We decided to visit Brighton on something of a whim. Despite growing up in deepest, darkest Essex I don’t really know the South coast that well at all – my family always headed North for holidays, and that remains my instinct even as an adult. But Stewart Lee was playing a few dates down there and we fancied doing something a bit different, so off we went. It’s good to expand your horizons.
Brighton is actually a city - it was granted city status by the Queen during her jubilee - and, it seemed to me, a rather affluent one. It smelled like it had been on the receiving end of time, care and money, in stark contrast to some of the Northern seaside towns that I have visited in recent years that are dying on their arse. In addition, Brighton has benefited from the influx of students from not one but two universities. There was a definite buzz to the place and the juxtaposition of the beautifully elegant Georgian architecture and the messy vibrancy of youth culture made for a fascinating melting pot of a place.
As I mentioned in my previous post, it turns out that Brighton is quite the foodie destination which is not something that factored into our initial considerations. Although like any UK city it had its fair share of chain yawnfests, there was a pleasing spread of independents as well offering a range of foodstuffs at a range of price points.
First off, we have Bincho Yakitori does not have the most user friendly website in the world, but if you’re interested in Japanese bar food (and who isn’t?) then definitely one to check out. The chicken heart yakitori skewers were one of D’s favourite dishes of the trip.
I had heard good things about the vegetarian scene (if such a word can be used in the context) and we ended up having lunch in one of Brighton's oldest vegetarian restaurants, Food For Friends. It was fun. Nothing earth shatteringly amazing perhaps but an interesting menu that resisted tumbling into standard fare or cliché and hearty portions of tasty food. I would quite like to recreate my halloumi, mango, avocado and cashew nut salad at home.
Given our proximity to the sea, we were determined to make as much as we could of the local seafood and it didn’t disappoint. At Riddle and Finns, D, a crustacea afficionado, was presented with his biggest shellfish platter to date, all for a ridiculously reasonable £30 - the picture below does not do it any sort of justice, but it turns out that it is hard to photograph something so huge without getting one or other of us in shot. And, as you know, this blog is a mug free zone. Anyway, he reports that the whelks were a little bit on the chewy side but that everything else was perfect and he was particularly taken with the dinky little winkle picker that was provided alongside the cutlery In general, the fish cookery here was exemplary and the menu boasted a good range of dishes albeit all variations on a theme of classic. The service was friendly but haphazard – nothing, however, that an unexpected glass of limoncello from the restaurant manager couldn’t fix.
The following evening we headed to the Tempest Bar for some rather up market pub grub - check out the stunning langoustines in the picture; these tasted even better than they look. On a Saturday night, this was predominantly a venue for younger and trendier people than ourselves, but we were quite content in our little booth with our seafood and several decent bottles of white. I really liked it here: the bar staff were young and cute and charming and the food was delicious (in addition to the langoustines we indulged in popcorn mussels and fire kraken squid - bar snacks to put pork scratchings and packet of peanuts to shame).
You always know that you've had a good trip when you start talking about "next time". "Next time we'll try this...go there...do that..." We were next timing Brighton before we had even left and writing up this post has made me start it again. Good times.
Bincho Yakitori: 63 Preston Street, Brighton, 01273 779021
Food For Friends: 17-18 Prince Albert Street, Brighton, 01273 202310
Riddle and Finns: 139 Kings Road Arches, Brighton, 01273 721667
The Tempest Inn: 159-161 Kings Road Arches, Brighton, 01273 770505