REVIEW: Busby & Wilds, Kemptown Brighton

Busby & Wilds has settled in nicely into their little corner of East Brighton/Kemptown. Admittedly, house prices have rocketed and we now have places like this and Marmalade in place of rundown plumbing shops and "fear for your life" pubs. It's a fantastic and diverse place to live really and even if you don't live in the direct area, both of these places are truly visit worthy.

The exterior of Busby & Wilds is inviting and it's safe to say I am also a big fan of the interior. I'm slowly turning my own home into shades of grey (not fifty) so really feel at home in the stripped back, calm, earthy and stylish rooms. They are about a hundred thousand percent better than the ugly duckling that was previously there as The Swan, whose electro purple and pink walls made it unbearable in the day and like some ghastly retro fish tank in the evening. I gave that a very wide berth.

This is now, obviously, far more suitable for all day use than The Swan but still special enough to drop in for a smart dinner in the evening. You will also find probably the best pub garden in the area, which is a decent size and nicely maintained.

And thankfully, the attention to detail makes its way onto the menu too. I suppose you could call it "elevated pub food"; rabbit & bacon rillettes, pork belly croquettes, pan fried gnocchi, mussels with Aspalls cider and the obligatory burger of course. There are interesting touches for the side salads and dressings that go beyond the norm.

With the onset of this cold weather the slow braised BBQ beef brisket seemed like a mighty fine idea. The hearty portion of meat was well cooked, fragmenting at the fork and the thin BBQ liquor was tasty. Sadly the polenta chips were off (I love them) so just had standard ones along with a freshly made crunchy apple & beetroot slaw. A really comforting dish, hugely enjoyable and not bad at all for £13.95.

Mr GF chose the fish & chips and enjoyed them. I thought the frying oil could have been a little hotter. Luckily the batter wasn't too oily, but just a few minutes would have made the fry perfect. It came served classically with mushy peas and tartar sauce, again well priced at £10.95.

We love a sticky toffee pudding so shared one. I like the simplicity of the one here, just a dollop of ice cream and a really gooey but light sponge. Nothing reinvented or clever, just very good.

Staff are friendly and a real asset here. Produce is well sourced and there is a great drinks list, with particularly well selected (I'm trying not to say "craft") beers. The place is also really family friendly too, not surprising as this is a family run operation.

If you are in the area, drop in for lunch or dinner and there is also a very nice Sunday roast menu too.
9 Rock St

TRIVIA: Busby & Wilds is named after the architects who were involved in the Regency Kemp Town development nearby as well as some other key Brighton architecture.

Christmas party menus Brighton 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year. No, no it's not, it's time to organise the office Christmas party or a festive gathering for friends and the pressure is on to choose somewhere that everybody is going to love or you'll have ruined EVERYTHING. Get organised and book somewhere that you can bank on will be special, even that really picky boss of yours. Don't get lumped with the chain restaurant and a turkey pizza now will you.

I will add more to the list as my select restaurants release their Christmas menus.

The Ginger Group
For a guaranteed quality meal, then you can't go wrong with any of The Gingerman restaurants. Depending on your style and budget preference, either The Gingerman, The Ginger Dog or The Ginger Pig would be a great choice. Think game, souffles and inventive desserts. Sign me up for the Apple and Agen Prune Crumble with Sloe Gin Custard.

£30 - 37 per person for 3 courses

Sam's of Brighton
A smart bistro with elegant food, Sam's is a great choice for Christmas parties. Sussex Pork Belly, 10 hour Red Wine Braised Shoulder of Beef and Steamed Vegetable Pudding all feature. This is robust, flavour packed food.

£24 for lunch and £28 for dinner per person

The Coal Shed
The cosy, bustling restaurant environment is not the only thing to love at The Coal Shed. Their well put together Christmas menu is a treat. Roast Venison, Grilled Half Lobster or Rib-Eye Steak with festive sides and accompaniments. Starters and desserts are really special too.

£40 per person

64 Degrees
If you have all been very good girls and boys then you may be treated to 64 Degrees for your Christmas party. Serving only small groups of six or less, or for exclusive hire, the format of the menu will be the same as their standard, but with a festive twist.

Riddle & Finns
If you prefer fish to turkey (who doesn't) then Riddle & Finns would be fabulous. Dover Sole Meuniere, Turbot en Papillot, Dressed Local Crab and Seared Scallops. You can also decorate your menu with additional oysters, palate cleansers and caviar.

£35 for the Magnum Menu and £45 for the Jeroboam Menu per person


Terre a Terre
It wouldn't be a Brighton Christmas without a Terre a Terre tongue in cheek menu. This is the local go-to for the most creative vegetarian food. The menu this year includes Aubergine Dengaku and a take on their famous rosti. And the pun of the year? Their Truly Plum-sious pudding.

£28-32 per person

Busby & Wilds
Off the beaten track and somewhere not many may have been to is the fabulous Busby & Wilds in Kemptown. Rolled Shin of Beef, Crayfish, Haddock and Cod fish pie or Mushroom and Chestnut Wellington. And of course the turkey dinner with works. This menu is a fabulous all-rounder with classics and twists.

£25 for 2 courses / £28 for 3 courses per person

Coggings & Co.
For a more laid back approach, how about burgers? But proper burgers that are well sourced with a high attention to sustainability. Start with sharing platters followed by beef, turkey, brisket or vegetarian burgers with triple cooked chips and some of the best desserts in town. It will still feel special in their nice restaurant environment.

£21.95 for 3 courses per person

The Creperie
A very easy on the wallet choice for budget conscious groups would be the alternative Christmas menu at The Creperie. Cheese fondue, meat or vegetarian sharing platters followed by a crepe (obviously) or gelato and a glass of wine. Bargain.

£16.50 per person

The Manor
If you want a private dining space all to yourselves then parties can book out The Manor for groups of 10-50. Shredded confit duck salad with sour cherries and Guinness braised beef short rib with a Guinness and clementine gravy feature with other delicious festive classics.

£25 for 3 courses and digestifs per person

Macsween Haggis dinner night at The Coal Shed, Brighton

There are people who adore haggis and those that don't appreciate it so much. And I'd hedge a bet that 70% of those in Camp No can't bare the idea of it rather than relate their dislike to the taste. Which is daft as these people are probably happy to trough down plates of cured meats, rare steaks and sausages by the truckload. When you think about it, haggis really isn't too far removed from those foods. It's just Scottish charcuterie if you like. An interesting point raised at a very special dinner organised by MacSsween Haggis I attended recently.

Luckily, I'm firmly in Camp Yes for haggis as there were six courses of the gorgeous stuff to get through, crafted by the wonderful Coal Shed. Haggis was incorporated into dishes that complemented the variety flavour, some of which are new Macsween products like Wild Boar, Venison, Three Bird and we even sampled an unusual Chocolate and Chilli Black Pudding. 

Each dish was washed down with not one, but two paired drinks (God bless the Scots). These were selected by Dave Broom who went for the expected whiskey, ale and wines, to the more unusual pairings of tequila and sherry. Some worked really well, others created conversation but that's what it's all about!

Neeps N’ Tatties Cappuccino with “Moroccan Spiced Haggis” Scones, Chicken Liver Mousse & Onion Jam. Paired with: Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2013.
Confit Chicken Thigh, Artichokes, Coffee, Bok Choi, Crispy “Traditional Haggis” & Chicken Consommé. This was brilliant paired with the Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, but I love sherry.   
Venison Carpaccio with “Venison Haggis” Scotch Egg, Celeriac, Blackberry, Seeds & Nuts. Paired with: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban.
Smoked Quail & “Three Bird Haggis” Paté with Truffle Toast, Burnt Apple, Chestnuts & Grapes. Paired with Innis & Gunn Toasted Oak IPA and Don Julio Reposado, which I didn't get on with. Maybe tequila at this stage was a bit too full on!
“Chocolate, Chilli & Beetroot Black Pudding” Brownie with Whisky Baba, Raspberries, Black Sesame Seeds & Oatmeal. Particularly great with Havana Club 7 Year Rum but even better with the Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter.

We polished off the meal with Haggis Spiced Chocolate Truffles and a dessert wine. Generally the meal was great, as you would expect from The Coal Shed. I think they treated the haggis a little lightly but liked how each haggis variety was themed appropriately and opened my eyes to different processes in serving haggis. (Excuse the bad photos, the food was immaculate but the lighting suitably moody.)

The Macsween story is also rather lovely, celebrating their 60th anniversary but still firmly a family business. The original Macsween Haggis was created in the family butcher shop in the 50s to the grandfather's own recipe. This is why Macsween Haggis doesn't contain the expected liver, it's just that Charlie Macsween didn't like the taste – fair enough. Today, the company are championing the introduction of haggis to a wider audience and are doing it extremely well. Even the format of the packaging has been remodelled from a traditional stomach shape (this is still available in farm shops and butchers) to a more consumer-friendly sausage shape. Purists may balk but it's a smart move. They also offer haggis in quick cook packs and smaller serving formats too.

I was sent away with a bag groaning with Macsween products and a challenge to create some dishes, something I'm really looking forward to. Expect a post up soon, I'm thinking of giving it an Italian twist obviously!

I was a guest of MacSween Haggis.

Book Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey, Richard C. Morais

You know those books that you never want to end? I positively mourned finishing The Hundred Foot Journey. I saved it like a precious Willy Wonka chocolate bar to take to Italy with me, thinking that I'd be able to catch snips of it here and there over a busy fortnight with the family but no. I devoured the lot in just a couple of evenings.

The Hundred Food Journey tells the story of Hassan and his family who, from painfully humble beginnings, manage to build a successful restaurant from the ground up in Mumbai. The family embark on new beginnings after heart-breaking tragedy strikes, moving to a brief, grim stay in England, then ending up surprisingly, in the small French village of Lumiére. There they open another vibrant, loud and joyful Indian restaurant directly opposite a reserved, traditional, two starred Michelin establishment. They are met with a frosty reception from proprietor Madame Mallory, who begins to find any way to get her new Indian neighbours expelled from the village. Yet after recognising a rare talent in Hassan, she eventually becomes his mentor and the key to his future success.

Most people should enjoy this book, although the latter half, which is dominated by French haute cuisine, the questionable Michelin grading system and chef name dropping is probably more suited to those with a strong interest in food. But the wonderful clash of cultures weave a passionate, emotive story throughout the book. Subjects of food, tragedy, politics, family relationships, romance and a man's struggle against his race and culture to make a success of his talents in a foreign place ensures your attention is grabbed from page to page.

What I really appreciated about this book was the rich and colourful writing style. Descriptions of food and flavours were so vivid, a photo would not do a better job of translating the image and taste of the dishes. It's certainly given me a need to discover more of India's food and an invigorated appetite for my upcoming visit to Paris. Also well crafted are the book's key characters. Almost all of them are penned with such detail; their quirks and idiosyncrasies, that you can't help but empathise with each, even those portrayed in a negative light.

The recently released film version has been received with so-so reviews (more of an amuse-bouche than a hearty meal, say The Guardian) but I think the book, as always, is best. 

An absolute must read.

The Hundred Food Journey is published by Alma Books and costs £7.99

I was sent this copy for review.

GF Great Finds | Brighton Shopping: Workshop

This is a wonderful new shopping addition to Brighton. Appealing inside and out, their timeless products have been cherry picked for their equal balance of style and function.

Beyond the luscious navy exterior (that logo!) you'll find a great selection of Nick Membery stoneware all handmade in Llandeilo, South Wales. His plates, cups and bowls are is fantastic quality and would bring a bit of luxury to the everyday table. Their other kitchenware is also beautiful with lots of plain stoneware, enamel and divine wooden tools. I need that French rolling pin in my life for sure.

If you're a real man's man or have one in your life, you'll like the proper shaving brushes, horn combs and bone shoe brushes.

Workshop also have a lot of other desirable lifestyle products for the home as well as a gorgeous range of Children's toys that offer a welcome break from the plastic tat for style conscious parents. 

Prices are surprisingly affordable which is handy as you'll want it ALL.
13A Prince Albert Street

Graphic Foodie Great Finds | Brighton Shopping
A series of articles featuring stylish kitchenware and lifestyle shops in Brighton
For other stores featured visit

REVIEW: Le Nantais Bistro, Hove

I came across a tongue-in-cheek print* this week declaring that "Brighton is a city split between the Hoves and the Hove nots". I think I fall pretty much into the latter category. Anything past Palmiera Square and I'm packing a passport and unplugging the toaster. But there has been a growing list of Hove cafes, bakeries and restaurants, some shiny new and some ticking along with consistently good feedback that have been tempting me out of my BN1 and BN2 comfort zone.

And I adore French food. I think after Italian, French is what I most crave when dining out, the decadence and richness of it. Pascal Benamari is a chef who's has been behind a few local favourites with his latest restaurant, Le Nantais Bistro, taking over a nice little space that used to be the very popular Harry's. The interior is a contemporary, sophisticated soft grey affair, something that would suit both a romantic dinner for two or with friends. They have made it stylish but not over the top.

Normally I'm straight in with the specials board but unusually nothing appealed. Not sure if lasagne or mozzarella have any place in a French restaurant and as for anything wrapped in Parma ham, I parked that in the early 00s. The a la carte though is bursting with French classics and modern tweaks.

Quenelle are something I fell in love with after a trip to Lyon and these light, airy langoustine quenelle were the best I've had to date. They can suffer with being too dense, almost like a dumpling, but these were anything but. The rich crustacea bisque sauce was exactly what I look for in French cooking; rich, luxurious and silky. I've been thinking about this sauce a lot since I ate it, having such amazing depth of flavour. Freshened with ribbons of courgette tagliatelle and a plump langoustine, it really was a perfect dish.

I was dining with my blogger friend Rosie and luckily she can really put her food away (and she's tiny - grrrr!). The duck carpaccio was an extremely generous portion. Normally you would expect a few slices, even this thinly cut, but the plate was quite something. The classic celeriac and apple remoulade was the perfect accompaniment, a fresh and crunchy contrast to the earthy duck.

For main I ordered the rabbit, something I cook when I can get hold of it, which is not very often, so always feels like a treat. You have to work hard for your dinner when eating rabbit, picking though intricate bones and the meat is typically conservative, but this was a good portion and not in the least bit dry. Again in a sauce, a deep mustard, this was a more rustic dish but done so well it felt like it had been given a waistcoat and smartened up for the evening. Served simply with a fine pomme puree, it was another hit. 

The only dish that slightly disappointed was Rosie's soft shell crab Caesar Salad. The eggs were greying and croutons seemed a little greasy but the crab batter was fine and anchovies fresh. They had also forgotten to dress it which was rectified quickly. It was ok, just compared to the other dishes, probably could have been elevated to be a little more special. 

The table next to us, reassuringly a group of French youngsters (I can say that now I'm OLD), ordered an eye-popping sharing plate of Cote de Boeuf. Luckily our forks had been taken away as I'm sure they would have found themselves missing a piece or two. I will most definitely be returning for that. Quite possibly on my own! 

The only way to finish was the Assiette of desserts of course, perfect for the indecisive and greedy, of which I am both. There was a nice syrupy crepe Suzette, a ball of nougat glace, a piece of chocolate and raspberry delice, apple tart and a brulee. All nice enough and a good opportunity to sample a cross section of practically the whole dessert menu.

Service was friendly if a little sketchy in places, things like forgetting cutlery, cutlery placed upside down on the table and missing dressing, all minor really. I like that the waiter refused to take our dessert plate away unless the last mouthful, which inevitably remains when sharing, had been polished off. There's always a place for a bit of charming French cheekiness in my book.

Le Nantais Bistro is a great neighbourhood restaurant. Smart, good quality and really reasonably priced. A place people will return to again and again because of it. (Our bill without alcohol was just £30 per person which I though was good, honest value.) They are even open from breakfast and have a good looking lunch menu too.
41 Church Road
Hove BN3 2TB

Print by Alex Bamford via Cardigan Kate's Instagram 

REVIEW: Agua Dulce, Brighton

Good Spanish food in the city is almost as hard to come by as Italian cooking even though two of the most popular restaurants are exactly those. When you walk past they are heaving to the rafters with parties and hen dos lining their stomachs on set meal menus. 

But if you like it authentic then it's all a bit sad face. So when fellow blogger Rosie wrote a glowing review of Agua Dulce, a place I've been hearing very good feedback from in general, I knew I had to pay a visit.

Located in a slightly grotty street just off the seafront, the grey and grubbiness subsides as you pass through the doors and are transported into the sunny interior. The welcome was slightly less sunny and turns out the charm is only showered on the "pretty girl" tables. Myself and Mr GF clearly were not the waiter's type! We were also gruffly told that we'd only be allowed to put an order in once to the kitchen as they were busy, which looking at the half empty room and trying to get my head around what I believed the casual concept of tapas was, peeved me off slightly. Not the greatest start.

Still, I was generally in a rare good mood so didn't walk out but ordered two dishes initially, stubbornly retaining the menu with a solid grasp my best firm "business" smile.

Luckily the food arrived and we soon forgot about the bad start.

The fish here is very, very good. I have never eaten octopus that didn't remind me of car tyres, but here was cooked by someone who must be very experienced with seafood. Being thinly sliced helped the off-putting texture of the suckers and made it far more enjoyable. Usually Mr. GF has to polish off the seafood plates but I ate my half of this quite happily. I also like that it had been placed on sliced potatoes for substance and generously sprinkled with paprika. Although it was one of the more expensive small plate dishes, was larger and good value at £8.95.

Small pieces of marinated shark steak were floured and fried, giving you that crisp exterior whilst locking in the sweet, tender fish on the inside. Delicious.

Gambas Pil Pil is a classic, simple dish and what not to like about a sauce of wine, lemon and chilli? 

Chorizo is a must and although not as interesting as some of the other dishes, essential for mopping up that incredible oil with bread. I normally like it cooked in sherry but this was just pan fried, but still really nice.

And finally...Padron peppers are an absolute must, aren't they?

On the subject of bread, I was amazed, even though I'd seen it on Rosie's blog, at how rubbish the bread was. Cheap, gloopy supermarket "French Stick". (Won't insult the French by calling it a baguette even.) It could be a lot better, especially with the increasing amount of the great bakeries in town. I almost felt sorry for the decent aioli served with it.

We didn't really bother with the dessert menu which had the usual flans and things. Moving on for dessert after a meal is my new thing this summer.

I would be very keen to go back for the main meals, especially the fish, possibly even a paella. The one on the table next to us looked a treat. Some of the more unusual tapas specials were quite enticing too. 

So what they lack in desirability of location, they do make up for with fresh, good quality and reasonably priced food. I think our bill came to abut £60 which included service (ho-ho) and a £28 bottle of wine.

If you fancy that taste of Spain then I think this it the closest you are going to get to it. Just make sure you go with a group of your prettiest girlfriends and leave the bearded dude at home in front of the telly.

East Sussex BN1 1NE