A haven for vegetarians, curry-lovers and chocoholics alike, Brighton has an eatery to suit everyone’s needs. Here's where to eat, drink and sleep in this thoroughly foodie seaside city.
With vegetarians for parents, and living only an hour’s train journey away, I spent many an evening eating in Brighton. The city is, in my opinion, far superior to London when it comes to meat-free dining, with options around every corner and establishments such as Terre à Terre – once famously described by hard-to-please restaurant critic A.A. Gill as “singularly and eccentrically marvellous” – setting the pace for vegetarian cuisine.
A Brighton breakfast
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – if you’re arriving early in Brighton, you’ll want breakfast first. Described as ‘LA indie coffee house meets New York bar and diner’ (whatever that means), The New Club is one of the trendiest places to grab a super-exciting breakfast. Think hot pretzels with salted butter, coconut and cherry granola, or a ‘breakfast burger’ (soft egg, sausage patty and melted cheese in a brioche bun).
It may be a chain (although it started in Sussex), but breakfast at Bill’s (pictured) is also a great way to start the day. The cafe on North Road used to be a bus depot and has been going for nearly 10 years, so it’s a reliable bet. There’s the classic Bill’s breakfast (Cumberland sausage, fried free range eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, smoked streaky bacon and toast) and its vegetarian counterpart, plus slightly lighter options such as homemade blueberry and buttermilk pancakes.
If it’s breakfast with a view you’re after, and you’re not looking too scruffy, try the oh-so-posh GB1 Restaurant at The Grand Hotel, that beautiful Victorian building on the seafront. Breakfast here is open to everyone, and the best option is anything involving fish (it’s wonderfully fresh) – namely, smoked haddock with poached egg, or traditional grilled kippers. And with prices averaging at around £5 a dish, it’s extremely good value, too.
There’s no shortage of independent caffs and coffee shops to grab a bite, especially in and around The Lanes. It would be impossible to name even a fraction of all those establishments here, but ones to look out for include: La Choza for Mexican street food (try the ‘deep-fried catch of the day in a burrito’, or the homemade chorizo); Iydea for a vegetarian canteen-style lunch (everything from pea and goats’ cheese arancini to rotis and quiches); and the highly popular Pizza Face (pictured left), for decent pizza bases topped with intriguing ingredients such as lamb prosciutto with sautéed mushrooms.
If you’re a veggie, one of my favourite places to go for lunch is Food for Friends, slap-bang in the middle of The Lanes. It’s been there since 1981 and has just secured a position in the Good Food Guide 2014. There are freshly baked vegan and gluten-free breads, cakes and scones every morning, and an Afternoon Tea served daily from midday to 5pm. As for lunchtime mains, there’s always a colourful curry on offer, as well as several large salads and plenty of halloumi.
Time for tea
If you missed out on breakfast at The Grand Hotel, then you should really make time for their Afternoon Tea. It’s good value at just over £20 per head, and if you book in advance you can get a seat in the (indoor) ‘terrace’, overlooking the sea. The entrance into The Grand is opulent splendour at its best, and you’ll be surrounded by similar scenery all throughout your afternoon tea. Staff are wonderfully attentive (setting down your teapot, then returning exactly three minutes later to pour perfectly brewed tea), and the delicate cakes, finger sandwiches, pastries and scones are of an exceptional standard.
Battenberg ice cream
If you don't fancy tea, what about an ice cream by the seaside? Gelato parlours have been popping up all over Brighton, and it’s hard to pick a favourite. But I’d recommend Boho Gelato on Pool Valley (pictured), which makes all its ice cream downstairs and has so-far produced over 400 different flavours, including Battenberg (uncannily like the little Mr Kipling cakes), mojito, strawberry with black pepper and basil, mulled wine, and chocolate peanut butter. Scoop & Crumb on East Street is also a good bet, seeing as it has the largest ice cream sundae and waffle menu in the UK. Their flavours include wonders such as rhubarb and custard, sherry trifle, tiramisu and, my personal favourite, roasted plum crumble.
You’ll need a bit of a break between lunch and dinner, so I suggest a stop-off at some of Brighton’s best chocolate shops.
There’s Choccywoccydoodah of course, which needs to be seen to be believed… it’s worth going inside just to see the whacky wedding cakes and chocolate dogs.
The original Montezuma’s chocolate shop is in Brighton (especially good for dark chocolate), and Julien Plumart Boutique (pictured left) is excellent too, selling a sophisticated range of exquisite chocolates and macarons (try lavender toffee, lemon curd or mojito).
Best for dinner
Aside from Terre à Terre, one of my favourite veggie places for dinner is Planet India. It doesn’t look much from the outside – shocking pink, and by a noisy roundabout on Richmond Parade – nor does it have its own website. But the (vegetarian only) curries are some of the best I’ve ever had, with particular plaudits due for the pea and paneer concoction, cooked to absolute perfection. Food is served by the often barefoot owners, drinks are served in tin tankards, and portions are generous. Plus it’s incredibly cheap – curries start from £4.50, with rice and starters from £2.
For Thai cuisine on a similar budget, give The Giggling Squid a go. It’s popular with locals and boasts what many claim is the best Thai Green curry in Brighton. It’s deceptively large, situated slap-bang in the middle of everything on Market Street, and has a lovely bay window at the front, perfect for people watching. There are set menu options, but make sure you give the seared scallops in spicy lime sauce a go for starters. As well as the Thai Green curry, you’d be well advised to try their signature ‘giggling squid’ dish – baby squids filled with minced chicken, steamed and fried in batter. “It will make you smile” says the menu. Oh, and do try the authentic ‘sweet sticky rice banana parcel’ for a Thai street food pudding. It’s an unusually savoury-ish dessert, with two parcels of sticky rice soaked in coconut milk, cloaking a banana, and wrapped in banana leaves.
Then there’s fish and chips. It’s difficult to avoid them in Brighton, nor should you. There are all the usual chains such as Harry Ramsden’s, but you’re far better off heading to family-run Bardsley’s in Baker Street, established in 1926. It’s renowned for the high quality of its fish, and the friendly atmosphere. There’s also Bankers on Western Road, which is committed to only selling fish from sustainable sources.
A bed for the night
After all that food, you’ll need somewhere warm, cosy and welcoming to stay. Brighton is awash with B&Bs, and it’s hard to pick a favourite. But for its location (right by the sea, near the Brighton ‘Eye’), and for its foodie hosts Richard and Lorraine, I’d plump for One Broad Street. It’s a towering building, with ample floors, and each room is thoughtfully decked out with the essentials for a sleepover in Brighton, such as your own ear plugs (multi-coloured, of course) and a jar of sweeties for a sugary pick-me-up.
The rooms are spacious, meticulously clean and light, with huge bay windows overlooking the streets and shore below. It’s also surprisingly quiet, given its prime position, and the bathrooms are all modern. It’s rated as one of the top five B&Bs in the whole of East Sussex on TripAdvisor, which is in part down to the phenomenal breakfasts. Richard cooks only with local ingredients, the highlight of which has to be the just-foraged giant mushrooms, fried in butter. Baked beans are served separately in mini heart-shaped Le Creuset pots (“so many people don’t like the beans to contaminate the rest of their breakfast,” says Lorraine), and the bread for toast is artisan and organic – a lovely change to the Hovis slices usually on offer at B&Bs.
It’s always difficult to include everything in these features. Is there anywhere else in Brighton we should definitely visit? What’s your favourite foodie hangout there? Share your local knowledge in the Comments box below.
Main Brighton image courtesy of ZivojinMisic slike
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