Category Archives: Eating Out

Life with Justin King of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network

Yeah, so where was I? When I moved in here about 11 years ago now there was a gull standing on the fence.”

Which is not unusual in Brighton. 

“I suppose it isn’t, but I just threw out a bit of food and from that moment on, he decided he quite liked being here so he brought his partner along, but then another two came along and were a bit jealous about what was going on so they scared off my first two but they came back and… I’m surprised he’s not here actually”. 

The Whistler is in a garden near the seafront and we’re with Justin King, prime mover of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network, a group dedicated to helping and rescuing our favourite birds. If life can be split into “Good Guys” and “Not Good Guys”, Justin is about as good a good guy can be. 

“If I throw a bit of ham I bet you he’ll arrive. He’s called Brutus he’s also a bit of a celebrity because we’ve got an Instagram page and we’ve got a Facebook page I constantly take pictures of him and his partner and… I’ll tell you what, let me get a bit of ham”. Justin disappears into his kitchen and emerges with a small packet of ham slices. He reaches into the packet, throws his hand in the air and, from nowhere, we’re in a scene from Hitchcock. 

“There’s Brutus” he says as a gull that looks disarmingly like a gull swoops down for Justin’s ham. “He’s been a bit of a constant for me, but I have all kinds of birds that come into the garden.” Justin reaches for another handful of ham and throws it over his fence into the neighbouring car park.

The Whistler is admittedly a bit biased, but we think gulls are just lovely and we’re very happy to be in a city where the… whatever the national symbol of a city is called, is a gull. But gulls, like all birds, have had a tough time recently. Avian flu – “flockdown” – has hit hard, which has meant that charities and rescue centres have been reluctant to take injured or needy birds in. And that has meant, what it always means: volunteers need help. In the last year, the Network has raised £170,000 for Bird Aid, which is an extraordinary amount. 

Justin rattled off a list of names. “Tony Bloom, owner of Brighton and Hove Albion, got involved in the Bird Aid campaign last year…” Well, he does own The Seagulls… “which was brilliant. But then we’ve got a lot of celebrities on board. Chris Packham. He put a post on Facebook. Ricky Gervais posts on his Twitter. Holly Willoughby. Oh, Woody Cook. Actually it was Woody who… once he started it snowballed. Loads of other naturalism environmentalists got involved.” 

Just as we’re talking, Justin’s phone goes. He’s making an arrangement. 

“What’s that?” I ask. 

“Someone’s coming round to pick up the pigeon to take him to a sanctuary”. 

“What pigeon?”

Justin takes me round to what looks like a garden shed. Well, OK. It is a garden shed. Carefully he opens the door and there, standing on one foot and looking a bit sorry for himself, a pigeon. 

“He’s hurt his foot and can’t put any weight on it and someone brought him round. He’s stayed here for a couple of days and then he’s going to go to the sanctuary to fully recover”. 

I love these people. I love the person who found the pigeon and picked him up, I love Justin who has nurtured him, I love the people who have a sanctuary where he can recover.   

What is the Brighton gull population? What number are we talking? 

“I don’t actually know, but in general the species is in decline. Herring gulls are on the endangered species list, the Red List. Herring gulls. Yep. The ones you just see. They’re all herring gulls. And I know you wouldn’t think so, but it’s true, they’re on the decline. Saying that though, a lot of wildlife is in decline.

“There’s a lot of ignorance and intolerance towards a lot of forms of wildlife. There’s been cases in Woodingdean of people poisoning foxes because they don’t want them coming into the garden and digging up their lawns. Birds being shot, you name it, it’s happened. Yeah, shocking. Yeah. I mean when you think of Sussex, the word that synonymous with the countryside. If you don’t like birds, don’t live by the coast, go and live in Milton Keynes. Sorry, but it really is relentless”.

How many people are there in your group?

“The group has approximately 3,200 members, but the majority of them aren’t really active. Mostly, it’s just a few people. A lot of people have dropped out because times are hard for everyone and not everyone has so much time anymore. The cost of living crisis has made people reprioritise”.

So hardcore volunteers? Let’s put it this way. How many are as committed as you?

“Probably about a dozen. But it’s been difficult and because of avian flu this year, I’ve literally had to throw myself headlong into this. Yeah, the whole campaign. It’s left no time for anything else.

Watching Justin, listening to him, I know there’s nothing he’d prefer to be doing. He has, in every sense, found his calling. 

Justin looks up to the skies where the gulls are still circling, a bit distracted. Do you listen to the goals and recognise different calls?

“Yes. That’s the whistling you can hear there, the babies. I always know that sound. But I’m also familiar with my regular gull who comes to visit. He stands on the shed and waits for his food. And when he screeches, I recognise it. It’s just, I mean, they’re all different. Anyway, I recognise the way he does it and the sound that he makes and yeah, so I know when he’s here”.

Justin looks up again. 

“I was just thinking I should go and check on the ham I threw over the fence. I want to make sure they all got some” 

Check out the Whistler website for details of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network Go Fund Me page or go to their Facebook group page of the same name

Check out the Whistler website for details of the South Coast and UK Bird/Gull Volunteer Network Go Fund Me page or go to their Facebook group page of the same name

https://gofund.me/58fadb2f

https://www.facebook.com/groups/385523575455222/?ref=share_group_link

Christmas at Bolney Wine Estate

Gilly Smith talks to Sam Linter about life on The 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 Linter 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. 

Listen to Gilly’s podcast with Cindy-Marie fromher podcast show “Cooking The Books with Gilly Smith https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/cindy-marie-harvey-watercress-willow-and-wine/id1499255116?i=1000590240914

And also Gilly’s interview with Sam for the delicious podcast from June 2019

https://shows.acast.com/deliciousdish/episodes/thejuneepisode-englishwine-ginandfishplusbakeoffsbenoitblinand

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

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

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.

Jazz at The Bronze

There are few things we here at Whistler Towers like more than a bit of jazz in the evening. And maybe some really really good food. And maybe some splendid drinks. So imagine our delight when we tripped all the way over there in Kemp Town (or Kemptown – you choose) to The Bronze, where on the first Thursday of every month, they feature live jazz. The nght we went down we saw the very fine One Hat Trio (pictured) – Eddie Myer, Lol Thomas and Luke Rattenbury – who “play classic guitar trio hard bop with echoes of Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and Pat Martino, with added Afro-Cuban rhythm”. (nicked that from their Facebook page – you might have guessed). And I guess that’s probably true. They’re very good and very cool. They’ve got a residency at The Brunswick, too. 

Your Gull About Town has written about the food at The Bronze before and I’m not surprised. The “slow and low smokehouse” serves up locally sourced smoked food at its finest. Chef David has the best smile and greeting and… Oh, come on. Good food, fine drink and kicking jazz. What’s not to like?  

81-82 St James’s St, Kemptown BN2 1PA

01273 679 220

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. 

https://delivery.dishoom.com.

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.