You could eat out every day of the year in Brighton & Hove – lunch and dinner – and not go to the same restaurant twice. And you’d eat pretty darn well too.
No, there are no Michelin stars – yet – but London-on-Sea boasts some cracking eateries, the most successful often being tiny places of between 18-30 covers, many of which shut on a Monday and some on a Tuesday too. Pop-ups are hugely popular and almost every pub is seemingly of the gastro variety.
Some restaurants have gone to the wall, it’s true, but they’re usually outposts of the dread chains such as Jamie’s Italian or Carluccio’s – which shut its doors last week. There is always somebody queuing up to take their place, though, and there really is something for everyone.
You want fish? Try Riddle & Finns, English’s or the Little Fish Market. Curry? Look no further than Chilli Pickle, Indian Summer and the Curry Leaf Café. Vegetarian? Easy: Terre à Terre, Food for Friends and The Prince George. Good grief, there’s even been a vegetarian shoe shop here for over 30 years.
I’ve lived in Brighton for yonks and never tire with what’s on offer. I’m fickle, though, and my top five changes regularly. These are my favourites today.
20-seater Cin Cin is an exquisite touch of Venice set slap-dab in the heart of the North Laine, Brighton’s trendy, shabby-chic, Bohemian quarter, crammed with vintage clothes shops, flea markets, tattoo parlours and cafés. Sit at the tiny U-shaped bar and enjoy a Regal Rogue Wild Rose vermouth and rhubarb bitters Negroni as you take in the commendably concise menu of small dishes. Everything is prepared in front of you and the banter with the staff only adds to the atmosphere. A plate of artisan Italian salumi followed by homemade pappardelle pasta with wild rabbit ragú and a selection of Italian cheeses will see you right, especially when washed down with a glass each of Frescobaldi Pomino Bianco and Cantina Kellerei Pinot Nero.
13-16 Vine Street, Brighton BN1 4AG
One of Brighton & Hove’s newer restaurants, Wild Flor has already built up a devoted following thanks to its exemplary cooking and the finest wine list in town. Dishes such as salt cod and chorizo croquettes, guinea fowl and pancetta terrine, Sussex hogget with turnips and spinach, glazed beef cheek, cavalo nero and celeriac puree are typical fare and ask co-owner Rob Maynard (a former wine merchant) what to drink alongside them and he’ll have you in rapturous indecision with his magnificently esoteric suggestions. The list is as wide-ranging as it’s fairly priced with treats that include 2018 Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno (£25), 2018 Rainer Wess Gruner Veltliner (£36) and 2016 Xavier Gerard Condrieu (£65).
42 Church Road, Hove, BN3 2FN
Being nothing if not a decadent party town, Brighton rises late at weekends and locals and visitors alike rely heavily on restorative Bloody Marys and Sunday roasts, the finest of which you’ll find at Hove Place just off Church Road. Although the wine list isn’t much to write home about (although I do love their Journey’s End ‘Haystack’ Chardonnay), the grub is top notch. Alongside the price, the menu lists the number of miles the ingredients have travelled and almost everything on offer is resolutely local. There’s a charming secret garden out the back and I can’t think of a finer place to cure a hangover and idle a Sunday away than here.
37 First Avenue, Hove, BN3 2FH
The sister restaurant of 64 Degrees, one of Brighton’s most likely Michelin star contenders, Murmur is set just yards from the sea in the recently refurbished Victorian arches. There are some 40 covers inside and another 40 outside, overlooking both the skeleton of the West Pier (the focus of regular and spectacular murmurations of starlings – hence the name) and the modern marvel that is the British Airways i360, one of the world’s tallest moving observation towers. It’s a real joy to sit outside catching a tan as you watch the promenaders take the air and enjoy the freshest of fresh fish washed down with local Ridgeview or Wiston Estate English fizz.
91-96 King’s Road Arches, Brighton, BN1 2FN
The Flint House is the latest addition to Brighton’s perennially popular min-chain that includes the fine-dining Gingerman restaurant and the Ginger Pig, Ginger Dog and Ginger Fox gastropubs. Set in the newly redeveloped Hanningtons Estate corner of The Lanes in the centre of town, the Flint House is ideal for jaded shoppers, peckish theatre-goers and those simply carrying a bit of a thirst. Cocktails on the upstairs terrace, wines by the glass (over 50) and delectable small plates (slow roast lamb belly with Jerusalem artichokes, salsa verde and anchovies is my top tip) are the order of the day here and, despite the fact that – infuriatingly – you can’t book, it’s a nigh on perfect pit stop.
13 Hannington’s Lane, Brighton, BN1 1GS