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The ultimate epicurean tour of Brighton

Beena nadeem

Contributor

Brighton’s smile is infectious – a charming, tolerant hug of a city with a playfully cheeky vibe that stretches from beach slumping sunsets to chirpy sunrises. It retains its underbelly of hedonism, some ageing hippies and the odd dog on a string too. Aside from all that, in the past decade, this city has been transforming into a foodie haven. Now you’re just as likely to come across artisan coffee as you are a vegan kebab. And with so much on offer from its independent, chain free, personality running through its very core, we take you on a food tour of Brighton’s best.

North Laines for lemonade tea, a sausage roll and a cheeky drink

Meander around the former slum areas around the North Laines and you get to Gardener Street (like a little Camden of bygone years), Gloucester Road and Kensington Gardens. These once unkempt streets now brag the kudos of its infelicitous past, boasting the appellation, ‘Brighton’s Bohemian quarter’. Here you’ll find the Bluebird Tea Company, the first tea mixologists, where smells walk you through childhood memories of chocolate digestives, lemonade, and gingerbread.

A short walk on and you’ll get to Gloucester Road and sausage heaven. Here at the Brighton Sausage Company, you can sample their award-winning sausage rolls such as lamb and rosemary, honey and pork through to 50 other types using everything imaginable such as mango, marmite and maple syrup. Close by is the Basketmakers Arms, a cozy pub which stocks sour mash and bourbon. You’ll also pass Isaacs, which is a successful fine dining restaurant run by a troupe of talented boys – the oldest of whom is just 23. 

For falafels and beetroot caviar and artisan chocolates

Head towards London Road, towards the covered market, Brighton Open Market where you’ll find wonderfully eclectic food at reasonable prices. Near the entrance is Antonia’s fish shop, with locally line-caught fish, and wonderful razor clams and sushi-grade tuna, Greek pastries at Louzine, where the grandma of this family run store makes fresh filo pastry each night. Try the Food Shed for locally, micro-produced products.

Around here you’ll also find falafels; anyone who knows Brighton knows that you can’t escape the city without a good falafel. For that, you come to Smorl’s, who have been perfecting their recipe for the past 30 years. Falafels here are beautifully crispy and come with hummus in grades from mildly garlicky to outrageously antisocial. Their cumin enhanced beetroot caviar is especially good.

Just on the exit to the market is where you’ll find French-trained chocolatiers, Rainbow Chocolates. This is serious chocolate, made with fresh creams and handcrafted to include flavours such as clementine and orange blossom, banana ganache, apple crumble and pâtes de fruits – you won’t see any comedy audacious chocolate shapes for the Brighton hen night scene here. The packaging is all-compostable, vegans are catered for, and their hot chocolate – French style, should not be missed. 

Brighton’s worse kept food secret

Out of the market and onto Pelham Street is what’s about to become Brighton’s worse kept secret: Helm Ston. This tiny café is run by one of Brighton’s original hippies and former chef of the famous Bill’s restaurant. The owner refuses to advertise or acknowledge the internet, he doesn’t have a phone in fact if you didn’t know it was here, you wouldn’t necessarily notice it. He’s not part of the official food tour, but worth knowing about as locals swear by the food here – just don’t tell him we told you so.

Running parallel to the seafront is West Street’s new contender, home to perhaps the best fries ever made (so much so they even brought a consultant in from Amsterdam to create them). These are Dutch Fries cut to 12 mm thick, pre-fried, air blasted in between (similar effect to blanching) and then fried again to result in deliciously fluffy centres and beautifully crisp outers. If you fancy a burger, rock up North Street and head to award-winning Burger Brothers. With its unassuming frontage and lack of any brothers, it does create heavenly succulent pure beef pates encased in bread buns made from Jewish challor bread. 

Addictive crack: the best gelato in town, then oysters

Worth checking out is Hisbe, a social enterprise and supermarket with a conscience where you can buy locally-foraged goods by the Hedge Witch, including wildwood pesto, tapina (plant) pickle or hand-made sloe gin and then onto the seafront itself for some addictive Sicilian Crack (salted caramel and peanut)… Boho Gelato is THE place to get gelato in Brighton, made with local nut butter and creams from the nearby South Downs. Check out the strawberry and basil or carrot cake flavours. Near the Brighton Dome – where in times past, Prince Regent used to keep his horses and use its underground tunnels to meet his nocturnal lady friends, is the iconic The Lanes. On its fringes, you’ll find seafood restaurant, English’s, which is aptly set in a trio of former fishermen’s cottages. Here you can enjoy freshly brought oysters from Lindisfarne waters, off Northumberland, while soaking up the sun and enjoying a glass ‘lip stinger’ Picopoul de Pinet.

For food tours around artisan and independent Brighton, check out Brighton’s only walking food tour Brighton Food Tours or see Visit Brighton for details.  

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