Category Archives: Eating In

Gull About Town – April 2023

There’s been so much food news in town recently, it could turn a bird’s head. There’s the latest wins from Gull favourites Bincho Yakitori, Palmito and Burnt Orange scooping the top three at the Brighton’s Best Awards,  and new collaborations all over town. Isaac at Isaac at has teamed up with former head chef at Terre a Terre, Dave Marrow at Embers on Meeting House Lane. Just up the road, the super talented Aaron Dalton who’s been turning his own house into Four Restaurant, has been lending a hand at Furna. And Dan Kenny at The Set has brought Bangkok to Brighton at Kab, without compromising his signature commitment to home grown ingredients.  Even his wasabi comes from Hampshire and Dorset.

For more titbits, the Gull will be cocking her head to listen in to the Brighton Whistler podcast chats with Duncan Ray at The Little Fish Market and Maddy Riches at Dilsk, the new restaurant at Drakes. Beady eyed foodies will have spotted Maddy as front of house manager at Murmur, and with former 64 degrees chef, Tom Stephens, she’ll be sourcing from ethical growers & local producers, in and around East Sussex. A big whistle to them for supporting our free roaming pals across the county. 

And as the weather brightens, your gull has been stretching her wings and heading for the hills to check in on her pasture-fed friends and find the best morcels out of town. The Ram in the unspeakably picture-book pretty village  of Firle is almost on the seagull flight path from the to Seven Sisters, and a popular spot for holidaying birds. Its courtyard dining space is a particular favourite for a weekend lunch of lamb or beef from Place Farm who once grazed in the grounds of next door’s Firle Place. The game on the menu all comes from Firle Estate and most of its fish is from the mighty fine Brighton and Newhaven Fish in Shoreham. 

Next, it’s a straight thermal to The Crabtree in West Sussex, as the crow flies, anyway, with a quick dive into a memory in Prince Albert Street. Great Uncle Gull still tells stories of the hippy birds who perched around Brighton’s trailblazing vegetarian, Food for Friends back in the nineties. Word had reached them that Simon Hope from the properly pioneering Food For Thought in Covent Garden was bringing some of its spirit to Brighton, and cool-hunters that they were, they hung around the bins to catch the first wave. And they were right; as vegetarians swooped in, it wasn’t long before two of its chefs, Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor would cross the road and set up their own groovy veggie, Terre a Terre and crown this fine city (then town) the best vegetarian in the UK.  

Twenty years on, what should your bird spot, but Simon Hope himself, now lord of The Crabtree near Bolney, tucking into what looks rather than a steak. But relax; this is from Trenchmore Farm where Brighton’s best restaurateurs do their shopping, where the cows are pasture fed and get to snack on the mulch of the apple leftovers from its Silly Moo cider and sleep on straw from home-grown wheat. Vegetarians may prefer the goats cheese with Piccalilli, but your Gull spotted a rather juicy leftover tempura oyster to suck on as she caught the evening thermal back to Brighton. And as the sun set over the West Pier, not for the first time she pondered of what a very lucky Gull she is too.

Low carb eating

Back when we lived as hunter gatherers there was a limited supply of carbohydrate-rich foods. We hunted wild animals, caught fresh fish and foraged for green leafy vegetables, herbs, berries and nuts. We lived close to the land and honoured the seasonal changes. We had times of fasting and times of feasting. This is the way our bodies evolved. There was no bread, pasta, grains or refined sugar. 

Today, we eat a vast amount of sugar-rich and starchy foods that push our bodies to their biochemical limits. When we eat carbohydrates our bodies produce insulin to allow glucose to enter the cells for fuel and keep blood sugar levels in check.

A high carb diet from overconsumption of grains, starches and sugary foods results in constant insulin spikes as the body attempts to keep blood sugar levels at their low default setting; a very narrow threshold that evolved over millions of years when there was hardly any glucose available to us.

Insulin resistance

When insulin keeps spiking from years of eating sugary and starchy foods, the cells of the body stop responding to its message and it can no longer do its job properly, as there is simply too much dietary sugar to deal with. The sugar gets converted into fat and the body loses its ability to regulate its glucose load.

The driver behind most degenerative conditions

Insulin resistance is the driver behind diabetes, inflammation, heart disease and high cholesterol, and can contribute to carcinogenic changes in the body (cancer cells are greedy for glucose), as well as setting the stage for Alzheimer’s, which is now being classed as type 3 diabetes. Female hormonal imbalances can be addressed by lowering excess glucose because high insulin plays havoc with hormonal balance. 

Eight benefits of low carb eating

When blood sugar levels remain balanced, insulin stays low and stress hormones are spared, resulting in health benefits, such as:

1. Increased energy

2. Stable moods

3.Hormonal balance

4. Lowered stress response

5. Freedom from cravings

6. Fat burning

7. Lowered inflammation

8. Better sleep

What to eat on a low carb diet?

• Green leafy vegetables

• Salad leaves

• Herbs and spices

• Seaweed

• Low starch veggies – cauliflower, broccoli, kale, radish, asparagus, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, aubergine, sprouts…

• Quality protein from natural sources like grass-fed meat and wild fish

• Free range, organic eggs

• Raw nuts and seeds

• Healthy fats from cold-pressed oils, virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, avocado, oily fish, fatty meats…

• Low sugar fruits packed with antioxidants like blueberries, strawberries & blackberries

• Some grass fed, organic dairy

A typical day of low carb eating:

Breakfast: scrambled eggs and veggies

Lunch: salad packed with leaves, a protein source and a decent drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of nuts and fresh herbs

Dinner: vegetables, a quality protein and lots of healthy fats, such as wild salmon with broccoli cooked in butter, or chicken and roasted veg drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Your body knows best

Your body has a deep inner wisdom and you’ll be more finely tuned to listening to it if you get out of the perpetual cycle of sugar and starch addiction. 

Find out for yourself

Try slowly cutting out sugary and starchy foods and see how good you can feel without them. I guarantee you will feel supercharged and awesome! Eating this way deeply supports your body’s biochemistry.

Get the help you need

If you’re a slave to cravings, addicted to sugar, starchy or processed foods and would like to experience a whole new level of health and vibrancy, or to address any health conditions with a therapeutic diet, seek the advice of a nutrition professional to help you find your balance again. 

l Jo Rowkins, Nutritional Therapist & Lifestyle Coach at Awakening Health.

A passion for appassimento

We’re still in lockdown. It’s cold. There’s snow on the ground. Let’s go to southern Italy and talk about wine.

About two years ago, I was introduced by a friend to a wine, currently available at Waitrose for under £10 (sometimes well under £10), that has become one of our favourite weekday wines. It’s made by a firm called Terre di Faiano which is based in Chianti but they have vineyards in Southern Italy and Sicily.

The grape is Primitivo, the same grape as Zinfadel in the USA, and it’s from Puglia. It’s extraordinarily full-bodied, creamy smooth, and unlike almost any other Italian wine I’ve tasted.

For two years I’ve puzzled over how this wine comes to be so good and only discovered the answer when Waitrose put another wine on the shelf alongside it. This is also by Terre di Faiano but the grape is Nero d’Avola and it’s from Sicily. And the giveaway is that on the label it mentions appassimento. The penny dropped. Perhaps the Primitivo is made the same way, I wondered, and a look at Waitrose’ website shows that it is.

What is appassimento? It means ‘dried up’ or ‘tired out’. The basic principles of winemaking are pretty standard: once ripe, the grapes are pressed, the juice is put into some sort of container and left to ferment, then bottled, sometimes after spending some months or years in oak casks. But if the wine is made by the appassimento method the grapes are left to dry before starting the whole process. They used to be left out in the sun on a bed of straw, which is why it’s called in English ‘straw wine’. The purpose is to increase the sugar content of the grapes and reduce the water content. The resulting wines are more alcoholic or sweet or both, a deeper red and packed with flavour.

They’ve been making wine like this since the Ancient World. Hesiod (he’s the one who was roughly contemporary with Homer but less grand, more personal) described it in around 700 BCE and it’s been used in Sicily and Puglia for centuries. But the most famous wine to use it is in northern Italy, just north of Verona, where the local wines tend to be thin and bitter. Amarone della Valpolicella is made this way. It gives a red wine of extraordinary power, nearer to a port than to an ordinary Valpolicella, which can be thin and bitter. Just to complete the northern Italian story, they even keep the lees left after draining off the fermented Amarone and pour ordinary Valpolicella wine on top. There follows a second fermentation and you get another beefy wine that’s called Ripasso (‘re-passed’ in English) though less full-bodied, and much cheaper, than Amarone. Finally, the winemakers may deliberately leave enough sugar unfermented to make it sweet. It’s called Recioto and the Italians drink it at the end of the meal.

I’ve had other wines from Puglia made by the appassimento method and I’ve found them too much. The heaviness is overdone, the flavours too ‘jammy’. The Terre di Faiano from Sicily is a bit that way, to my taste, although it gets great customer reviews. It’s made with the Nero d’Avola grape which has no trouble making dark, robust wine without the need to dry the grapes. But somehow, with the Primitivo from Puglia the winemakers seem to have hit the spot. I plan to get a good supply in before this article goes to press!

Gull About Town

Our new regular feature looking into what’s new in food and drink

SWOOPING INTO Jubilee Square, the Gull has sniffed the air and discovered a little Singapore-style hawker experience at the back of The Chilli Pickle. Those clever Sperrings, Alun and Dawn who brought their off-road family adventures in India to Brighton 11 years ago, have always loved a shrimp krupuk with plum sauce and black pepper lamb ribs and trialled Hawkerman as a pop-up to make the most of their space in the restaurant. And they’ve done it well; West Hillers will remember their Chilli Pickle pop up at the Polygon on Seven Dials in 2017. And despite an October launch ahead of an inevitable lockdown, this little toe dip in the rough waters of hospitality has gone down swimmingly with the local as Brighton’s spice lovers took advantage of the double take-away option from Jubilee Square’s Asian one-stop shop. 

THE GULL LOVES nothing better than rummaging around in the bins of West Hill on a Friday night and has been tucking into some rather exotic flavours from the newly arrived Dishoom, the Irani-Bombay experience so beloved by our London cousins. It’s only available via Deliveroo so far, but the menu is as top notch and includes plenty for vegans and vegetarians such as the Pau Bhaji, much-loved Mattar Paneer, Jackfruit Biryani, samosas and bowls of chole. It even delivers drinks – Bombay sodas, Limca and Thums Up alongside Dishoom’s Mango Lassi.  And the Gull is happy to report all the packaging is made from reclaimed and renewable sugar cane pulp packaging and carbon-neutral PLA (a smart compostable bioplastic made from plants), are recyclable once rinsed or compostable. And each take away is matched with the donation of a meal through Akshaya Patra, a charity in India which offers free school meals to hungry children.

RIDING THE THERMALS towards Shoreham Port, the Gull has got wind of a new kitchen opening next summer. The Port Kitchen will be next to the lock gates at the award-winning Lady Bee Enterprise Centre and plans to serve visitors as they pass through the locks, as well as the Port’s thriving business community and tourists visiting the area. It seems that the council has a plan to make this hitherto industrial space into an iconic food destination with proper coffee, fresh food and, take it from a bird, unparalleled views across the harbour. 

Ready to snap into a new life

“It’s not what you get with Deliveroo”, Red Snapper’s Pam and Philippe tell Gilly Smith

Panwad (Pam) ManeeTapho and her Belgian husband Philippe Ghenet are sitting at a table as the early autumn sunlight pours into the Red Snapper, until lockdown one of the most popular restaurants in Seven Dials. They’re talking about their plans to expand it into a casual lunch stop, a couple of tables outside and three inside. It’s all suitably distanced, which will add to the transformation of the busy buzzy evening eatery. 

The restaurant, which has always been a celebration of the fresh seafood and herb-flavoured dishes from their eastern Thailand home, has been replaced by a shop where customers can browse through the restaurant’s silver starter plates, the stacks of gluten-free fish sauce and Thai ginger shots stacked on the upcycled shelving. An orange 1977 Honda Novio scooter is the centrepiece, a cool, vintage reminder of where Red Snapper comes from. 

“That’s my mum’s” says Pam. The couple plan to use it for deliveries. “Imagine that turning up outside your door”, Philippe smiles. “It’s not what you get with Deliveroo.” 

Red Snapper is a triumph of creativity and lockdown lateral thinking. “We saw it coming” says Philippe who grew up in Italy and heard from relatives there what COVID was already doing to its economy. “It’s the end of the world, right? In a way it was like, come on guys, this is Nostradamus!”

At first, the couple held their heads in their hands, but they quickly realised that lock-down could give them time to think about what they really wanted from their life. “After 16 years of  working in the restaurant, sweeping, cooking, cleaning, it was spinning so fast that sometimes we didn’t have time to stop and think which way we want to channel the business”, says Pam who with her younger sister has worked with her parents in the restaurant since she was 16. “Four months of lockdown made us think, think, think, write down, plan, plan, plan. Which path are we going to take?” For them, it was always about the food. “We know what our customers like and what we can offer,” says Pam.  It’s the quality of the food. The flowery stuff, the service, the music, the smells, the incense, the candles… it all comes after.” 

They decided to offer the best take-away experience they could; while Pam and her father, Turmphan cook downstairs, Philippe chats to their customers upstairs, telling his stories and charming them with his laid-back style. “I like it this way. We’re done by 9pm and I can watch a movie with my son.” 

They first shared a flat when Philippe had just graduated in Media at Brighton University and Pam was studying Art, Design & Fashion at Northbrooke College, and they’ve spent months using their creativity, repurposing items from home for this cool, new look. “That was where we stored our linens,” says Philippe pointing to the beautifully battered vintage suitcase now housing an old set of scales and a pink neon heart light. “We choose to be our own bosses, so we might as well add our identity.”

He sees Red Snapper as a Thai market-style café. “Maybe you’re coming back from town; Churchill Square is closed but you still want to have a coffee”, he says. “We like to be a bit of a community market where you can pop in and get some ginger tea. Or maybe just a take-away.” 

As we sit in the late summer sunshine, nine-year-old Finlay is on his second day back at school and Pam and Philippe are feeling philosophical. As working owners, school is an essential part of the child-care, hence the move to daytime food which will reflect the ethos of the original Snapper; accessible, but made in-house from scratch. 

“We offer passion” says Pam. “This is our career, our life. Before COVID we were too busy, we had too much to lose. We might as well shape the life that we want.”