The Vault at Milroy’s is the best subterranean spot in Soho

You’d be forgiven for assuming that Milroy’s on Greek Street,Soho is just another shop. Sure, the fact that it’s the oldest whisky shop in London gives it that extra bit of pizzazz, but a quick glance inside reveals nothing more than a decent off-licence-cum-tasting-bar packed with whisky connoisseurs catching up over a glass of single malt.

However, head to the back of the shop and you’ll see a large bookcase. Press a button, and said bookcase swings open to reveal the blue-lit stairs that lead down to The Vault – a hidden 55 seat basement bar where you can find some of the best cocktails in London. The dimly lit, cosy little room feels like one of London’s best-kept secrets, despite the fact that this established bar is usually packed with the same sort of clientele as every other London haunt – city boys, well-dressed couples and plenty of media types. One of the house rules is “no d*ckheads allowed” – stag parties are (also) banned – so you won’t find any unpleasantly raucous behaviour here. The vibe is relaxed, friendly and cheerfully intimate. This speakeasy-style bar feels like a little clandestine world of its own, a den of debauchery far removed from the bustle of the cobbled streets above.

Superb atmosphere aside, it’s the new cocktail menu by bar manager Chris Tanner, who joined the Vault from another of Soho’s speakeasies (Milk and Honey) that’s really worth rhapsodising over. Classics are often best left untampered with, but the smooth, subtle Coconut Butter Old Fashioned (£9.50) – featuring cardamom in the place of orange rind – tastes even better than a perfectly made original. The Porter House Punch (£9.50) is fruity and refreshing, as is the tropically flavoured Kingston Cocktail (£9.50) – made from kummel, Jamaican rum, allspice orange juice and lemon. If you’re the kind of man who, prefers a long drink after a long day, then we’d suggest the delicious Echo Park (£9.50) – gin, ginger, saffron, fennel and honey blended and served in a tall glass with lots of ice.

The standout drink however is the Japanese Rose Garden, made from Nikka by the barrel, cocchi rose vermouth, mirto rosso and chambord (£11.50). Not one for the faint hearted, this utterly fantastic, lethally potent cocktail’s ingenuity lies in how well the specific blend of ingredients showcase the Japanese whisky. Hardly a surprising achievement from a specialist whisky shop and bar, but impressive all the same. The bartenders are also happy to go off menu, and can whip up any conceivable cocktail if you so wish, but this just isn’t the kind of place you’d order a mojito in. The staff are in general very attentive and keen to help with the menu, but the only minor criticism we’d charge The Vault with is the amount of time you have to wait between ordering and receiving your drink. This isn’t the bar for the sneaky after-work “quickie” type of tipple.

The Vault is intimate, unpretentious and feels refreshingly authentic in a city of cookie-cutter cocktail bars. This is the place to take a date or to catch up with friends over a conspiratorial cocktail away from the frenzy of London. Just don’t expect to be able to stand up straight after sampling several of Tanner’s whisky wonders.

3 Greet Street, Soho, London W1D 4NX. thevaultsoho.co.uk

Isaac At Review

The concentrated number of eateries in Brighton & Hove never ceases to amaze me. And yet, in the six years I have been dining out in our seaside town, I have never had a culinary experience quite like Isaac At.

Serving up contemporary British food, this new fine dining concept offers so much more than just dinner. Eating here is an entire food event. The brainchild of 23-year-old head chef Isaac, the restaurant popped up on Gloucester Street last year. The focus is provenance, with a menu that showcases seasonal, fresh ingredients. The label attached to each menu describes the food as “inspired by the agricultural bounty of the Sussex Downs and beyond”, and if the food mileage list provided is anything to go by, they’ve totally embraced this ethos.

The restaurant space itself mirrored the food that we were served. Small, elegant and yet un-fussy, the minimalist décor was light and modern. At the centre of the 32-seat space is the open kitchen. Food is prepared in front of diners, giving guests and chefs the chance to interact. In keeping with the intimate and informal environment, each course is announced to the room by the chefs themselves. Upon arrival, the wonderful restaurant manager Sophia showed us to our seats at a communal table. Although we were a little hesitant about this ‘social’ aspect at first, it actually worked really well. Given that all of the guests are enjoying the same dishes from the set menu, chatting about it with other foodies made for a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. The effect was akin to being at a fabulous dinner party.

We started the evening off with an aperitif, a glass of the local Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury Sparkling Brut (£8.50) for myself, and a Silly Moo Cider from East Sussex (£4.90) for my partner. Both were light and lovely. When the time for wine came around, the assistant chef himself, George T, came to aid us in making our decision. He suggested the Sedlescombe Biodynamic 2013 from East Sussex (a very reasonable £31, considering that’s the priciest white on offer), which turned out to be an excellent choice.

The pre-starter was one amazing mouthful of pure deliciousness. Isaac’s take on a mini smoked salmon sandwich – complete with miniature cubes of cucumber – was delicate and expertly executed. Also worth mentioning was the freshly baked bread, served with slab of Ringmer butter.

Next was the asparagus, egg yolk, pork scratching and locally foraged scurvy cress. The crunch of the pork scratching offset the richness of the yolk, and they both made a great accompaniment to the British asparagus.

The cuttlefish, smoked apple, bok choi and cauliflower that followed was, I must admit, not really to my taste. Call me a philistine, but I like my squid-like fish battered and fried. However I can appreciate that the dish was very refined, beautifully presented and definitely rather different. Isaac At is all about showing diners new ways to enjoy unusual ingredients, and it was good to see the dynamic young chefs embrace experimentation.

The main course of pork neck and belly, ratte potato, smoked broccoli and goosefoot was also a delight. We were a little disconcerted when we first saw ‘goosefoot’ on the menu, but actually it was tasty cress, also locally foraged. The pork neck was cooked to perfection, beautifully pink and velvet soft, whilst the belly was salty and crisp, reminding me of a fantastic bit of bacon.

The palate cleanser of blackberry and cucumber ice that followed did just that, as even after four courses we were still able to find room for dessert. The lavender ice cream, chocolate, lime and rapeseed was a pleasant surprise, given that lavender has the potential to taste like potpourri. However this was very subtle, and paired with the aerated chocolate it made a refined yet relatively light ending to our meal. I say ending, although it actually wasn’t, as we still squeezed in a final course of two charming little petits fours.

All in all, this is the type of fine dining that even the most hardened of sceptics could get behind. The team had clearly meticulously considered every aspect of the evening and aside from the food itself, the service was outstanding. What makes Isaac At unusual is the pairing of high quality food with a casual environment; something Brighton had previously lacked. At £45 per head on a Friday evening and £47 on a Saturday, a night at Isaac At is also unlikely to break the bank.

This piece was published in the June 2016 issue of BN1 magazine.

www.isaac-at.com

Brighton’s Best Beer Gardens

Surprisingly enough, it can be a tricky process trying to find the perfect pub garden for soaking up the sun in this seaside city. Brighton & Hove may be famed for their beaches, but the relatively small number of south-facing gardens means you can often end up spending a warm afternoon chasing the sun around the city.

This summer, we’ve done the ‘hard work’ for you, and have compiled a handy list of Brighton & Hove’s ultimate pub gardens, for when only a cold pint in the sunshine will do.


THE SETTING SUN

This little gem on Windmill Street in Hanover has arguably the best beer garden in the city. The small, low-walled garden provides breath-taking panoramic views of Brighton & Hove and the surrounding area. On a clear day you can see all the way to Worthing Pier, 12 miles away. The view also includes a lot of ocean, so much so that on a hot day with a glass of rosé in hand, you’d be forgiven for feeling as though you’re sat somewhere in France. With a friendly, intimate atmosphere and good food to boot, it’s well worth hiking up the hill to visit The Setting Sun. Just make sure to get there early, as this local favourite fills up fast!

1 Windmill Street, Brighton, BN2 0GN


THE CONNAUGHT

Situated just up from the seafront in Hove, The Connaught Pub & Kitchen boasts a beautiful, secluded beer garden with plenty of cute picnic tables. Far more spacious than many of the more central establishments, The Connaught’s garden gets plenty of sun and has a chilled out vibe. There’s both a patio area and plenty of grass, as well as lots of lovely plants scattered around the edges. The pub is dog friendly too, so you’ll often find a couple of adorable pooches catching some rays alongside their owners. Aside from the garden, the real clincher is that The Connaught does fantastic food, most notably the mountainous roasts served on a Sunday. Be sure to book in advance though, as they do get very busy.

48 Hove Street, Hove, BN3 2DH


THE CRESCENT

This lovely pub in Seven Dials boasts a brilliant sun trap out at the back. The paved garden is spacious and ideal for larger groups. The space is furnished with wrought iron tables, umbrellas for those rare occasions when it gets just a little too hot, and plenty of seating. The Crescent serves locally sourced food every day, and has great selection of world beers. They also have an impressive range of spirits, especially gin and vodka, perfect for those days when a beer just won’t do. Situated on Clifton Hill, The Crescent is out of the way enough that it rarely gets rammed, but also central enough so that you can pop up there from town in a matter of minutes.

6 Clifton Hill, Brighton, BN1 3HL


13220610_940424139388372_8624335300180148278_oNEIGHBOURHOOD

This Kemptown institution on St James’s Street has a big paved garden perfect for a summer of revelry. Neighbourhood is staunchly independent, which explains why this popular spot has such eccentric décor. Inspired by dive bars with a strongly artistic vibe, this two-floor venue is bursting with mismatched furniture, locally produced artwork and vintage nick-knacks. There’s plenty of seating outside and, although walled on all sides, the garden still gets sun all afternoon. You can even book one of their cabanas, should you and your friends want to make like you’re in Miami for the evening. Well, not quite, but hey there’s palm trees! Live music means that the garden – complete with BBQ and brightly coloured furnishings – is an ideal place to kick back and relax on a warm evening.

101 St James’s Street, Brighton, BN2 1TP


HOVE PLACE

Hove Place is a casual ‘bistro pub’ in the heart of Hove, just off Church Road. A firm favourite with locals, their stunning Italian garden is a welcome sanctuary amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Their modern British food comes highly recommended and, separated into bistro, pub and deli menus, caters to all sensibilities. The garden is beautifully furnished, complete with heaters for those days when there’s no choice but to submit to our typical English weather. The garden is lovely at any time of day, but if it’s hot and sunny it’s best to head there early as once you’ve got a seat you won’t want to leave! They even have an outdoor TV screen for those of you who just can’t miss out on the summer’s sporting events.

First Avenue, Hove, BN3 2FH


THE BRUNSWICK

The Brunswick is an independently owned pub in Hove, just off the seafront on Holland Road, known primarily as a live music venue. The pub itself is huge – there’s the main room, the basement and the music and arts room dubbed ‘The Venue’ – but so is the garden. This space is undoubtedly one of the biggest and sunniest in all of Brighton & Hove, with plenty of picnic-style benches and larger tables perfect for groups. They do a good range of drinks (including some great craft beers) and serve food by Gorilla Grill & BBQ, which features American-style pub grub such as burgers and hotdogs. Word on the street is that the garden may be refurbished soon, so keep your eyes peeled, as it may be even better!

The Brunswick, 1-3 Holland Road, Hove, BN3 1JF


hampton-arms-brighton-02THE HAMPTON ARMS

The Hampton is a cosy pub just a few minutes from the centre of town in the Clifton Hill area. This little place has a good food menu and a nice selection of cask ales, ciders and wines. The pub is fabulously intimate and makes for a great winter watering hole, but The Hampton can also be an ideal summer spot as the south-facing garden gets a lot of sun. The little courtyard out the back is compact but as the pub is hidden away behind the back of Western Road, you can often get lucky and find the garden rather empty.

57 Upper North Street, Brighton, BN1 3FH


THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR

Just up from Brighton Station on Guildford Road, The Battle of Trafalgar is a great back-street spot for pub traditionalists and sun worshippers alike. A world away from some of Brighton’s more pretentious establishments, it’s the locals that largely frequent The Battle of Trafalgar. A real hidden gem, from the front you’d never guess that this pub boasts one of the loveliest beer gardens in Brighton. It’s surprisingly large with lots of seating, and although rather urban in feel, there’s a still lot of greenery. This old-fashioned pub has a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and serves a range of ales. Lynsey’s Kitchen is responsible for the traditional pub grub served here, with a focus on providing vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

34 Guildford Road, Brighton, BN1 3LW


1371044877_good-companion-42-625x417THE GOOD COMPANIONS

The Good Companions on Dyke Road is another pub in the Seven Dials area that boasts a large garden. Recently refurbished, The Good Companions has both a paved front area complete with enormous benches and a large decked courtyard out back. The back garden is kitted out with panelled booths (each with a very handy heater) and plenty of picnic-style benches, should you be unlucky enough to miss out on a booth. The Good Companions serves great, locally sourced food and offers a combination of real Sussex ales and world beers. The pub tends to be at it’s busiest on Friday afternoons, and thanks to the buzzy, friendly atmosphere, it’s an ideal spot to meet mates for an after work drink in the sun.

132 Dyke Road, Brighton, BN1 3TE


REVOLUTION

Formerly known as Vodka Revolution, this is undoubtedly the nicest place you’ll find on West Street. Although not strictly speaking a ‘pub’, this bar boasts Brighton’s biggest outdoors drinking area (with the exception of the beach of course!). Beyond the courtyard space used primarily by in-and-out smokers, you’ll find a sprawling area filled with plush sofas and wooden spaces, ideal for parking yourself all night long. With a giant drinks menu and a mouth-watering food menu to boot, you could spend all evening here after the sun goes down. As well as the nicely finished garden and the main room, there are bars both upstairs and down, meaning there’s never a dull moment at Revolution.

77 West Street, Brighton, BN1 2RA


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATHE SIDEWINDER

The Sidewinder on Upper St James’s Street boasts not only one but two huge beer gardens, giving you ample amounts of room in which to catch those precious summer rays. As with the majority of venues on this list, those kind people at The Sidewinder have very sensibly kitted out both gardens with heaters, for those days when even in the sun it’s a little chilly. The kitchen is run by Smokin’ Gringos, serving up Mexican street food every day with the exception of Sundays, where roasts and a build-your-own-Bloody-Mary bar take centre stage. Oh, and there’s also a multi-award winning hair stylist running a shabby-chic salon upstairs, because you know, it’s Brighton, after all.

65 St James’s Street, Brighton, BN2 1JN


PATTERNS

OK so admittedly, Patterns is also not technically a pub, and nor is their terrace a beer garden, but it’s a bloody great place to have a drink in the sun. Open all year round and with views of the pier, the terrace is kitted out with wooden panelling and furniture so brightly coloured it screams ‘summer’. Line your stomach with hot dogs and chips from The Dog Haus whilst enjoying one of Patterns’ many cocktails and by night, if you’re still standing, head inside for tunes provided by a live DJ. Also worth mentioning is the weekend brunch, which includes unlimited Bloody Marys and Prosecco. Need we say more?

10 Marine Parade, Brighton, BN2 1TL

This piece was originally published in BN1 magazine- July 2016

Carnival Jerk Chicken

I’m sharing my jerk chicken recipe today in honour of the Notting Hill carnival this weekend. I’ve been going to carnival for the last ten years and one of the best things about it is all the yummy food. The smell of the bbqs combined with the carni inebriation that only red stripe can offer is a truly amazing thing.  This is not the time to play it safe with a boring slice of pizza, you’ve got to go for the properly authentic Caribbean food as it’s some of the best you’ll ever taste outside of the West Indies.

My jerk recipe is a little unorthodox in that I use chicken breasts as opposed to the more traditional bone-in thighs or legs. That’s not to say that it’s any less delicious though, the marinade/ sauce is unreal! I often find that jerk chicken can be a bit dry but that’s far from the case here. After colouring the meat you cook it in the sauce which keeps it really tender and flavourful.

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 chicken breasts
4 corn on the cob

Marinade
– thumb sized piece of ginger
– 1 shallot
– 1 small bunch coriander
– 1 bunch of spring onions
– 1 small bunch of fresh thyme
– 3 bay leaves nutmeg
– 1 level tablespoon ground allspice
– juice of 1 lime
– 4 garlic cloves
– 3 to 4  tablespoons white wine vinegar
– slug of dark rum (approx. 2 tablespoons worth)
– 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
– 1 tablespoon of honey
– 1 scotch bonnet

Rice ‘n’ Peas
1 small bunch spring onions (chopped)
ground allspice (half tea spoon)
250g long-grain rice
chicken stock cube
tin coconut milk
1 tin kidney beans
2 sprigs thyme

Method

Start by giving the fat end of the chicken breast a little bash so as to ensure it cooks evenly or, alternatively, give it a couple of centimetres snip in a vertical line through the thickest part of the breast. Season and rub with a little bit of oil – I use coconut – and then set to one side whilst getting on with the marinade. You’ll want to put the kettle on for the rice at this point as brown rice can take forever. Pop the rice into a deep frying pan with a lid or large wide saucepan and add  200ml of water (mixed with the stock cube) plus the can of coconut milk. Throw in the herbs, spices and onions before stirring and popping on the lid. Set your oven to 180 degrees.

Roughly chop the ginger, garlic, spring onions and shallot and put in a blender together with the thyme leaves (reserving a few sprigs for the rice) and the rest of the marinade ingredients. Whizz it up until it has formed a smooth paste, loosening with  little more vinegar if needs be. Taste and adjust accordingly. It may need a little more honey or a little more soy sauce at this stage depending on your personal preferences.

Now that you’ve got the sauce all ready, put a griddle pan on a high heat and colour the chicken breasts. You don’t want to cook them all the way through, you just want the nice lines from the griddle on both sides. Once you’ve done this, pop the chicken pieces into a baking dish (put about half the marinade at the bottom of the dish so that the meat can rest on top) before evenly covering with the remainder of your marinade. Cover loosely with tin foil and put in the oven for around fifteen minutes, uncovering for the final five. When you put the chicken in, check on your rice and add the kidney beans (drained and rinsed) with a little water if needs be, before covering again.

Lightly steam the corn on the cob whilst you wipe down the griddle pan and return it to a high heat. Once the corn has steamed for around 6 minutes, take it out of the steamer and give it some nice colour on the griddle. You want lovely charred bits as you would if doing corn on the bbq.

Serve the chicken on top of the rice, covered in plenty of sauce, together with the corn!

Jerk chicken 2

 

Healthy Baking

Attitudes towards healthy eating have changed drastically over the last few years. Concern for what you put into your body- be it wheat flour, sugar, dairy- has never been so main stream. A quick glance at #eatclean on Insta should give you a good idea of the current healthy eating landscape; natural is in, anything processed or refined is most definitely out.

Wellness warriors such as Deliciously Ella, Natasha Corrett (Honestly Healthy) and the Hemsley sisters have become household names, with their recipes that offer healthy alternatives to traditionally naughty foods proving to be particularly popular. We all love a sweet treat from time to time , so it’s no wonder that guilt free baking has captured the foodie imagination. Companies such as Livia’s Kitchen and Hardihood are leading the way in healthier sweet treats, but when it comes to nutritional value, nothing beats making your own.

In the recipes that follow, unhealthier ingredients are substituted with vegetables and other natural products, meaning you never have to feel guilty about satisfying your sweet tooth again.

1. Deliciously Ella’s Sweet Potato Brownies
Made with sweet potato, cacao and dates, these six ingredient gluten and dairy free brownies are one of the most popular recipes on Deliciously Ella’s site. They might look and taste decadent, but they’re actually packed with goodness, including antioxidant rich superfood cacao.

2. Hemsley and Hemsley’s Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies
Jasmine and Melissa are big advocates of nutrient rich, whole foods, and with a a restaurant in Selfridges and  TV show both launched this year, clearly a lot of people . These cookies are super easy to make and feature ground almonds as opposed to traditional flour. The Hemsley’s also have their own take on brownies, made with black beans, which, rich and delicious and full of fibre, are one of my favourite recipes for a sunday bake-off (the featured image here is of my own BB Brownies!).

3. Madeline Shaw’s Sticky Gingerbread Puddings
A must try for any self-respecting fan of the sticky toffee pudding, this dessert of Shaw’s would win over even the most hardened of health food sceptics. Sweetened with date syrup instead of refined sugar, these puddings are fantastic for satisfying that sweet tooth craving without any of the guilt that usually comes with such an indulgence.

4. Madeline Shaw’s Ultimate Gluten Free Choc Chip Cookies
Another fantastic recipe from Madeline Shaw, these cookies are dairy, gluten and refined sugar free. Everyone loves a cookie, especially with a cup of tea, so these coconut oil filled treatsa are a great alternative for adults and children alike.

5. Livia’s Kitchen Raw Snickers Slab
Ok so given that this dessert is raw, it technically doesn’t include baking, but still makes for an unbelievably healthy treat.  A firm favourite from Livia’s blog, this snickers slab features chocolate, caramel and nougat, yet is still guilt-free! Great for those with even the most severe of food intolerances, this recipe is made up of completely natural ingredients.

6. Honestly Healthy Banana & Pecan Bread
Natasha Corrett is all about eating ‘the alkaline way’, so even her sweet treats pack a nutritional punch. This recipe is for a light, fluffy and healthy bread that tastes just like the original. You honestly (get it?! pun was originally unintended here) won’t notice the difference!

7. Mind Body Bowl Spiced Apple Muffins with Wal-nutty Crumble

The mind body bowl site is run by Annie, a yoga teacher and all round health enthusiast, but this particular recipe is a ‘guest recipe’, written by iQuit Sugar’s Sarah Wilson. AS with Deliciously Ella’s brownies, these muffins make use of the super food sweet potato, the health benefits of which are much extolled given their high Vitamin A content.

8. Hemsley & Hemsley’s Avocado Lime Cheesecake

Avocados have become literally indistinguishable from the clean eating movement. They are the poster child for health par excellence, you’d be hard pushed to have a scroll through Instagram without being confronted with an #avo. This sugar, flour and dairy free cheesecake utilises the creamy consistency of avocado in a fabulous example of healthy baking (although admittedly, the only baking involved here is a little bit of pecan and coconut toasting) . Super healthy and completely guilt free, the Hemsley’s have got wholesome sweet-treats down to a T.

 

Battle of the Bottomless Brunches

Saturday and Sunday are days of rest, or days to brunch, or days to drink away the night before’s hangover. London restaurants appear to have answered our prayers and now more and more establishments across the city  are offering bottomless – as in, drink as MUCH as you possibly want – brunch deals to entice us out of our beds and into their banquettes.

Over the last couple of weeks I have tried not one but two of these wondrous inventions, each for a different friend’s twenty-fifth birthday (yes, turning half a century means that we are now sophisticated ladies who lunch – rather than club – for birthdays). Both restaurants are classic British/ European, and both offer up unlimited prosecco alongside their Saturday lunch menus. I compared the two in an effort do decide who, out of Almeida in Islington and One Canada Square in Canary Wharf, ultimately does bottomless brunch best.

The Almeida 

The Almeida was recently listed in the top 150 restaurants in The Daily Telegraph’s Good Food Guide and having eaten there, it’s not difficult  to see why. The space itself is fantastic. The room is light, airy and sophisticated, with contemporary wooden furniture and a semi open kitchen. Plus they have white table cloths, which I’m a total sucker for. It’s chic but welcoming; the ambience is improved even further by the tinkling of jazz that wafts across the room from the grand piano. At the Almeida the vibe is bottomless ‘lunch’ (rather than brunch); you pay £20 for two courses or £25 for three and then unlimited prosecco is £15 on top of that. Given the quality of the food, I’d say this is very reasonable. The kitchen is run by Tommy Boland- before the Almeida he was head chef at Tom Aitken- and his experience is reflected in the food. Starters included roasted pumpkin soup with venison sausage roll, salt cod bavarois and scallops, whilst mains range from crispy piglet belly to steamed pollock. I ordered the pan fried sea bream fillet with onions, which was excellent. Although I could not even contemplate a desert those who could said they were delicious, in particular the baked cheesecake and the chocolate and hazelnut pave. Aside from their wonderful food, Almeida boasts an amazing wine list and they do a fabulous espresso martini to boot. The service was excellent, and in all honesty there wasn’t anything really to fault.

        One Canada Square

Now on to One Canada Square, situated literally in the lobby of the sky scraper that is One Canada Square, a stones throw away from Canary Wharf. Despite the rather unorthodox setting, the interior decor is very nice (it’s done by the prominent architects David Collins Studio), with a heavy focus on dark wood and green marble. It felt both art deco and yet contemporary at the same time, and this together with the loud buzz of voices typical to a French brasserie made for a very atmospheric experience. There’s supposed to be live piano here too, but sadly the grand piano remained untouched for the duration of our lunch. The Saturday menu here is actually billed as a ‘bottomless brunch’ and the dishes had a distinctly more breakfast-y feel to them than at the Almeida. As with the Almeida, you pay £20 for two courses or £25 for three, only here the ‘bottomless’ aspect is extended to include bloody Mary’s, wine and mimosas, as well as prosecco, for £20. The menu was more brunch-like and also more informal than at the Almeida; starters included soft shell crab ‘Benedict’ with jalapeño hollandaise, leek and sweet potato rosti with avocado and poached egg (which was amazing) and cured trout. The mains were lovely; most of our party ordered the squid ink linguini with crab, although the cep tortellini looked spectacular and my fishcake- whilst entirely predictable- was very tasty. The deserts also erred on the side of ‘classic’, the  sticky toffee pudding with corn flake ice cream was definitely the best of the three choices on offer. My only complaint would have to be in regards to the service, which was OK. The staff were perfectly nice, but our waitress looked at my vegan friend as though she had three heads when ordering her food (despite having phoned up a week before to let them know of her requirements) and asked what vegan ‘exactly means’. All in all I would say that the vibe definitely was not as welcoming as at the Almeida.

Verdict

Whilst I had a fabulous time at both establishments I would say that, all criteria considered -food, ambiance, decor, price- the Almeida did the best bottomless brunch. Not only was the Almeida ever so slightly cheaper, it actually had a far classier and more authentic feel to it than One Canada Square. That being said, whilst the food at Almeida was certainly more exciting, I have to say that it was not necessarily better tasting than the brunch menu at OCS. Ultimately, I would recommend both to any avid bottomless brunch hunter, but I’d certainly head back to the Almeida first, if only for those beautiful white table clothes!

My Top 10 Brighton Restaurants

 

Brighton undoubtedly has one of the best foodie scenes in the UK. In fact there are so many amazing independently owned restaurants that I have made a pact with myself never to dine in Brighton’s Carluccios,Côte Brasserie or Café Rouge again. The sheer number of wonderful places to eat is staggering, but I have done my best to condense five years worth of dining experience into a list of my top ten favourite places.

FYI, there are quite a few places that usually appear right at the top of these kind of lists, but I have chosen to pick firmly based on personal experience, and so have had to leave out a couple of Brighton institutions. Most notably perhaps, I haven’t included La Choza, the Mexican joint that is practically local legend, just because the few times I’ve eaten there, I didn’t think it was all that. I have also decided not to rank or rate the restaurants in any specific order, as they are all so different  and all lovely depending exactly what it is that you’re looking for.  The list below is simply an honest reflection of those places that, tried and tested, I would recommend to anyone wanting to munch on some fabulous food when in this lovely seaside town.

The Ginger Pig

Part of the local Ginger Man group, The Ginger Pig is a lovely modern gastro pub,  that serves some of the most consistently delicious food in the city. In fact The Ginger Pig, situated just off the seafront in Hove, has been awarded Best Food Pub in the Brighton & Hove Food Awards for the past 3 years running and is the restaurant one everyone’s lips the ginger pigwhen asking around about local crowd pleasers. The modern European menu- all sourced locally- is seasonable, but always features a fantastic rib-eye steak (the butter it is served with changes on a regular basis, from blue cheese to habanero to wild garlic, to name just a few) which comes with beef-dripping chips.  The kitchen always seem to go that extra mile, when I dined there with my grandparents for example, the chef painstakingly filleted the whole lemon sole special especially for my Granny, who wouldn’t have been able to see well enough to do it herself. They also do great cocktails and nice draft beer, if you happen to be luckily enough to visit on a line cleaning day, then expect a complimentary lager or two with your meal. It’s more upmarket sibling- The Gingerman– is definitely worth a mention, as the food is sublime, but the menu is a little more inaccessible than The Ginger Pig, which makes it a place one would only visit on the most special of occasions.

The Salt Room

Situated in the bottom of the Hilton Hotel right on the seafront, British restaurant The Salt Room specialises in seafood and steak and has become one of the city’s IMG_3506hottest food destinations since opening last year. As with The Salt Room’s sister restaurant The Coal Shed,  you wouldn’t come here if you wanted a cheap eat, but the food really is excellent quality and priced within reason given the standard of the menu and the wonderful ambiance. In the summer, I would always (always!) opt to sit outside on the terrace so that you can listen to the sea whilst enjoying your meal. But, the airy restaurant space, complete with exposed brick walls and minimalist lighting, is also lovely as the glass fronted windows mean you can still get a great view of the West Pier from indoors. The Salt Room is all about the charcoal grill, but the cocktails are pretty special too; there are twelve gins alone to choose from! The lunch menu is extraordinarily good value for money at only £15 for two courses. The fish soup with rouille and croutons is sublime, as is the mackerel with peas and pancetta. If you’re dining in the evening, I’d recommend a steak or  the lobster and regardless of time, be sure not to miss out on the salt cod fritters. If you can fit it in after all of that, save room for the fabulously kitsch Taste of The Pier, a nostalgic desert complete with candy floss, chocolate pebbles and ice cream cone.

 

 

Food For Friends

Brighton is known for being home to some of the country’s best vegetarian restaurants, and picking between the extremely well known Terra Terre and the lovely Food For Friends for the purposes of this list was a tough. In the end I decided to go souflewith Food For Friends, firstly because I think it is slightly better value for money, and secondly because I prefer the ambience at FF as a whole. Food For Friends was runner-up as Best Ethical Restaurant in the UK in the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2015 and ,situated in the South Lanes, serves modern vegetarian food that is anything but boring. I love meat but here you genuinely do not feel as though you’re missing out; the feta stuffed mushrooms with sweet-potato boulangère are a dream, as is the open ravioli and the double- baked soufflé. The atmosphere is relaxed and the menu is affordable (between £12.50- £13.50 for a main) but the decor and the attentiveness of the staff is such that dining here still feels like a treat. The restaurant has even shared some in-house recipes on it’s website, which is really handy for those of us who like to eat in style from the comfort of our living rooms.

 

 

The Curry Leaf

As with Food For Friends, when considering the best Indian in Brighton for this list, I have decided to go with a lesser known but in my opinion more delicious establishment, which may or may not surprise some people. The Chilli Pickle is almost always featured in

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Chicken Makhani Curry

any piece on the Brighton food scene, but it is my contention that the Curry Leaf Cafe– which was set up by one of the chef’s from Chilli Pickle- is far more deserving of attention, and it’s consistently buzzing atmosphere is testament to this. Curry Leaf Cafe specialises in South Indian Street food and craft beer, and for when you don’t fancy beer, their house made Indian lemon and lime drink tasted as good as any I drank in Mumbai. They have a great lunch menu (on Sunday’s they even do Indian brunch) and are known for their wonderful thalis, but the starters and mains on the al a carte menu are outstanding. The menu is varied and changes often, but the street food style starters, with dishes such as pakodi, the samosa and the unbelievably good lamb chops, would put your local Indian take away to shame. The mains are largely made up of curries;  each main comes with a few different sides – pilau rice, naan, mixed tomato daal yogurt raita and pickle – and all the food is served on beautiful traditional trays in ornate tin bowls. And as if it couldn’t get any better, you can enjoy Curry Leaf Cafe in Temple bar (Western Road) and now even in the station, for those times you want a chicken tikka naan wrap on the go!

 

Al Fresco

Al Fresco serves really good, authentic  yet modern Italian food in a spectacular

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Cannelloni & Pizza

contemporary glass setting. It’s situated directly on the beach front just opposite the West Pier, so you get gorgeous views of the coastline whilst dining. I especially like al Fresco during the day when you can sit outside and enjoy the sea view, but it does have a romantic evening vibe which is nice. I usually sit on the rotunda, but you can sit directly by the shore line only a couple of metres away from Brighton beach’s iconic pebbles should you wish too. Highlights include giant puffed up calzones, sumptuous pastas (I love their bolognese) and traditional ‘primi’ meat and fish dishes. It’s on the ever so slightly pricier end of the spectrum, but the food is great so you do feel as though you are getting good value for money. During my most recent lunch visit we dined on truffled cannelloni and smoked chicken pizza, both of which were excellent. The Italian maitre de is light hearted and friendly and the staff are great at accommodating a large party for special occasions.

 

64 Degrees

64 Degrees was the winner of the 2015 Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Awards and has been receiving rave reviews since it opened a couple of years back. This modern British restaurant has an open kitchen, so you can watch the chefs hard at work whilst 64 degreesenjoying an aperitif or two. The venue is very intimate, a little cramped even- the restaurant is premised around a concept of ‘social dining’, so don’t be shocked if you end up eating your dinner at a kind of sharing bench- but the food is outstanding. The menu is made up of small plates which are separated into meat, fish and veg (four of each), and which are all designed for sharing. The food is beautifully, painstakingly presented and despite the relaxed vibe makes you feel as though you are eating at a michelin star type of place. Head chef Michael Bremner offers up dishes such as pork shoulder with pineapple and chilli, risotto with fennel and lemon and scallops with kale and lemon grass. All in all, despite the cramped setting, the atmosphere is lovely and the staff are really wonderful. They’ve recently opened a second restaurant in London, which I am yet to try.

Silo

Silo is a zero-waste restaurant which, based around what they call a ‘pre-industrial food system’, advocates a ‘primitive diet with techniques modern and ancient’. They’re all about respecting the environment, saving energy and engaging in minimal food siloprocessing; a mantra I’m totally on board with. Everything is made on site, their freshly baked bread (made from flour milled in their bakery) and smoked butter  literally equals carb heaven. They even have an on-site brewery, where they make all of their own drinks, most notably a delicious fermented cider. The space itself is testament to this stripped back attitude, the furniture is made from materials that would have been otherwise wasted and the plates are formed from re-cycled plastic bags. The Silo breakfast is fabulous; I’d recommend the espresso mushrooms with slow-cooked egg and Silo baked beans.The dinner menu is split into ‘omnivore’ and ‘herbivore’ (four dishes in each), you can order the whole set or order a pic n mix or individual dishes. Silo is another venue with an open kitchen, which adds to the utilitarian- but nevertheless welcoming- aura.  A must try for anyone interested in ethical approaches to eating.

 

Moonstone

The fabulous Sri Lankan, family-owned restaurant Moonstone really is a hidden gem (excuse the pun). Situated in Hove, this lovely little establishment serves food to rival anymoonstone I tasted whilst in Sri Lanka, and is a firm favorite for locals in the know. Moonstone is extremely reasonably priced and the food quality is excellent, the staff go above and beyond to make you feel welcome and the service is exemplary. If you’ve never had Sri Lankan food, think Indian with a South East Asian twist. The curries are much lighter than your traditional Indian and the food tastes healthy and fresh, and there is also a strong emphasis on vegetarian food. Must try dishes include the South Coast Special Lamb, which although hot, is so goddamn tasty and really unusual and the traditional meat curries, flavored with curry leaves and coconut milk. The sides are also excellent, we love the stir fried noodles and the yummy little roti .All of the food is homemade, although the curry powder is made in Sri Lanka and has been handed down through the family for generations. You literally could not get any more authentic than this, and Moonstone is the only Sri Lankan restaurant in Brighton & Hove. They also have Lion Beer, which if you’ve ever visited Sri Lanka, you’ll know is a seriously local good lager. And as if I couldn’t already sing Moonstone’s praises enough, they now offer delivery, meaning you can enjoy a curry in front of the TV whilst slobbing out with a Sunday hangover. 

Coggings & Co.

Coggings & Co. may have been awarded best burger in Brighton, but I’d say it’s pretty much the best burger I’ve had full stop. Coggings serve British-rather than American- style burgers, all of the ingredients are locally sourced and the Sussex beef

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Cheddar & Bacon Burger

used in the patties is so delicious that one can expect meat juices to literally run down your arm after the first bite. The cheese and bacon is my personal favourite but they do a really great selection of slightly more unusual toppings, such as the scotch bonnet chilli sauce burger which comes with mango salsa and provolone cheese. The triple cooked chips are fried in beef dripping (although the faint-hearted can opt for vegetable oil) and the whole thing is served with a lovely little salad garnish and an exceptional home made mayonnaise. The sides are delicious too, from red cabbage slaw to buttery corn on the cobs, the mouth wateringly crisp onion rings, so do squeeze one in if you dare. I have it on very good authority that the milkshakes are also fantastic (in fact this authority is my own greedy self as there has been one or two occasions when the bf and I have ashamedly, but admittedly, taken one home for ‘dessert’). Coggings may be at the end of my road, but I would travel bloody far for what the Sunday Times have cited as one of the best meals under £20 per head in the UK.

 

Giggling Squid

Ok so I’ll admit it, despite my earlier dismissal of chains, the Giggling Squid is in fact a chain and yet I still believe it’s worthy of a place on this list. With only 16 restaurant branches in four southern counties, it’s hardly a conglomerate, and it really does serve the best thai food in Brighton. Giggling Squid is known for it’s ‘thai tapas’, and the variety of giggglingdifferent dishes really do make for an excellent sharing meal. Despite this ethos, the food is still authentic, one can expect all the thai favorite mains to appear on the menu. The panang curry is particularly good, and I love the duck spring rolls more than words can even describe. The salt and pepper squid has become somewhat of a cult classic, everyone who eats here raves about it, and they also serve a huge array of fresh seafood dishes. There is one in central Brighton and one in Hove, but the little cottage in the Old Laines is really lovely; if you can do book one of the private booths that make for a super romantic setting. You can expect to pay about £25 per head including drinks (they have a great wine list) and you will likely leave feeling as though you need to be rolled home.It’s usually pretty busy, so I would definitely recommend booking, despite the fact that it is laid out over two floors, and has outdoor seating.

 

*All photos without captions have been taken from the relevant restaurants website; the others are delicious dishes all enjoyed by me personally, on an occasion where I actually remembered to get a good picture.

 

Healthy Brown Rice Risotto

This is  great way to squeeze a variety of vegetables into your dinner without feeling that you’ve made a ‘boring’ choice, I often cook this on a Monday if I’ve had a particularly meat heavy weekend as it somehow tastes both indulgent and good for you at the same time!

It really is a one pot wonder- which is great in terms of washing up- and what’s amazing about it is how easy it is to make yet how impressive risotto seems to be.Be warned, brown risotto rice takes a lot longer to cook than it’s white counterpart, but it really is SO much healthier and very filling so it’s definitely worth the wait. Also, brown rice requires less stirring, so if you’re feeling lazy then this recipe is ideal!
Ingredients (serves 2)
-500ml chicken/ vegetable stock
-1 small glass white wine
-150g brown risotto rice (I love biona)
-1 onion
-3 cloves crushed garlic
-1 large carrot
-1 courgette
-300g mushrooms
-150g green beans
-50 g parmesan (parmesan can be expensive, so if you want to substitute it for grana padano that works wonderfully too).
You’ll need a pot or deep pan. I use my Le Creuset casserole, which works perfectly.

Method

Start by finely dicing your onion and carrot – you can leave the courgette and green beans until later as you’ll have time whilst the rice is cooking- and roughly chop the mushrooms.
Sauté the onion and garlic in a knob of butter or in the oil of your choice (I use coconut oil or ghee). Once slightly softened, add the carrot and mushrooms and give it all a good stir before cooking for a couple of minutes over a medium heat. Now it’s time to add your rice, which should be mixed thoroughly with the veg so that all the grains are covered in the remaining oil/butter.
 Add the glass of wine and stir everything thoroughly, deglazing the pot, and allow the rice to absorb the wine, making sure to stir constantly. Once the mixture has dried up, add a ladle-full of stock and keep stirring until the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat this a couple of times before adding the remaining stock and allow to simmer on a med-low heat whilst you finely chop the rest of your vegetables. This is where we depart from the ‘usual’ risotto method, as the brown rice needs to cook for longer so you don’t need to add the stock in stages and stir it in each time.  Once all of your veg are ready, add them to the rice and stock mixture, making sure to stir everything well.
The risotto should still look very wet at this stage and the rice will still be hard. So, make sure there’s enough liquid in there and then pop a lid onto your pot, allowing everything to cook, and just making sure to stir every 4-5 minutes, so that nothing gets stuck. If at any point the risotto seems dry and starts to stick (when the rice is still under done), add a little more stock or some boiling water.
It should take about half an hour for the rice to cook through completely (although timings may vary slightly depending on the brand of rice- just make sure to keep an eye on it and keep test tasting throughout) so once the liquid has completely disappeared and the rice and vegetables are soft, you should be left with a beautiful creamy risotto. Brown risotto rice tends to have a little more bite to it then white, so don’t worry if even when cooked the rice is slightly al dente.
At this stage, turn off the heat, season and stir in the parmesan, saving a little to scatter on the top when serving if you wish to. I sometimes garnish the bowls with a little fresh parsley, which is always nice as it adds a little extra colour. The great thing about this meal is that there are often leftovers, which I usually pop into a tupperware and take to work for lunch the following day.
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Mexican Eggs #brunchinspo

Given that the weekend is just around the corner, today I am going to share a brunch favourite of mine that, despite being one of my ultimate hang over cures, is a super versatile dish that’s amazing at any time of day. Jamie Oliver inspired this recipe and I’ve kept his name for it- Mexican eggs- but it is also incredibly similar to shakshuka and various other baked egg recipes that are about!

This is a great healthy alternative to a full English as there’s no meat (although if I’m going all out I sometimes add chorizo) and the vegetable rich sauce is full of goodness! Eggs are a great source of protein and vitamins and are great after a heavy night too! I often wrap the eggs and sauce in a tortilla with a little grated cheese but if you want to keep it carb free and healthy then simply serve with guacamole.

Ingredients  (serve 2)

4 eggs

1 diced onion

3 garlic cloves finely chopped

1 red pepper finely chopped

1 medium chilli

1 tin of tomatoes

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon of paprika

1/3 teaspoon of ground coriander

Optional: A pinch of cayenne pepper depending on the levels of spice you can handle!

Salt and pepper to taste

To serve

Whole Wheat Tortillas

A little freshly grated cheddar

Method 

First take a deep frying pan with a lid (ideally glass so you can see what’s going on in there) and melt some coconut oil or ghee over a medium heat. Fry the onions until translucent and then add the garlic for approximately 1 min before adding the red pepper and chilli. Move the mixture around the pan to ensure it cooks evenly and once it has been sautéing for a couple of minutes add the tomato paste and stir before throwing in the tin of tomatoes and the bay leaf. Give it all a good stir and simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes so that all of those flavours can meld deliciously together.

Once the sauce is done, get your eggs at the ready and make four holes in the sauce, making sure they’re evenly spaced in the pan. Once you’ve made a hole in the sauce, crack the egg and carefully place it into the space you’ve made so that it can poach in the sauce. You might want to do this one by one (make a hole, crack the egg in) if your sauce is slightly runny. Once all four eggs are in the sauce, pop the lid on and allow to gently simmer. The eggs cook in the sauce and the steam it creates, so keep an eye on the top of the pan and when it looks like eggs have turned from translucent to white they should be nearly done. It does tend to vary but generally speaking the eggs should take about 6 minutes or so.

Once the eggs are fully cooked, all you need to do is spoon onto a plate or tortilla and enjoy! And just incase you need any more motivation, check out this serious egg porn:FullSizeRender (1)

Rainbow Vegetable Quinoa

This is an amazing healthy, quick and simple meal that I often cook for my boyfriend and I after a heavy weekend as a vain attempt to get something nutritious into our bodies. As with all my recipes, this serves 2 for dinner. However there should be plenty left over, which is great as this makes a really wonderful packed lunch for work which can then be either be reheated or eaten cold. 

The quinoa is packed full of protein which makes this a really wholesome dish despite the lack of meat, fish or dairy. This makes it an especially great dish for me as I often struggle to think of exciting vegan dishes- in our house no meat often means it ends up being replaced with cheese, cheese and more cheese- but this one is incredibly hearty and really hits the spot. If you just can’t go vegan for the evening, this also works really well as a side dish for a nice bit of meat or fish. 

The  abundance of colour here is also what makes this such a healthy meal; nutritionists suggest that when aiming to get in your five a day one should try to encompass as many different colours as possible as they all have different health benefits. To give this rainbow dish an even further kick of colour I sometimes serve it with a crisp salad featuring some shredded red cabbage on the side. 

Ingredients 

150g quinoa

1 heaped teaspoon vegetable boullion

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 onion- diced

3 cloves garlic- crushed

1 carrot- finely diced

green beans- very finely chopped

peas- approx 120g/ large handful

red pepper- finely diced

yellow pepper- finely diced

1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs

1/3 teaspoon paprika

handful chopped fresh parsley

Method

Fill and boil the kettle and prep your veg. I’d suggest starting with the harder veg- the onion, carrot and green beans- as they will need to cook for longer than the peppers and peas, which can be thrown in during the last 5 minutes.

Once the kettle has boiled and you have most your veg prepped, fill a non-stick sauce pan with 350ml water before stirring in the boullion and tomato paste until combined. Rinse your quinoa thoroughly under cold water in a sieve to remove impurities. Keep the liquid boiling on a medium temperature and add your quinoa. Bring to the boil and then turn right down to simmer with a lid 3/4 of the way over the top. The quinoa should absorb all of the liquid so that it doesn’t need draining at the end but if during cooking time it starts to look like it’s drying out and might catch on the bottom just add a little more boiling water. Allow to cook for 15 but meanwhile get on with the vegetables.

Heat a little coconut oil (or other of your choice) in a deep frying pan and saute the onion and garlic for a minute or so before adding the carrot.

Continue to cook for a couple of minutes before adding finely chopped green beans , and then cook the mixture (whilst stirring) on a medium to low heat for approximately 5 minutes until soft and almost done. Whilst this is cooking finely dice your peppers so they are ready to go. At this stage, take your peas and if frozen just pop them into a sieve and pour boiling water over them to defrost. Add your dried herbs, paprika and peas, together with the peppers, to the pan and sauté for a further couple of minute until all the veg is done. Turn the heat off.

Your quinoa should be just about done by now (you can tell it is cooked through by checking whether the germ has come away from the kernel) so once it is, turn it off and fluff it up using a fork.

Return the vegetable mixture to a low heat and add the cooked quinoa, stirring to thoroughly combine, before throwing in the parsley and giving the whole lot a final mix. I often add a squeeze of lemon at this stage but this is totally optional. Serve up and enjoy! It’s great with a bit of chilli sauce too.

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