BOOK REVIEW: Eat Well and Stay Slim (The Essential Cuisine Minceur), Michel Guérard

Michel Guérard was a 1970s legend in the cooking world. He promoted healthy eating and cautious use of fat. Imagine, the French must have fallen off their chaises! As one of the founders of nouvelle cuisine (which one could argue is diet food anyway), he took it one step further and created Cuisine Minceur, an even lighter version of the former.

Whilst the title of the book isn't going to win any awards for sexiness, it did appeal to me as essentially, this is my mantra for life, enjoying food but holding on (with white knuckles) to my waistline. To be honest I'd say I'm mindful of what I eat but my tact is to sweat out indulgence through a few HIIT sessions a week. Diets or restricting what I can eat just doesn't work for me, but this book is far more interesting than most recipes pitched to calorie watchers.

Design-wise, the biggest issue I have is that the book is incredibly frustrating to use, for the simple reason that not enough clearance has been made for the layout toward the spine, so recipes and text wrap tightly into the binding unless you force crack the spine. This isn't great for a book you need to lay open and glance at in detail whilst you cook. I'm seeing more of it really. The amount of designers I come across now who are clueless when it comes to artworking and print nuances but that's another conversation for another place. Or the printed proofing stage of a book is skipped because of budget. But it's details like this that impact the end user and to be honest, for a book that calls for intricate recipes, you need to be able to read the bloody thing easily.

Anyway, with spine force cracked open, there was quite a lot to tempt me to cook. The food, of course, is incredibly attractive. An attempt has been made in a teeny section for "everyday cooking" but nothing in here is the sort of thing you can slap on a plate in 15 minutes after work. Plus, I know it is low calorie, but the portions are small and calorie count incredibly low, mostly around 100-250 per dish. And if you have a hearty appetite like me you would starve!

As with most working mothers, I am short on time and, if I'm honest, patience, so I really did struggle to find something I could realistically cook either in the evening when I'm shattered or with a 2 year old hanging off my leg. I opted for the former, so chose a dessert to have after our evening meal.

Desserts tend to be meringues, jellies, sorbets and mousse, luckily all of which I like, I don't go in for rich, chocolaty puddings. I chose the Tropical Meringue Floating Islands which were a little fiddly, just for the amount of components, but relatively easy to prepare. The result was light and refreshing, putting the effort in gave a few textures to the dessert and I loved the custard. I wouldn't say it was the best dessert of my life, it certainly didn't feel indulgent but did look quite nice. I enjoyed making the dish more than eating it, purely because this isn't my style of cooking in the slightest and did challenge my skills which I like. I think if you cooked a few of the recipes, particularly in the savoury section, you would learn some refined techniques and skills.

Probably the most useful section of the book is the toolkit of stocks, oils, vinaigrettes, sauces and purees which you can maybe use to lighten your normal dishes with. There is also information on ingredients and techniques to aid in creating slimmer recipes.

This is also a well written book that is easy to follow with a lot of information in the introductions. Each recipe is given the preparation time and level of difficulty which I think has been realistically calculated.

Eat Well and Stay Slim would be a good book for discerning dinner parties, probably leaning toward having the girls over for a stylish supper that is reasonably guilt free, (which you then obliterate with copious glasses of wine). Despite being described as a diet book "to live by", this is not going to end up as one of my dog-eared, well used books but certainly one I'll pull out every now and again for something special.

I'm not sure if anyone would use this as a diet as such, unless you have bags of time on your hands and a real thing for presentation. But if you are an able cook that likes good taste yet mindful of health, or you want something to challenge you, then I'd recommend you take a look at this. It really is food to enjoy, with the benefit of being guilt free, but I'm not sure how realistic it is to the average person's everyday lifestyle today.

Eat Well and Stay Slim (The Essential Cuisine Minceur), Michel Guérard is published by Francis Lincon and costs £25

I received this copy for review.

REVIEW: Proud Cabaret, Brighton

It's no wonder that the exterior of burlesque club Proud Cabaret makes quite a few people think there is a connection with the Royal Pavilion. The ornate dome and Indian influenced styling is a clear nod to Brighton's most famous landmark. But it turns out that this was a private mausoleum for a wealthy family in 1892. The main house that the family owned further up the road has long gone, along with the er, former occupant's remains in 1933. Not sure what they would have made of the new bodies on show today, but there you go. Onwards, and upwards - which is exactly the attitude this place needed prior to the gorgeous refurbishment in 2011. I hadn't been back since my student days when it used to be the Hanbury Club for strange manga club nights illustrated with cheap booze and floppy haired DJs.

Image from

Luckily things have smartened up and it is sumptuous inside, like a very intricate, naughty chocolate box. The booths are ideal you were dining with a group and with the exception of a few tables tucked into darkened corners, most offer a great view of the stage. This is a very tricky venue off the beaten track in Kemptown and I think they've done well to create something people will finally consider travelling 15 minutes from the centre for. I couldn't think of a more appropriate and beautiful venue and I've always had a soft spot for it.

The theme of the night was murder - gasp! The Silencing of Miss Scarlett is a murder mystery drama, played throughout the evening. What I liked was that the action wasn't just contained to the stage and actors milled about in character during the intervals. There were also nice details like newspaper clippings of the murder on the tables to set the scene.

Staff are lovely. The welcome was warm and I was quickly put at ease by my waitress, despite her scanty attire of stockings, corset and ostrich feathers. Although invited, I noticed every table was receiving the same attentive care during the meal and show. Everyone was friendly, professional and accommodating which in my book goes a long way.

I also liked the diverse spectrum of people this club night clearly attracts. Groups of gorgeous girls all dressed up to the nines for a special occasion, couples, some in themed dress, some young and quite a few older couples too. There was even a work group in on a very, very late Christmas do. Better late than never, eh.

If you have been to a few similar burlesque shows in London, you may find them a little more polished with perfect vintage starlet performers. The show here is sprinkled with a little Brighton magic if you like, more alternative with tattoos and piercings with a side order of camp and I did enjoy it. The compare isn't normally my cup of tea but he did have me giggling and was the right balance of anxiety inducing and entertainment. He only hauled one lady on stage but she was very much up for it.

So to the food. I always find menus at cabaret shows a little kitch, heavy on the duck, 70s sauces, coulis and desserts in pots. I can't say I've ever enjoyed a meal that accompanies a show like this.

My meal was fine, I had an unusual starter of salt beef (I'd call what was served roast beef), naan with the classic eggy sauce gribiche. The monkfish main dish was overcooked but the sauce with Balsamic Sweet Peppers and Chorizo gave it acidy to pep up the dish and it did look attractive on the plate too. The dessert of Blackberry Parfait with Shortbread was again fine but over sweet for me.

There are nice touches like cocktails served discreetly in teapots and cups to add to that speakeasy, prohibition vibe and everything is nicely presented.

At the end of the day, the food isn't going to win too many awards but for this night (some of their others are a little more expensive), the show and dinner was just £25 which is great value. Most of the similar shows I've been to pitch in around the £60 dining and entertainment and the food was a similar quality level. Personally, if the food was better then they would tick all the boxes but I'd say 99% of people come along for entertainment and fun rather than a dining experience. I'm not sure anyone would book a table here purely for dinner what with the risk of flying tassels and undergarments.

After the show the music is turned up until late. I'm returning with a group of girlfriends and feathers as soon as I can for another dose of vintage fun.

Image from
83 St George's Rd

Food and drinks were complimentary courtesy of Proud Cabaret.

GF Guides | The best chocolate shops in Brighton

Audreys Chocolates
A trip to Audrey's in Hove is like stepping back in time. Their ornate silky boxes are almost as well known as their chocolate which they have been making locally for 60 years. Along with their rose and violet creams, you can pick up crystallised peppermints and posh versions of those fruit jellies your nan always had. Definitely chocolate for good old fashioned romancing. The main shop is in Hove but there is a smaller branch in Brighton.

A Brighton favourite, this place is heaving at festive times with people wanting their fun, colourful creations. They have expanded their range to include many things, but I still like their classic bars with unusual taste twists.

Although I don't think this is the best tasting chocolate in the city, you can't fail to be impressed with their wild window displays and quirky styling with pugs, skulls and er, adult themed shapes. They are the rock 'n' roll of the chocolate world and certainly think outside the chocolate box. 

Cake maker extraordinaire and local, possibly UK, king of the macaron. If you like your chocolate in a more substantial dessert, then look no further than the refined, elegant creations here. The glossy, colourful patisserie display is almost impossible to make a single selection from. There are sometimes chocolates on sale for Easter and other festivities as gifts but if you are talking sweet treats you can't miss this place off the list.

Hotel Chocolat
Although a chain, I've always liked the Hotel Chocolat brand. Their products look good and they stock some interesting premium ranges.

Ok, ok, more of a sweet shop but this place is a goldmine of weird imported sweets, chocolates and drinks from America, Europe, Thailand and Japan. You want that bacon flavoured KitKat? It's probably in here. 

Cocoa Loco
Although not a shop, this is a really good brand of local chocolate. I've visited their small factory in Sussex and the quality of their organic and Fairtrade chocolate is fantastic. There are plenty of places that stock them locally and definitely worth a try.

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GF Great Finds | Brighton Shopping: Utility

This is the first in a series of posts where I feature my favourite Brighton shops that are candy for the foodie. Most are off the beaten track away from the main shopping areas so I thought they'd be helpful to visitors and even locals who haven't come across them yet. Credit cards at the ready!

Utility is one of my absolute favourite local shops, utterly unique and, as the name suggests, full of useful British made stuff, both vintage, end of line and reproduction. It stocks the sort of stuff your badass gran would have scrubbed the living hell out of her house with and crockery that will outlive us all. The muted, grey shades of the products are relevant today as the fashion for industrial style seems to be going nowhere. I'm slowly turning my whole house grey and using harder materials for finishing.

If you're a clean freak like me, their durable bushes, dusters and soaps are worth a look. Their no nonsense crockery, Brown Betty teapots and vintage cutlery are all a pleasure to use as well as nostalgic. Utility also have the larges selection of classic enamel bakeware in the city, plus their own brand of enamel mugs for taking to your "glamping" weekends away. And I never thought I would lust after a loo brush but their concrete holder and hardy bristle has my name ALL. OVER. IT. (online shop available as well)
28A North Rd

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GF Guides | Buggy friendly cafes in Brighton

There are so many brilliant family friendly things about Brighton, hence why people flock here with their new little darlings. However, in those early days, where you emerge, shell-shocked and needing the support of your entire close parent group, it can be a tricky place to find somewhere that will accommodate more than a couple of buggies in the city. I know, and this is my most requested guide!

Below are a few suggestions of where you can go when you are on tour with multiple buggy carrying friends. Let me know if I have missed anyone off!

Brighton Dome Cafe Bar
The cafe at the Dome is probably the best open space if there is a large group of you. Plenty of room and no one bats an eyelid to exploring toddlers. Now that Peyton and Bryne have taken over the food and drink, there is more on offer especially for lunch like their grilled sandwiches, salads, pies and sausage rolls. And the cakes are wonderful.

The cafe upstairs at the Duke's @ Komedia
This hidden gem I only came across the other day. Essentially, the cafe is the refreshment area for the Komedia Cinema but is quiet in the day and a couple of buggies should be fine. Great homemade cakes (and fabulous wine list).

Seven Bees has won the hearts of locals and is a real community cafe with lots of group meetings and events. Other than the decent and local cafe style food, there is a really lovely kids corner. Plus the cafe operates inside the church itself so plenty of running room which is great as most other Kemptown cafes are quite limited in size. Currently open open Mon-Fri 9.30-3pm it will be extending to the Saturday soon.

This was our main NCT hang out in that first scary year. Although it can be awkward to get your buggy through the narrow entrance, once in you can nab the seating area at the back with big sofas. Staff are very accommodating with children and breastfeeding, but best of all the food is really fresh, local and nourishing. They also have a cafe in the Jubilee Library (also great for buggies but not so good for noise!) with tea, coffee, cakes and panini. 

I really like the Barefoot Cafe which is next to the Yellowave volley ball courts. If the sun shines you can dine outside on the decked area and little ones can play in the sand or there is a really nice interior. Even my irrational fear of sand doesn't put me off a visit. The only disappointing thing is the food. Order simply like a sandwich or salad and it will be fine but expect nothing more than decent student food for hot meals. It is filling and cheap though and there are BBQs in the summer. If they could nail that food a little better this would be such a winner.

The train station is not somewhere you would think to meet but the new-ish cafe here has been beautifully refurbished, has a cute little kids corner (above) and plenty of space. There's a really varied menu to choose from too.

You can tell Peter Andre is a family man. His cafe is probably the only central place with a small but clean soft play area. The food is casual and could be better but coffee is ok and the staff are really lovely. Plenty of room and convenient location.

This is the latest addition to the rejuvenated London Road area. It didn't take long to be discovered as an ideal hangout for those with small kids due to the sheer amount of space, probably one of the biggest in Brighton. The interior is amazing and there is an enormous menu. I can't say I was too impressed with the food on my last visit but that was in the opening week. A good place to go and still feel a bit cool and due to the size, you'd never feel like you were outstaying your welcome.

Also on London Road, the Emporium Cafe and theatre is a kooky little place. Really open plan with bags of space, there is a small casual menu (jackets, savoury pastries and sandwiches) which looks nice and a selection of locally baked cakes. They sometimes have theatre evens for small children too.

The Cow
Aside from plenty of space, being child-friendly and a nice interior is that all of the bread is baked on site. Hooray for us carb addicts! They also have varied menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Of course, you can't get a better space than one of Brighton's city parks. Run the little critters out then retreat to one of the decent cafes for a pick-me-up. Some of my favourites are:
Pavilion Gardens cafe - kiosk with outside seating
Blakers Park cafe - kiosk with outside seating
Queens Park - basic kiosk with some seating
The Garden Cafe at St Ann's Well - full cafe with internal seating and full menu
Preston Park - not one but two cafes! The Chalet which is really quaint with good seating and the Rotunda Cafe near the rose gardens.
The Velo Cafe at The Level - where cyclists and buggies battle for space but on a quiet day you may be lucky.

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DESIGN: I Vini D' Italia, Ana Zaja Petrak

It's hardly a surprise I like a bit of design on my walls at home and I like to choose pieces carefully. Currently on display at Graphic Foodie Towers is a selection of limited edition screen prints, framed ephemera and design and photography from some of my talented, creative friends. (No, I don't know what they see in me either.)

And my kitchen, one of the last rooms left to renovate (because I can't make up my mind what to have apart from concrete worktops!), already has a small collection going including an original oil painting from my fair hands circa 1998, but I'm pleased to have a new print to add to the mix. I'm a massive fan of Ana Zaja Petrak's work, the Italian and graphic nature of her illustrations obviously appeals to me in spades. I Vini D' Italia is a more grown up print from her, but still has her playful and casual style that I love.

I was also tempted by the following:

(From top left, clockwise) Limonata by Ana Zaja Petrak, Plums by Ana Zaja Petrak, Coffee Pot 3 by Weef, Wild Raspberries by Andy Warhol and Suzie Frankfurt, Aranci! vintage print, Saki Party Art Print by Fiona Howard.

I found out that Andy Warhol illustrated a series of dessert concepts for a spoof cookbook called "Wild Raspberries". What's interesting is that the type looks so fresh and you see this style all over food and style blogs now. Love that great big wibbly green jelly.

As for buying art online, I particularly like seeing how the print looks in different frames. Easyart have an online tool so you can easily add mounts or change the frame colour and material, which can often change the look of the print completely. I thought a thicker black frame and a mount would make the print look more substantial.

Although I often frame prints myself due to cost, nothing beats having something properly framed. The painted wood frame that I chose for my wine print was excellent quality. All of this results in a far more expensive looking print! I also appreciated the double signed panel on the back of the frame to give it a personal touch to an online purchase. 

The print arrived really well packaged and in perfect condition. Thoroughly recommended! Although Easyart have a lot of choice, in a lot of categories, you can start here at

I was sent the print to review from Easyart.

REVIEW: The Creperie, Brighton

The Creperie is a dream for those with an eye for design. The website and interior have been exquisitely crafted. As a branding designer this would have been a dream job, details are everywhere from the striped paper straws, branded napkins and plates and logo plaques on the table. Stylish, relaxed with the right twist of quirky, it's an absolute pleasure to dine in.

As well as all of that (and I could go on believe me) Brighton was really desperate for a creperie. I just love the things and their versatility so that they can be adapted for all times on the day. I'm not really a cooked breakfast fan, you won't find me down the greasy spoon for sure, so The Creperie is an ideal start to my day.

I went for a classic sugar and lemon crepe with my Small Batch coffee which I thoroughly enjoyed. The crepe was paper thin, delicious and simple. At just £4.95 and served with either juice tea or coffee, I think it's a bit of a bargain as most cafes will charge a few quid for a good coffee anyway.

Mr GF would probably die of starvation on just my simple crepe to start the day, so he opted for the heartier breakfast crepe with a poached egg and bacon. Amazingly this was also £4.95 with a drink which I think was either a print mistake or too cheap. Crisp streaky bacon was tucked all around the perimeter so it was a decent breakfast. The only negative was the wastage from such a huge portion of ketchup.

Although tucked away, I think The Creperie will do well here in the summer. The menu has been well thought through (designed and created by Karen Samuel formally of Food For Friends). They have a good selection of gelato from locals Gelato Gusto and there are plenty of sweet options. Savoury-wise there is a separate hot and cold menu and I will be returning to make a good dent into both for lunch. You could go classic with a twist with locally haddock in a creamy cheese sauce or wild mushrooms, crème fraîche, white wine, dill and spinach leaves. There are some more unusual options like curry or a fajita inspired galette but really, something to suit all moods.

You would be hard pushed to spend more than £8/9 on lunch here, especially with the take away prices, unless you double or triple up. Which, with the style and attention to detail the owners have gone into is ridiculously good value.

A great addition and nice to see something a little different for Brighton. I like it so much I'm adding it to my Brighton Black Book:
2 Ship Street
Brighton BN1 1AD