Category Archives: Food & Drink

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

Bonsai Plant Kitchen

“We want to give the five star service of Michelin star restaurant but without any of the kind of
things that we deem unnecessary such as you know, serving from a certain side or all that kind of stuff. We want to deliver amazing food, amazing service in a relaxed setting. We’re a 100% vegan south east Asian restaurant in the heart of Brighton in Baker Street. All small plates. We pride ourselves on high energy and low kinda… poncey-ness…

We’re with Amy Bennett, co founder of Bonsai Plant Kitchen. 

“So basically, Bonsai was started by myself and Dom. I’m 22 and he’s 27. So myself and Dom are both college dropouts and both just jumped into the hospitality industry. 

“I became a waiter, he became a chef. I had no intention of being a chef, but kind of worked really  really hard and the head chef kind of said to me “I’ve seen your work ethic, do you want to come into the kitchen?” So my whole chef career started that way, coming all the way up to a sous chef and then head pastry chef. 

“I was always vegan but was working in really meat heavily dominated restaurants. So
then I decided that I wanted to move to Brighton to work in a vegan or vegetarian restaurant, moved to working at Food For Friends, met
Dom, he was head chef, I was the head pastry chef. And decided that we wanted to open our own thing. He wanted to do something Asian. I wanted to do something vegan, and so we created Bonsai.

Tell us a bit more about the food. What’s your favorite dish? “OK, so we’ve got a tempura cauliflower that’s probably my favorite, because any kind of vegan restaurant that you go to, they offer you some kind of battered cauliflower dish. So when people kind of see it on the menu, they don’t really think much of it. They think ‘Oh, here we go again, another battered cauliflower dish’. But it’s just absolutely phenomenal. People tend to walk away and say that that is their favorite dish.”

A longer version of this interview is featured on The Brighton Whistler podcast, available at all the usual places.

Bonsai Plant Kitchen

44-45 Baker St, Brighton BN1 4JN. 07514 336086

https://www.bonsaiplantkitchen.co.uk

Gull About Town: October 2022

As we head into an autumn of change, the double whammy of cost of living and climate crises means fewer take away pizza boxes strewn across the city streets (Ed: you wish) and less in the bins behind the back of our favourite restaurants as they pare back their waste. And that is not a good look for the birds of Brighton.

But ‘eat less, but better’, is what Great Uncle Gull has always told us, reminding us what happened to our favourite childhood treat, the earthworm, when animals were put in cages in vast factory farms. So, your gull has taken flight to check out the latest plant-based kitchens and chefs who care about where their meat, fish and dairy comes from.

This Gull loves little more than good pub food, and particularly when it’s a pop up like Kokedama at the Roundhill with glamorous plant-based small plates. 

A peck at the leftover Gochujang Panko Cauliflower Wing and the skin-on Fries topped with Apple & Fennel Kimchi, Spring Onions, Gochujang Drizzle, Cashew Parmesan, Wasabi Mayo and Furikake sent your bird’s spirit soaring onto a passing thermal to check out its other locations in East Street and Lewes. But not before clocking that Sunday lunch roast is a feather light £15. 

Portland Road may seem a long old flight for a hungry bird, but the word on the wing is that Ciaran’s is a properly sourced treat for a Sunday lunch. Its crispy belly of pork with sage stuffing, roasted duck fat potatoes, glazed carrots, sautéed cabbage and apple cider gravy all comes from within a 40-mile radius. 

The pigs come from Calcot Farm in West Sussex where this bird has witnessed them larking in fields, playing with their siblings and pals until their time comes. She’s also spotted the Ciaran-mobile buying fish from Brighton and Newhaven Fish Supplies, the preferred fishmonger of the most responsible of Brighton eateries. 

His dairy is delivered from Bristol’s Estate Dairy which Cousin Gus from Southville, Bristol’s grooviest neighbourhood, says is the work of a collective of young passionate individuals dedicated to producing and bottling the highest quality milk and cream from the Chew Valley. He’s been very picky about tahe ethics behind his dairy since he developed a taste for ice cream on a brief visit to Brighton as a chick. 

It was Cousin Gus who spotted a cool young eco-warrior at Veg Fest back in 2013, feeding a Bristol crowd vegan sushi burrito and environmental activism like they were baby birds. Anna told them that they couldn’t love the ocean if they ate fish, and well, you can imagine how that’s gone down in the gull world. 

But when Anna moved to Brighton, set up Happy Maki in Pool Valley, the gulls were all over it, as were festival goers throughout the country as word got out about the fake fish that tastes so delicious. 

Let them eat fake if it helps them give up junk food. As the tractors harvest the fields of Sussex, this gull is up, up and away to pick at the worms coming back to the cow-mown farms, and breathe in the beauty of animals on the land. 

For more information, see Gilly Smith’s feature with Philip Lymbery