its weight with dishes celebrating local suppliers and their produce. Everything at Semolina is made from scratch, and tempting dishes include the likes of slip sole, clams and lemon verbena; cuttlefish, sea vegetables and gremolata; and sage-brined pork loin, bubble and squeak, and rhubarb chutney. Sussex is well represented on the drinks menu, too, with three regional beers and a cider, as well as white and sparkling wines on offer.
A five-minute walk via the back of Brighton train station is The Open Market, home to some great little independents. Sit in snug Greek café Kouzina for hearty home-cooked classics such as moussaka and spanakopita; grab a falafel and some hummus from Smorl’s to take to the beach; order a delicious steaming bowl of bibimbap from Korean-Japanese eatery Kor-pan; bag some absolutely top-notch mini sausage rolls from McStrongs; or indulge in authentic Mexican tacos at welcoming family-run Casa Azul.
The Chilli Pickle
This Brighton institution is a spacious, modern, knowingly kitsch Indian restaurant offering imaginative spins on classic regional dishes. Choose from the likes of keemar methi (Sussex lamb mince cooked Punjabi style with mint, coriander, chilli, garam masala and roasted cumin served with masala chapatis, hung yogurt and green chilli mint pickle); and mussel rasam and toasted poa (Cornish mussles in a Tamil pepper, beets and tomato broth, curry leaf, ginger and toasted cumin brioche).
This modern, small-plates restaurant and cocktail bar in the heart of Brighton’s revamped Lanes makes for an ideal date-night option if you’re looking for a place with a lively vibe. Service is cheery and prompt, and sit on stools at the pass to see the chefs in action, serving up the likes of bream ceviche with lime juice, raisins, chilli and coriander; radishes dressed with crème fraîche and furikake; and braised squid rings with tomatoes, black olives and ’nduja. Flint House doesn’t take reservations, so if you have to wait a while, use your time well sipping a Flint House Fizz (rhubarb liqueur, red wine vinegar and sparkling wine) at the upstairs cocktail bar and terrace.
Fatto a Mano
Fatto a Mano brings an authentic taste of Naples to its three restaurants (two in Brighton, one in Hove) with its soft, pillowy wood-fired pizzas. The chefs collaborate with producers in Sussex, and there are regular staff tours of Italy, which inspire ideas such as the pizza topped with tomato, spicy minced pork, spianata, roasted peppers, mozzarella, basil and parmesan; and the tomato-less ‘white’ pizza with fennel sausage, Neapolitan broccoli, chilli, provola, mozzarella and parmesan.
Flour Pot Bakery
Brighton and Hove’s mini baking empire Flour Pot Bakery (there are seven outposts dotted around the city) specialises in artisan breads, inventive bakes and fresh pastries. Try a slice of Brighton Blackout Cake (a full-on three-layered chocolate sponge cake) at the original Sydney Street branch, or head to the Hove outpost to stock up on breads – the likes of challah, sunflower rye and seeded sourdough – to take to the beach for a picnic.
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