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 when 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 hottest 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 with 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
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 serves really good, authentic yet modern Italian food in a spectacular
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 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 enjoying 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 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 processing; 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.
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 any 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
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.
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 different 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.