All posts by westhillwhistler

Gull About Town – December 2022

The skies are clearing as we head out of the chaos of an autumn that had us gulls wondering about the very future of the city’s rich pickings, and we’re gliding into a crisp midwinter of surprisingly fresh and vibrant food stories. Who’d have thought that we’d be talking new restaurants in a cost of living crisis, but there’s exciting news ahead.

Your gull has been pecking at the windows of what was her favourite nibble, Oki-Nami on New Road to try to spot Brighton’s superstar chef, Dave Mothersill. Furna, his tasting menu only restaurant on the site will be open by the time your Whistler hits the streets and has been met with cries of delight in the scavenger community. 

Great uncle Gulbert still tells the chicks nest-time stories of the stubbly-chinned chef who would leave his delicious leftovers at the back of Terre a Terre, The Salt Room, The Coal Shed, The Ginger Pig and The Gingerman for his favourite gull with a smile and a wink. He could spot a bird with good taste.  And, shh, but word has it that he’s the most likely chef to get the city’s elusive first Michelin star. 

And from that Salt Room stable, Tutto (pictured) has finally opened after a false start back in September. Early pecking has this gull cocking her head, but she’ll be sticking with the veggie leftovers until she can be sure where the meat comes from.

Squawking of new openings, your gull can report that the highly popular Curry Leaf chef, Kanthi Thamma and his pal from his Chilli Pickle days, Diego Ricaurte have settled into their new Latin American meets India restaurant, Palmito. Since picking at the pork chicharron with hominy corn and salsa, she’s even ditched the idea of spreading her wings and heading to Mexico for the winter. 

As the nights draw in and the Christmas lights begin to line the streets of Brighton, your gull hits a thermal to look down on the bird life in this pretty city. The chicks are tottering down West Street, pecking at the tacos strewn across the pavements ahead of their big night out. A team of eco-gulls are clearing the beach after an unseasonably warm day has attracted a swarm of tourists. And Great Uncle Gulbert struts out of the back of Bincho Yakitori, stuffed to the gills with his favourite pickings in town. Dave Mothersill was right about him. He does have great taste.

Christmas at Bolney Wine Estate

Baubles and berries, bottles and bubbles, it’s all just one big excuse, this Christmas malarkey, to deck the halls and be very jolly indeed. But we’re not about that consumerist nonsense over at Whistler Towers. We’re all about zero waste and making stuff, eating local produce and supporting the neighbours. So how to feast and have fun without maxing the landfill? Come closer; we have some sparkling ideas.

One of the real treats of living in Brighton is the bounty of great produce on our doorstep, and increasingly, that means some pretty amazing wines too. Ding dong! There’s a couple of Christmas present ideas already. Plus, a wine tour is a great day out for all the rellies, and we’re still only on paragraph two. But wine? Sustainable? How? 

Well, climate change may not have a lot going for it, but the warming of our southern vineyards is at least creating a rather vibrant industry, with experts claiming that some of our chalk soil compares favourably to that of the Champagne region of France. And while English wines have been a thing since the Romans, this relatively new industry has attracted some pretty cool people who care about much more than the sound of the cash till. 

Cindy-Marie Harvey is the author of Watercress, Willow and Wine and told me that the English wine industry is setting new standards in sustainable business practice. “I think wine GB has been absolutely brilliant,” she told me on my podcast Cooking the Books. “If you look at a winery at harvest time, the amount of water that you need just to keep everything clean, it’s a phenomenal amount. For one litre of wine, you probably need ten litres of water. There’s a whole host of sustainable criteria that you have to look at before you can actually get the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain badge, but that means that customers can trust what they’re buying.” 

Within an hour’s drive or so from Brighton, we have some of the best wines in the south east, many of which are leading the field in sustainability. Ridgeview in Ditchling, the organic Davenports in Rotherfield in the Low Weald, Rathfinney in Alfriston, Bolney, just 20 mins from Brighton, Wiston, Breaky Bottom, the mighty Nyetimber, how spoilt are we? And Plumpton College just down the road is training up the next generation even as I write. 

Winemaker Sam Linton has lived almost her whole life at Bolney vineyard after her parents bought up an old pig farm in the 1970s, inspired no doubt by the TV sitcom The Good Life

“We had goats on site, so mum did the goat’s milk, the goat yoghurts, the cheese she used to sell to local deli’ Sam told me when I interviewed her for the delicious podcast. “She would drive all over to sell them. She grew marrows, tomatoes, courgettes, sweet corn, we had strawberries on site here. And it was fun. It was a great childhood. My brother and I ran wild.”

That Good Life ethos lives on at Bolney since Sam has taken the reins from her parents and built a business that has become a leader in English wines. Its cuvee rose even had a rep from Laurent Perrier recently scratching his head at which was his in a taste off. And with pips and skins used to make gin and other by-products, its wine production creates a virtuous circle. They even have a wine bottle Christmas tree at the entrance to the winery restaurant.

On which… what a find for a posh lunch over the holidays. Its Eighteen Acres Cafe overlooking the vineyard gets our loudest Whistle for quality, service and price with a fabulously instagrammable menu. And it’s even dog-friendly! To celebrate the festive season, Bolney is also running some tastings throughout December. A £12 ticket will buy you a tasting of three wines, paired with festive themed canapé plus a Bolney branded ISO tasting glass to take home. Or to give away as a Christmas present..  And if you prefer a little music with your wine tastings, you can enjoy a charcuterie board and glass of Bolney Bubbly for £30 per person every Friday evening in December. 

l  Bolney Wine Estate Foxhole Ln, Bolney, Haywards Heath RH17 5NB

l  More details at https://bolneywineestate.com/whats-on

You can hear Gilly’s chat with Sam on the delicious podcast from June 2019, and with Cindy-Marie this month on Cooking the Books with Gilly Smith

Nicholas Lezard – December 2022

I used to be a vain man but these days I do not gaze into the mirror admiringly any more, for there is now little to admire. So it is often an unwelcome surprise when I see my reflection when I walk into the lift at Waitrose. Instead of the dapper man iI imagine myself to be, I see an insane pensioner with hair all over the place. (Do not rebuke me for taking the lift at Waitrose. I have enough of a hill, and stairs, to climb once I get out.) What I need is a haircut; and every week this goes on the hair gets a little madder. Yesterday it looked so bad I wondered how they managed to let me stay in the shop. I know Brighton is a tolerant town but really?

There is a slight problem. Two, really. The first is that my favoured barbers is quite a shlepp away. This is for historical reasons. Five years ago, when I moved here, I went for a long stroll through the town – all the way to Kemp Town. I was much younger in those days. 

But as I was walking down St James’s Street I caught my reflection in a shop window and realised that it wasn’t Doc Brown from Back to the Future, but me, and I happened to be passing Ei8hty Ei8ght Barbers (for that is how they spell it, 88 being their address), and something about it looked welcoming, so in I went, and the barber available was Claudia, and she gave me – for the standard cost of a haircut for a gentleman – the best haircut I had ever had.

Of course, there is not much to cutting my hair. It’s pretty much a simple removal operation. I had a girlfriend during lockdown and after about a year my hair was going really lunatic so she borrowed a pair of clippers and it only took her two goes to master the technique. But there’s more to it than that and Claudia is still the best, and I can’t go anywhere else, it would feel like adultery.

But the thing is that Brighton has more hairdressers per square foot than anywhere else I have seen in my life. The only thing it has more of are tattoo parlours. But I am Brighton’s Amazing Untattooed Man so I can’t use them.

I typed “barbers brighton” on Google maps and there are 19 in a mile-wide radius from West Hill. There are three in a row in Seven Dials alone. After that they kind of peter out, but seriously, how many barbers/hairdressers can a town sustain? And it always feels odd, when walking from my place to Ei8hty Ei8ht, to have to pass about a dozen of them and go “No, not that one”, for I have to go there; it is the law. Anyway I can’t afford one today, not even at their reasonable prices. This magazine does not pay, we do it for love.

Editorial: December 2022

It’s that grey time of year, that stay under the duvet time between autumn with its romantic golden leaves and winter with its Bing Crosby snow. There’s nothing to like about this time of year – and this year, blimey. 

Every time you open the front door it’s like some outtake from a post-apocalyptic “Day After Tomorrow” type film. Turn on the telly and there’s David Attenborough looking at a forlorn polar bear standing on a lump of ice, a lump of ice which was once a block of ice but which would now find employment in a large vodka and tonic.

Turn on the news and somewhere else is under water. Last night on the news there was a story about a town on a small Italian island that had been swept away by a tidal wave of mud created by the most rain since whenever it was that records began. No one knows when records actually began, but it was a long time ago. There’s the cost of living crisis. Recession. Inflation. More rain than there’s rain, all that. 

Back in the old days I’d say to My Fine Wife “Come on, let’s just get away” and a couple of hours later we’d be at Gatwick holding a ticket that said “Somewhere sunny”. And in truth there’s a part of me where that impulse still lives. When friends say “Oh we’re off to Morocco”…  there’s a part of me that reaches for my new post-Brexit blue passport (which has still got blimmin foreign writing on it – really, was Brexit for nothing?) because here it’s dark and cold and it’s wetter than ever since records began – I mean really, how much rain? – and Morocco’s nice, but I don’t know, you can’t really do that anymore, can you? Can you? No you can’t. Not when there are small Italian towns being swept away. 

But it’s tempting, isn’t it. When you’re living in difficult times, what you need is something to cheer you up, something to make you smile, something to fill you with joy, with wonder, with awe. Something that would make you feel life was just better. 

That was the train of thought when I turned round and looked at Pickle. Pickle is our new puppy dog, our new 12-year-old rescue, and without wanting to cast doubt on his previous owners, safe to say Pickle’s life has taken a turn for the better. 

There are small clues. For example, we take him for walks. To you this may be a small thing, being taken for a walk. But to Pickle, this is a revelation. Similarly, playing with a ball. Not sure Pickle had ever seen a ball before. He still doesn’t quite know what to do with it, but Mum and Dad say it’s fun and that’s good enough for Pickle. 

As antidotes to the grey go, Pickle is perfect. How can we sprinkle a bit of Pickle’s joy over the grey? Not by going to Gatwick. Not when there are small Italian towns getting swept away. 

But why are we talking about this? We should be talking about Christmas and with due respect to Sam’s column on page 7, we like Christmas. Drinks, chocolates, that song by The Waitresses… Baileys on your cornflakes. Another bottle of Old Spice. Eat, drink and be merry. Or eat, drink and fall asleep. Maybe play charades or that one where you stick a piece of paper on your head and people have to guess who you are. Whatever you do, be more Pickle and have a ball. And remember, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

Xmas In The Dials – December 8

Come join Hi Cacti & our fellow 7 Dials independent businesses for some late night shopping, festivities & share some community cheer🎄

18+ of our local neighbouring shops, cafes, pubs, and businesses are all joining together to bring you festivities & late night shopping!

🎅🏽 Kitsch Santa’s grotto
🎅🏽 Treasure Hunt
🎅🏽 Christmas Carol Singing
🎅🏽 Local Pub Crawl for a free drink
🎅🏽 Christmas lights & window displays

🛍 More to be revealed & all are open till 8pm to bring you sales & discounts to help you Christmas shop locally & support your 7 Dials community businesses this Christmas.

During Very Merry 7 Dials your favourite independents will be open 5pm-9pm to bring you vinyls, vintage, houseplants, cakes, fashion, local art, mulled wine, Christmas trees, raffles, mince pies, wreaths, home goods, festive cocktails, local makers, late night shopping & sales, essential oil samples & workshops, coffee, gifts, charitable causes, & more!