If you’ve got a free weekend and fancy making it foodie, it’s a fine idea to go and explore all that Brighton has to offer. Lonely Planet said about Brighton’s Pride Festival ‘whatever your flavour, you’ll find it in Brighton’. That applies very literally to the food scene too, which is in itself one of the top reasons to visit.
So here are my tips for just 6 must-try food experiences while you’re in this fabulous funky city. What do you fancy? Fresh local seafood, fish and chips, sumptuous chocolate cake, gourmet vegetarian, or something a bit more global? No worries, it’s all here. And these 6 options are all within 15 minutes walk of each other in central Brighton.
1. A Gourmet Vegetarian Feast in The Lanes
It says something about the vibe in Brighton that it can sustain two of the best vegetarian restaurants in the UK, just a stone’s throw away from each other in the Lanes. But it also says something about the astoundingly innovative, exquisitely presented food at both restaurants that, while they obviously compete, they’re both always busy
I’m not vegetarian, but you absolutely don’t need to be to appreciate food of such first class quality. Indeed, without meat as a distraction, both restaurants have instead gone to town on intricacy and creativity with flavour, colour and sensuality, to come up with vegetarian dishes that are simply outstanding.
Terre à Terre
I’ve been back to stay in Brighton twice in the last couple of months, and I was delighted to revisit my old favourite restaurant Terre à Terre. On more than one occasion it’s been a destination and reason for me to visit Brighton in its own right (although I think that could apply to almost all the restaurants listed here).
Describing itself as a place ‘where vegetarianism is more about indulgence than abstinence’, it really is my kind of restaurant, and what the Santé Bon Viveur philosophy is all about! I’ve proved time and again by bringing people here that even the most new-food-wary and vegetable-adverse will have their misconceptions changed and find something to love at Terre à Terre.
All Terre à Terre’s ingredients and products are vegetarian (including all the cheese), with some being vegan and/or organic and/or local. Launched in 1993, it’s been voted runner-up ‘Best Ehical Restaurant in the South’ in the Observer newspaper’s food awards for six years running. And in 2017 Hardens dubbed it ‘still the best vegetarian restaurant in Britain, even after so many years!’
I’ve been coming here about 17 years and remember being enormously excited on one of my very first visits to see Nick Cave a couple of tables away from me.
On my recent dinner visit, service was by chatty and knowledgeable staff, one or two of whom I recognised as having been there a long time, which I always take to be a good sign. They were keen to know what I thought of a trial dish on the menu – the deconstructed ‘lox’ bagel – in a vegetarian restaurant, the lox being made of ‘leathered’ carrot. So this is a restaurant that’s not afraid to experiment, and to get honest feedback from its customers.
Terre à Terre is always busy and buzzy, so I suggest you book ahead. But it’s a great place to come for a late lunch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, when you might also get a walk-in table.
Dishes not to miss:
I highly recommend three classics always on the otherwise seasonally-changing menu – and which are likely to satisfly even the most suspicious non-vegetarian.
Rosti Revisited involves sautéed buttered spinach, drizzled with cream, garlic, parsley and nutmeg, sitting on a large, personal, classic potato rosti with onion and garlic, and the whole crowned with a soft poached egg and toasted mustard rarebit topping. Sophisticated, filling, comfort food at its best.
Better Batter and Lemony Yemeni Relish, meanwhile, is a sort of vegetarian take on fish and chips. Halloumi is soaked in buttermilk, then fried in chip shop batter, served with vodka-spiked preserved plum tomatoes, fresh pea mint hash with pickled quail’s egg, sea salad tartar and Terre à Terre’s lemony Yemeni relish. And the best bit – it comes served with their thick chips, which are huge and crunchy and the stuff of my waking dreams!
Finally, I’ve got a massive thing about Terre à Terre’s chocolate truffles. Both varieties – Razza Jazza Boozy Rum or Salt Caramel – are absolutely sensational. You can buy these singly off the menu to have with your after-dinner coffee if you like – and I do like that a lot! And you can also buy them boxed to take home, where they keep nicely in the fridge for a few months. Terre à Terre’s in-house and online shops also sells a range of other nibbles, pickles etc from their menu, some organic wines, and their own cookbook.
Click individual photos to enlarge
Such stunning presentation! The Snap, Crackle and Choc (right) was particularly gorgeous! (70% cacao mousse with hazelnut cream, praline & chocolate shortbread, strawberry sorbet, pink pepper berry aqua faba meringues, chocolate crack shards & Satongo twigs).
Food for Friends
On past shorter trips to Brighton I’ve always made a beeline for Terre à Terre because I love it so much. But on my last visit I finally had more time to try Food for Friends. I’d been meaning to for ages. And it’s odd that somehow I hadn’t, since it’s the older of the two restaurants, having opened in 1981, when it was originally a studenty, hippyish, BYO sort of place. But boy am I glad I’ve made it here now, in its reinvented (in 2004) gourmet guise.
Food for Friends’ accolades include being voted one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the UK by Hello! magazine in September 2017. And its cookbook – available for digital download – has been voted one of the top 10 vegetarian cookbooks by The Independent newspaper. Some of the stunning recipes appear in full on Food for Friends website.
The seasonal menu changes regularly and the food we found there on our lunchtime visit was glorious, with stunning presentation and wonderfully inventive combinations. Two standout dishes we tried were the intricately flavoursome and aesthetically beautiful king oyster mushroom scallops, and five spice crispy tofu.
I absolutely can’t wait to go back to Food for Friends on a Sunday to try their sumptious-looking roast lunch, which includes a vegetarian wellington.
Dishes not to miss:
Like Terre à Terre, Food for Friends also does its own vegetarian take on fish and chips – the ginger beer battered haloumi cheese with gorgeous triple-cooked chips, wakami, samphire, crushed lemon peas, pickled quail’s egg, and tartare sauce. My sister – who had never set foot in a vegetarian restaurant until our visit – had it for her birthday lunch and loved it!
2. Sophisticated Seafood by the Beach at Riddle and Finns
Riddle and Finns opened its first seafood, oyster and Champagne restaurant in the Lanes, apparently being inspired by ‘high end liquor shops’ and oyster bars, in New York and Paris.
I’ve made a mental note that the Lanes’ restaurant would be perfect for an intimate candlelit evening out sometime. But I was in Brighton for lunch on a hot summer’s day, and so opted to try the newer sister restaurant, Riddle & Finns at the Beach, occupying one of the old Kings Road fishermens’ arches right on the beachfront. It also has the added advantage of taking bookings, which the Lanes’ restaurant doesn’t.
At this branch you can sit outside on the terrace right by the beach, or eat with great views of it from the restaurant upstairs. And it’s a place which isn’t afraid to let you see what’s going on in the kitchen, via a viewing window.
A glimpse of the menu and the specials board in the photos below gives you a good feel for what’s on offer food-wise, including options for confirmed meat eaters and vegetarians. And what I liked personally – as well as the obvious quality and freshness of ingredients – is that the menu makes low-carb eating so easy and glorious. That’s especially as there’s a good selection of low-carb sides offered – including seaweed salad and mixed greens – to accompany your seafood.
My one small constructive observation is that – with just three sweet options plus a cheeseboard – the pudding menu seemed a bit thin. I don’t often do pudding anyway, but there was nothing on the menu, on that day at least, that would have tempted me away from my resolve. So on reflection, maybe that’s a positive, right?
Riddle and Finns also has an excellent wine list. I’m usually a red wine woman, but my dining partner was celebrating her house sale, and keen on rosé on such a hot sunny day – so we ended up sharing a bottle of Domaines Ott Clos Mireille Rosé from Provence, which really was fabulous.
And I need to record that the cheery service we received at Riddle & Finns was a complete delight!
Dishes not to miss:
Tempura monkfish cheeks. Served with Sriracha mayonnaise, these succulent wonders were made gorgeously crunchy on the outside with a light crisp tempura batter, encasing a gorgeously gelationus inner.
The oysters. For the oyster connoisseur this is the place to be, with a selection of rock and native oysters, as well as an oyster of the day, and a range of cold and hot sauces to have on them. Another time I’ll try the (cold!) gin and tonic sauce. But for my first visit I opted for a hot one.
I’ve had a big thing about hot oysters since I went to New Orleans a couple of years ago, where I had them baked with a crunchy garlicky parmesan and crumb crust, flecked with parsley. I’ve yet to track down this truly wondrous combination in a UK restaurant. But I can say that Riddle and Finns’ oysters with hot Gilhooley sauce – comprising parmesan, tabasco, butter and spices – were pretty damn fine indeed.
3. A Bohemian Brunch at Kooky Kooks
When I’m staying in Brighton I almost always book a room without breakfast included, so I can instead take my time getting up, and then head for something less hotel-breakfasty – and more bohemian-brunchy – in the North Laine. Here, several largely pedestrianised (at the weekends at any rate) streets offer up tons of great one-off cafés/restaurants/bars/street food outlets.
This time I tried Kooks in Gardner Street. This place serves brunch and lunch every day, and also dinner on Fridays and Saturdays only.
We arrived on a sunny day when eating outside was definitely possible, but we opted for cooling off a bit indoors. While perusing the far-more-exciting-than-your-average brunch menu – including, for instance, a vegetarian breakfast with falafel and halloumi – I sipped a black café Americano. Clearly engineered strength-wise with the jaded morning-after reveller in mind, I suspected that Kooks knew their weekend brunch market well. Excellent.
For eats, my brunch buddies had the full English breakfast, while I went for the avocado smash on sourdough with a poached egg – made exciting and piquant with the addition of feta, fresh mint and chilli. I also snaffled off my sister’s plate her white pudding – a rare treat indeed.
From 1200 noon onwards, Kooks also do ‘big plates’ – including proper good quality burgers with twice-cooked chips, beer battered haddock, a superfood salad, and a fine Sussex cheese board to round it off.
Dishes not to miss:
Next time I’m in Brighton I need to get myself on the outside of one of Kooks’ Bacon Bloody Marys. But since Kooks claims also to have the best espresso martinis in Brighton, then I’m also going to be mega-tempted to have one of them alongside a portion of their espresso martini tiramisu. If you’ve tried any of these already, please please do tell us your verdict in the comments!
4. Global Cuisine on Preston Street
I’ve been a regular visitor to Brighton all my adult life and I still always discover delightful new things on every trip, including new places to eat.
One of my big discoveries this time – and I just don’t know quite how I could have missed it all these years – was all the fabulous restaurants serving diverse global cuisine on Preston Street. Here’s just two of them that I tried, and I’m massively excited to get back to Brighton soon to explore the others.
Sushi Garden Japanese Restaurant
I’ve really developed and expanded my liking for food from Japan since going there for the first time in February. So I made a beeline for a meal at Sushi Garden. It was a Saturday night and our table, pre-booked by the window, allowed us a premium view of the many imaginatively-themed stags and hens charging past. It’s all part of the rich tapestry of Brighton!
The food here was really solid Japanese cuisine with a varied (chilled, hot or sparkling) sake rice wine list to accompany it. And if you’re new to Japanese food, or your experience is limited to M&S sushi or teriyaki chicken, then a set sampling menu is an option. As – like so many other UK Japanese restaurants – it’s run by Koreans, Sushi Garden also serves some Korean dishes.
Dishes not to miss:
Just look and drool at these pictures! The sashimi and the grilled steak were delicious and beautifully presented, the sashimi being fresh and subtle as it should be. But my absolute favourite was those wonderful soft, smoky and sweet miso aubergines (nasa dengaku). And I’ve come to believe that no Japanese meal is complete without a scoop each of matcha green tea ice cream and black sesame seed ice cream to round it off.
Ephesus Turkish Restaurant
We found Ephesus, and indeed Preston Street, when casting around for somewhere to eat on a Friday evening, after arriving in Brighton late afternoon. We thought everywhere might be booked up, but we managed to get one of the last tables at Ephesus, which was busy with a mixed crowd of couples, families and groups out celebrating.
With a sister restaurant further along the South Coast in Worthing, Ephesus produces authentic Turkish cuisine and is rated very highly out of all restaurants in Brighton on TripAdvisor.
Dishes not to miss:
My absolute favourite that I always have when I find a Turkish restaurant is a yogurtlu kebab. It was done well here. Ephesus let you choose an adana (lamb mince meat), chicken shish or lamb shish kebab, which is then served traditionally on a bed of gorgeous toasted Turkish bread covered with a rich and tasty tomato sauce and garlic yoghurt.
Complete your meal with a strong Turkish coffee brought to your table with complimentary Turkish delight.
5. Traditional British Fish & Chips on Brighton Pier
There’s a gazillion opportunities for eating traditional British fish and chips along Brighton’s seafront and in the town centre. But for a bit of added kitsch atmosphere befitting such a traditional seaside meal, you may like to have them from one of three different fish and chip outlets on Brighton Palace Pier. My preference for comfort is to eat them in the restaurant, but for the full seaside experience you could take them away wrapped in paper to eat with your fingers while wandering along the pier. Or sit on a bench or picnic table, but be prepared to be shooing away the wiley and greedy seagulls!
The Palm Court Restaurant on Brighton Pier is particularly notorious, since British Michelin starred chef Heston Bluementhal described it as the ‘spiritual home of fish and chips’. And if you choose to eat here, you can even have champagne with it! But if you want a wider choice of venues, or fancy something more sedate than the Pier, see Restaurants Brighton’s list of best fish and chips shops in Brighton.
6. Immerse yourself in chocolate at Choccywoccydoodah
It describes itself as an art and design focused chocolaterie, and its chocolate art really is astounding and decadent in every sense possible. After recovering from your jaw having dropped at examples of all this on the ground-floor, climb the stairs to the café Bar du Chocolat, where more chocolate-based amazement awaits. (And fabulously, also upstairs is the wonderfully gothic Witches Kitchen – originally a fisherman’s cottage in the 1700s, but now containing the witches’ brooms and other paraphernalia, and where private parties can book to be served a chocolate feast).
Bar du Chocolat can get very busy, and you can’t book in advance, although you can turn up in person on the day and get put on a waiting list. On a Sunday lunchtime in August Pride weekend all I had to do was come back half an hour later and a table was ready, which worked fine for me. I spent the time browsing for rare vinyl and films in Cult Hero, 5 minutes away on North Street.
Dishes not to miss:
If, like me, you’re a chocolate purist, then you’ll be wanting to try the pure molten hot chocolate drink. It’s a refreshingly proper chocolate alternative to the usual disappointing, over-sugary, brown powder drowned in milk that’s served up by most other, even quite posh, places.
Choccywoccydoodah use your choice of pure molten chocolate (milk, dark or white at 34% and 60% cocoa solids, and 29% cocoa butter, respectively) stirred into warm milk. This is topped with whipped cream, marshmallows and a chocolate straw. Ermmm, so possibly you won’t also need a piece of chocolate cake as well.
But if you truly do want to test the robustness of your insulin sensitivity, try Choccy’s most decadent drinking chocolate. This places on top of molten chocolate a caramel stroopwafel, ice cream, whipped cream, marshmallows, drizzled chocolate, chocolate straws, and chocolate buttons.
And finally, I both recommend, but also caution you about, the amazing and ambitious signature Everything Choccywoccydoo Cake, with 6 layers of different-flavoured cake and 5 layers of different-flavoured truffle cream. It is truly wonderful – but I suggest you share it, or you may find not long afterwards that type 2 diabetes has finally caught you in its evil snare.
Visiting Brighton: Basic Information
Where is Brighton?: The City of Brighton & Hove is in East Sussex, in South-East England, UK.
Getting There: See the bottom of my Top 10 Reasons to Visit Brighton for directions about how to get there from elsewhere in Britain and abroad.
Locating the Restaurants & Areas: This walking map shows the key areas and roads in central Brighton.