I don’t think I’ll ever stop being nervous about writing on the topic of food that has been cooked outside of my own kitchen. My comfort zone is recipe blogging. I can talk to you ’til the cows come home about the shit that goes down in here without a care in the world, but when I sit down to tell you about food that I’ve eaten in the outside world, I freeze up a little bit. It’s a slightly different language, one that I’m not yet fluent in.
However, it has to be done. Partly to yank myself out of that comfort zone, but mostly because there are some really amazing food experiences to be had in Brighton and I want to be able to tell you all about them. So, be patient with me while I try on the shoes of somebody that knows how to write about restaurant experiences..
This is the first year that October Best has been on my radar, cause I really don’t get out to restaurants all that much. I spend any and all disposable income and time at the pub, because that’s where the friends and the alcohol are. My bad. The deal is this: October Best is a fortnight(ish) long festival that’s spattered with special foodie events. The big sell is that each of Brighton’s top 20 restaurants offer a menu for £20 per head. I wanted to eat every. single. one. I managed three.
The Ginger Pig
3 Hove St, Hove BN3 2TR
I’m going straight in with my favourite because not a day has gone by since I ate this meal that it hasn’t crossed my mind. The Ginger Pig is allll the way out in Hove, and while I knew it was a place worth visiting because the lovely Rosie is such a big fan, I’d never made the trek before. I’m so glad I did – despite much moaning from my visiting Dad that he had to walk so far – because it blew my mind. I don’t know how they managed to deliver this menu at £20 a head, but I’m not about to question it.
Three courses were served with three expertly paired wines. Don’t get me wrong, I know as much about wine as someone that was born literally yesterday, but I can say for sure that what I was eating and what I was drinking were definitely on the same page with one another.
To start: harissa lamb croquette, kohlrabi, red onion and coriander. I can still taste it, and it was upwards of two weeks ago now. The most gorgeous, tender lamb I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Deep fried. The crunch as I cut into the croquette. Ugh, god, I wish I had the vocabulary to tell you exactly how wonderful this was and why. Alas, the picture and my excitement will have to suffice.
Next up, wild mushroom arancini on pig cheek ragout with pickled shallot and pecorino. Every single mouthful was perfect. The ragout was richer than Richie Rich himself, the arancini was wonderful and the risotto within had not a hint of dryness. Again, I just don’t have the words to do it justice.
Hot banana cake, ice cold peanut butter ice cream and a drizzling of plum sauce. Each the perfect accompaniment to the other, the contrasting temperatures made for the most wonderful end to the meal. Never in my life have I experienced three courses put together so beautifully, this was without a doubt the most wonderful meal I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant. The Ginger Pig do not miss a beat. I’ll be back before the next October Best, I can tell you that for sure.
Fatto A Mano
65-67 Church Rd, Hove BN3 2BD
Another place that I’d yet to visit before now, despite knowing full well how good it was going to be. Again, no real excuses beyond the fact that I eat mostly in my kitchen – I only got round to trying Franco Manca this summer. Fatto A Mano, being a relatively low cost restaurant usually, were charging £20 for two diners. Two starters plus two pizzas for twenty quid. An absolute bargain.
The Caprese (usually £7) was lush. When it comes to something as simple as tomatoes and mozzarella, all you need to make it a raging success is the best quality ingredients. Fatto A Mano have got them. I would very much like to make friends with their cheese guy, cause that is some good mozzarella. Campania fries (usually £3.50) were great. Crispy, salty and flavoured with rosemary and garlic.
There were two meat and two veggie specials for October Best – although we were welcome to order from the standard menu as part of the deal – and despite my hankering for butternut squash, I couldn’t convince Tom. So, the Bresaola and the Piccante it was.
Again, quality of ingredients shone through, and this lot know how to make good pizza. Way up there with our other favourites Franco Manca and Purezza. Soft, pillowy dough, cooked in a wood fired oven in an open kitchen right behind where you’re eating. Our favourite from the two was definitely the bresaola, which is air dried beef that’s been aged for a few months. It really hit the salty spot for me.
Fourth and Church
84 Church Rd, Hove BN3 2EB
I’ve saved this one til last cause quite honestly, I do not entirely remember eating it. It was my best friend’s last night in town for like six months and we were an impressively high (even for us) level of smashed by the time we even got to the restaurant. In my defence, it’s a wine bar, so it didn’t feel too inappropriate to be a bit slurry in there. The venue is great. Moodily lit, boob-centric art on the walls, fancy wines on display, it’s a great place to sit and have a drink or three.
I remember exactly two things: I loved our waitress, and the ox cheek was total porn. Melt-in-the-mouth, intense flavour, just perfect. But yeah, other than that it’s mostly blackout, sorry friends. I did at least take just about passable photos so you can have a look for yourself:
Confit cod, pickled salsify, wild mushrooms, celeriac
Red wine-braised ox cheek, smoked parsnip, cultured leeks
Spiced poached pear, iced pistachio, yogurt parfait
If you wanna keep up to date with what’s going on at Brighton’s top 20 restaurants, take a look at the Brighton’s Best Restaurants website. Next year, I’m gonna have money saved up and time booked out so that I can go on the attack and get as many of these menus down myself as possible.