Category Archives: Eating Out

Awards Time – The Whistles

It’s awards time in Brighton and Hove with Brighton’s Best crowning Bincho Yakatori, Palmito and Burnt Orange as the top three places to eat. 

Meanwhile, Flint House received a Bib Gourmand and the Bravos will announce its kings and queens on April 4th. But what about The Whistles? The what? Well, there’s little more discerning taste buds in Brighton and Hove than those who can pucker up like you lot, and so we tried it out. We called for your top three, and you responded.

 ‘Oooo!’ says Toby Moore. ‘1. Flint House; 2. Mange tout; 3. Fatto Mano.’

Lou Gasparelli, who’s got a bit of a rep in Whistler Towers for spotting a good ‘un, says:

‘Bincho, Burnt Orange, Chilli Pickle’ as her top three. But wait, she has more! ‘And for pizza, Pronto In Tavola & Nanninellas. But I also love Fourth and Church when I’ve got a bit of extra cash.

I really enjoyed Roundhill restaurant (vegan). And for cheapest eats… ‘You can’t go wrong with Pompoko and Goemen Ramen’. 

Alison Vernon-Smith still loves 64 Degrees but ‘for wedding anniversaries only! At the other end of the scale – the Helm Ston Cafe. Stupid name and tiny place, but fab food’.  

Tim Mortimer is serious about his food: ‘The chart hasn’t changed pop-pickers….. Market; Flint House; Plateau (despite eye-watering wine prices)’

Rheanna Davidge-Huxley says ‘Curry leaf cafe for affordable, but super delicious curry. Also if you go a lunchtime you can get thali and dosa’. 

Sara Furse is all over Curry Leaf too, but votes it third after Unithai and Milk, No Sugar. 

But there are clear winners emerging:  Jenny Atherton says ‘Burnt Orange. Palmito. Riddles’.  Amanda Murphy says ‘Burnt Orange, Plateau, Urchin. But then there’s ‘Riddle & Finn, Flint House, Market, Chilli Pickle’.  

Cut Ceri Barnes and she bleeds Flint House. Guess what she says: ‘Flint House; Chilli Pickle; Woolfies.’ Hang on! Is that true, our Ceri?  ‘I nearly said Flint House Flint House Flint House’. (Ed: I’m with Ceri. Can’t beat Flint House. Top notch food and a very fine way with a Negroni)

Jacqui Loton is down at Little Fish Market ‘always’ but adds ‘Bincho, Palmito, Fourth and Church, Wild Flor…Bonsai if you want to go vegan’.  ‘Oooh so hard,’ says Kathy Caton. ‘It depends on the mood – Palmito, Bincho Yakitori … and I still adore the original Gingerman too.’ 

Liz Aggiss never follows the pack: ‘Vel in Kemp Town, Cin Cin Hove, Bankers’ while Karen Rose is backing the clear winners. ‘Bincho, Fourth & Church, Market.’

So… (drumroll)..

The results of the inaugural Whistles are … 

In third place: Riddle and Finn, Plateau and the Chilli Pickle

In second place: Market, Fourth and Church, Burnt Orange and Palmito.

And the loudest Whistles go to… Bincho Yakitori and Flint House.

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.

Gull About Town – February 2023

It’s been a wet old winter for your feathered friend as she braves the dark skies in search of the best food finds and drinking dens for her Whistler readers. But as the clouds part and the days get longer, it seems that there’s signs of new beginnings popping up all over West Hill. 

In Guildford Road alone, the legendary Sussex Yeoman, at one time the easy winner of Best Sunday Roast in Brighton is set to welcome its new tenants after 18 years of the old regime. As your Gull hovers, the doors are bolted, the boards are up and the ‘substantial investment’ promised by owner, Greene King, seems to be already under way. The Gull had become used to a regular leftovers feast of a Sunday evening as the city’s largest portions defeated even the healthiest of appetites. Check in the next issue to see whether the new menu has whet the Gull’s super-discerning whistle.

Over at the ever-buzzing Eddy, those animal and bird-loving landladies, Hatt and Jess are planning more arty pub nights. With Deliveroo biking the food in from all corners of Brighton, your Gull is not the only scavenger waiting at the bins as punters pile in for rockabilly bands and fancy-dress film nights.

The take-away pizzas from VIP seem a particularly popular choice among the birds of West Hill, so large are they that there seems to be enough for everyone. This grumpy Gull did notice, however, that with palate in one hand and brush in other, there was precious few pickings at the end of the recent Bob Ross live paint-along, even for this art-loving bird. There will be more Bob Ross nights coming as soon as March, but in the meantime, the rockabillies coming out to play with the Box Stomping Boys on Feb 17th are a much better bet for a hungry gull. (And check out for an interview)

Always on the hunt for food news, your Gull hears that Drakes Hotel in Kemptown has captured a couple of tasty chefs from 64 Degrees. Tom Stephens and Madeleine Riches are launching a tasting menu only restaurant called Dilsk in April. Expect five courses for £55 and 10 for £95, a sure-fire leftover offering for your hungry bird,

Catching a thermal, the Gull soars over to Western Road where a familiar scent of seafood is floating on the breeze. Sniffing closer, it seems that Brighton’s best chef, Duncan Ray, the man that Michelin missed, is sharing his brilliance at Atelier Du Vin’s new wine bar, Cases.  

Shared is his new menu concept which takes him away from his (and your Gull’s) beloved bivalves at Little Fish Market (pictured) with a much meatier menu. At £90 for two and his signature oysters to start, just one sitting a night will get a tour of his other favourite dishes cooked by his mate, artisan maker and purveyors of fine pies, Al the Pieman. Expect a terrine of Fosse Meadow chicken, Al’s famed beef pie, rump of Saddlescombe lamb with Potato Anna and lentils and a little Financier biscuit with pear and salted caramel that your Gull’s got her beady eye on.  Local, delicious food, cooked by the best in Brighton; this bird just hopes that Shared means what it says on the bin. 

Brighton Best 2023

It’s when Brighton foodies refresh their Instagram feed, ready to pounce on Open Table and book the top 20 restaurants in the city, as voted by ‘those who know’. It’s that time when Brighton cab
drivers high five each other, knowing that we’ll all be going out to eat more, taking confidence from the recommendations of Brighton’s Best.

As founder of the Juicy Guide and Awards back in the early 2000s, I’ve witnessed the influence of a gong. Judged by a panel of the city’s most well-fed foodies, the Top 20 will be announced at Brighton’s Best 2023 on March 20. But Euan MacDonald, one of the four founders of the awards which has been rating Brighton and Hove’s favourite restaurants for the last eight years, told me that it’s its autumnal sister, October Best which can give the most interesting indicators of what the public choose. The annual of feasting at £25 per head at any one of that year’s crop has become a bit of bun fight, with the public voting with their wallets; the clear favourites are sold out within an hour of release, or in the case of Bincho Yakitori within minutes…

‘We had 60,000 people visit the site in the first hour’ Euan told me, ‘and that’s predominantly from within Brighton and Hove. It’s like the public poll.’ Less 64 Degrees and more Chilli Pickle is what ticks the local box. 

So where else among the BB top 20, other than Bincho, did Brighton and Hove food fans go for last year?  ‘Well, I think Namo (Eats) had a really interesting October Best. We had so many people who didn’t know them, but she put on a terrific value menu. I think it was 25 quid for two. And we know that with it was chefs who were ordering her takeaway auction last year more than anyone else.’ 

It’s part of Brighton’s Best’s mission to support indie restaurants in Brighton and Hove, and Namo Eats is a great example of how it works. Another is Halisco.  ‘As they’re next door to Bincho, I think people who couldn’t get in there went, “Well, let’s just see what Halisco’s doing. They put on a mix of both menu and events, including a charity night to raise money’, Euan told me. ‘They had cocktails as part of their package,  so they had a brilliant October Best!’

It’s also a great way to reach new diners even for those we think of as booked up all year round.  ‘Dave from Bincho used to use October Best as his main marketing strategy’ said Euan. ‘He’d lose money in October because it was his way to go out and meet loads of new customers and get them on his books. The Set had a fantastically popular October Best because they were raffling tables off. And so they were able to accrue a huge amount of new followers to their Instagram stuff.’

But what does it say about the way that people are eating out in Brighton now? A city once leading the way in sustainable choices – Terre a Terre was scooping up the national awards decades ago; the vegan Happy Maki was born here – is now less interested in where its meat and fish comes from than a climate conscious foodie in more, let’s say food literate cities might be. In short, Brighton and Hove food fans are perhaps more into their Instagram stories than the unfolding drama of soil health and climate change. 

‘Well, I think that food literacy had a peak’ said Euan, stepping out of BB’s shoes for a moment and into his food consultant’s. ‘Dan Kenny (The Set) is a great example. Whatever Dan does, I know he won’t sell himself short on that type of thing. 

“But what we’ve got at the minute is a lot of people who are conscious of overheads, and so conscious of costs. So what can they do? They ask themselves what they’re prepared to trade off. Brighton has never wanted to spend huge amounts on eating out. We’re so close to London, but we just have never had the pockets.’

Part of the problem in Brighton’s sustainable food scene is the tourist; 
Euan says that post-pandemic,
many restarateurs just can’t prioritise
ethical choices when the tourist pound
is so integral to their survival.  ‘Really,
I  don’t think it’s something that is front of mind for a lot of the owners and operators’, Euan told me. ‘What a lot of visitors to Brighton do in a way that you might not do
in London is they’ll try and go to three places in a night. If they’re down for a weekend, they want to see as much of it as they can. So if

they’re not keen on the price, they’ll jump somewhere else. And that’s a real worry for restaurants at the moment.’

More worryingly for the planet is that Brighton diners don’t care much either. ‘It never comes into it’ said Euan, when I asked if Brighton’s Best is ‘marked’ on its sustainable sourcing. ‘It’s about the dining experience. And that has never been raised in any feedback. I would say it’s not front of mind for a lot of people.’

So what should we look out for in 2023 in Brighton and Hove restaurants?  ‘The year was split into two hubs for most restaurateurs’, Euan told me. ‘First is: are we still going to be here at Easter? I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as people thought it was. But I know that at the tail end of last year, a lot of people were very worried about the first six months of this year. So first of all, I think everyone will just do what they got to do to stay where they are. So that doesn’t breed a lot of innovation unless you’ve got deep pocket backers behind you.  

‘The fact that the whole industry had to be supported during the pandemic has changed the way investors will look at opening restaurants at the minute. And so, what you’re looking at is something which then starts to talk to that entire night out, rather than just the meal. So, keeping people under a roof for cocktails, accommodation. There’s a massive hotel being built on Middle Street. It’s operating more like a Soho House or a club that keeps you in.  I’m not saying it’ll be club membership by any stretch, but the prices will reflect that I’m sure. 

‘The Albert Schloss group which has venues across the North has looked at Brighton. The food’s actually really good; they lean towards the sort of schnitzel side of things. But they are about getting you in and keeping you in for music, for food for everything. And I think Brighton’s missing that at the minute.’

And there are plenty of opportunities for investors. The development of The Hippodrome is ‘up for grabs’; Churchill Square’s food offering is expanding very soon, which Euan says will look to keep people across three floors of drinks and food. That’s going to be the challenge for the smaller operators,’ he warned. ‘Whereas at the minute, I’ll go to a couple of bars and I’ll go to Bincho or I’ll go to Chilli Pickle, that’s going to change for most people’

It’s a depressing vision of Brighton’s next food chapter. What we need is something new in Brighton, Euan tells me, and for him, Palmito, the Latin-Indo collaboration between Curry Leaf chef, Kanthi Thamma and his pal from his Chilli Pickle days, Diego Ricaurte  is it. ‘I’m absolutely in love with Palmito. It’s just food you haven’t had before. And for that reason alone, it’s just so exciting.’

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