Our regular feature looking into what’s new in food and drink
The Gull was brought up on stories of DUE SOUTH, the best fish restaurant in Brighton in the 2000s. It was even lauded by The Guardian’s Matthew Fort. When it closed, there was a wake for weeks among the bird community, but almost 20 years later, it’s back. Still in its original perch overlooking the beach, Mark Wadsworth is the new chef, cooking everything over wood, smoke and open fire. It’s all sourced with 35 miles of Brighton and from ethical farmers and sustainable sources.
Your Gull popped in to check out the bins after service, and spotted some tasty spider crab stuffed with courgette flower and crab bisque, oysters with gooseberries and elderflower vinegar, and a wild sea bass sashimi with wasabi crème fraiche, which sorted the gulls from the pigeons. There was even a wood-fired cheesecake with grilled strawberries to nibble as the moon rose high over the empty beach.
With belly full, your Gull hovered over TLALOC at the Old Pier for a moment, sniffing in the intoxicating smells of Mexico, but decided to poke in the bins another night. When she finally did, it was to find a world of flavours unknown even to this metropolitan bird. Although most ingredients are home-grown from around these parts, it was the pinto bean cream on a roasted cauliflower with salsa borracha that had your gull smacking her beak and tilting her head in surprise. Dutifully pecking at the tiger prawns chargrilled with wild garlic and pasilla poking out of the bin bags, and the jalapeno and ancho braised duck legs already pecked out and cast aside by a lesser-palated bird, these were new tastes for this bird. But rich pickings are not to be sniffed at in these tough times.
As Tlaloc, the great god of the rain who was worshipped in Pre-Hispanic culture as giver of life and sustenance would say, ‘fill your boots’.
Heading home after a night on the tiles in Kemptown, the Gull sniffed a new smell coming out of THE BRONZE, a newcomer to St James’ Street. Your bird on the wing took a dive to peek through scarlet crushed velvet curtains at its exposed brick and beams to find a quirky, stylish smokehouse from the team formerly behind The Shepherd and Dog in Fulking. The smoking is actually done in Hurstpierpoint, but the vibe is pure Brighton.
There’s nothing quite like the end of lockdown to send a gull soaring. Thermals schmermals, it’s the spirit of Brighton that puts the wind beneath our wings, and as the pubs, restaurants and shops open again, the Gull has been busy getting a taste of what’s in the air.
THE GARDENER CAFÉ is the latest new face in the North Laine, a gift from Infinity Café to the Real Junk Food Project which until now has been serving pay-as-you-feel food to anyone who turns up at One Church in Gloucester Place and several other churches around Brighton.
Designed to support the homeless, the vulnerable and the poor, students and well-wishers flock to support it and enjoy the vegan and vegetarian Buddha bowls and hot dishes made by an army of volunteers.
It’s part of an international movement of cafés, projects and pop-ups feeding ‘bellies not bins’ by serving the
surplus food they collect overnight from the city’s supermarkets. Not the most gull-friendly of places, but we’re a resourceful lot and with chairs and tables spreading out across Gardner Street, there are still plenty of pickings.
Karen Lloyd is one of the head chefs at the café and it’s her baking the gulls have made a beak line for. The Nigella recipe for banana, tahini and chocolate cake which Karen has spun into a vegan version, is the chat of the chimneys.
Staying in the centre of town, lockdown’s spoils are being snapped up by the early birds. London ramen bar, TONKOTSU has swooped in to New Road, the spot where Polpo once sported a fine selection of restaurant refuse. Meanwhile the team behind The Salt Room and Coal Shed bring BURNT ORANGE (pictured below) to the site of the much-missed Coach House in Middle Street. Head chef Peter Dantanus will be moving over from The Salt Room with his locally sourced larder to provide Mediterranean style all day and late-night food. And with a curated music programme by well-known Brighton DJ Fatboy Slim (you might have heard of him), there’ll be plenty of birdie dancing in that candle-lit courtyard.
Way out west, the backlash over ROCKWATER’s membership rumbles on as the king of PR transforms the ugly, but much-loved duckling known variously as The View, The Venue and the Babylon Lounge into a thing of beauty. But beauty is one thing; a £750 membership fee might be another.
Survival of the fittest is what we gulls are all about, and while £750 – shall we say that again? £750 – to get to the front of the queue of what was promised to be a community hub for tables and gigs might be an easy win for those who have the cash, there are plenty of locals who feel it’s a shove in the ribs. Your Gull is hovering over Hove to bring you the latest in this rather messy food fight.
Heading east on the Eastbourne flight path, the Gull stopped off to look through the windows of FORK in Lewes, once home to Limetree Kitchen and favourite bin territory for this posh-palated bird.
Owner Richard Falk comes with very exciting plates from two-starred Notting Hill restaurant, The Ledbury, and will fit in nicely with the local/seasonal vibe of Lewes. He was head chef at super-cool Clapham restaurant, The Dairy, the brainchild of one of London’s most innovative eco chefs Robin Gill whose food waste is collected, composted and used to grow his vegetables in a circular system that the Gull’s London cousins are raving about. Tasty food that saves the planet? Gullicious.
Twenty minutes before the announcement of a national lockdown. It’s probably not the ideal time to be given the keys to your new restaurant, but we are living in strange times.
The new owners of med. had the challenge of not only opening a restaurant at a bad time, but to build one from scratch. From March until July last year, the restaurant windows were kept boarded up, but inside Jack and Will (formerly of pop-up brand Wolfsmouth) were knee-deep in building materials, instruction manuals and a blur of drills and power saws.
Sometimes though, life is a question of perspective, of attitude. You can get down – or you can get the power drills out. “The lockdown actually provided us with one of the best gifts we could have hoped for – time” says Will. “We were flat out the months previously with our popups and I really don’t know how we would have coped if we’d had to build this place alongside working all the hours”.
“The time we had to build the space and save on professions meant we could design the kitchen and restaurant as a whole to fit in with these mad new times. We were lucky enough to be able to specifically create an environment most other people were having to adapt to” say Jack.
But all’s well that ends well and, as the lights shines towards the end of tunnel, they’re done. And now all that’s left to do is sit on the new terrace and enjoy the new al fresco menu “offering Mediterranean inspired small plates with big flavours”.
For more details visit http://www.medbrighton.co.uk or visit them at 2/3 Little East Street, Brighton, BN1 1HT
While the world has hidden its head under its wing, the Gull has been flying high above our favourite hostelries, busily peeking her beak into their lockdown labours. And there’s much to report. With drinking only allowed outdoors from April 12th, the Gull is already counting the crisp nicking opportunities as space is rearranged to cater for an alfresco crowd.
Those cool cats at The Eddy have been stamping their style all over the pub with Hatt’s massive new hand-made chandelier transforming the entire pub into a thing of bling beauty, while Mark’s new hand-made benches line the pavement. Low-flying birds will find rich pickings in the new gazebos and awnings as peanut-loving punters flock to soak up the arty vibe of this much-loved local.
Down on the beach, Rockwater, that modernist make-over of the much loved View, and then Venue at Hove’s Western Esplanade is a bird’s best friend with beach deck and roof terrace promising some tasty crumbs.
Closer to home, the Gull has spotted landlords and ladies across West Hill and Seven Dials busy spring cleaning their patios and clearing the decking to make ‘outside’ the new destination. At the popular bootlegger wine bar, l’Atelier du Vin, a handy new perch of string lights are already strewn across the green hedge enclosing its sunken garden, with cushions and blankets making its wine and cheese savvy clientele much more likely to stay longer, and maybe even leave a few crumbs for a hungry gull. Happily, it’s open from 1pm-8pm for the early birds.
The Shakespeare’s Head, once home to the Gull’s favourite roast leftovers, will have all three gardens open by the 12th April, and from 12pm that Monday instead of 4pm to celebrate. With a rebuilt front patio and heated marquee, the side garden in Howard Place and a lovely back garden, it’ll be business as usual in no time.
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.