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Brighton, on the south coast of England, has evolved over the years to become one of the hippest holiday hangouts in the country. Take a weekend away beside the sea for reimagined seafood, sparkling cocktails and unique tasting menus.
Best for cheap eats
Chef Dan Kenny of modernist restaurant The Set (see below) has turned his skills to pub food at this characterful boozer near Brighton’s main shopping street. The public voted this the top Sunday lunch spot in the 2017 Brighton’s Best Restaurants awards, and you won’t be disappointed by the roast Sussex beef rib-eye served with dripping roasties, crisp Yorkshire pudding & veg, including celeriac purée and kale. Sunday lunch from £11.50.
This smart neighbourhood pizzeria in Hove (there are also branches in the North Laines and on London Road) is the ideal place to bring hungry kids after a day on the beach. They may not notice that the pizzas are Naples-style, soft and billowing, or that they’ve been cooked in a wood-fired oven and topped with quality San Marzano tomatoes. But they’ll love how delicious they are, and you’ll appreciate the list of daily specials that might include pizza with fennel sausage, Neapolitan broccoli, chilli, provola, mozzarella and parmesan. Pizzas from £7.
This unassuming café near Brighton station is one of the city’s true hidden gems. Yes, there’s the usual hot drinks and sarnies, but they also serve a short menu of authentic and delicious Vietnamese food, including a killer banh mi and top-notch pho. Plates for around £5.
Best for casual dining
Head to boho Kemptown for a memorable afternoon tea at Metrodeco, a camp and quirky 1930s-style converted Art Deco furniture showroom. Relax into an ornate vintage armchair and choose from two dozen tea blends (the delicate Silver Needle white tea is particularly good), served in mismatched bone china to accompany dainty open sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries. The tea-infused cocktails include Sweet Sunburst made with rum, plus rhubarb and vanilla-flavoured rooibos. Afternoon tea from £23.50.
A trip to Brighton isn’t complete without a visit to the beach, and Shelter Hall is a prime location for those wanting a casual meal with a sea view. The city’s first food hall, it features seven different kitchens from Sussex-based chefs and restaurants. The current line-up includes Lost Boys Chicken, Sugardough bakery, VIP Pizza, Hanoi Kitchen, Crab Shack and 2018 MasterChef winner Kenny Tutt. Although the outdoor area is the place to be when the sun is shining, the inside has a great vibe, too, with its high, colourfully decorated ceilings, plenty of well-spaced-out tables, and a buzzy atmosphere. Menu highlights include Kenny Tutt’s beautifully charred, robata-grilled meat flatbreads and Crab Shack’s garlic-laden crispy squid with aïoli and generously crabby loaded fries. Both pair perfectly with a cold beer from local brewery Unbarred, or the bar also has an extensive cocktail and wine list, including several Sussex wines. Main dishes around £7-10. Anna Lawson
Having started out as a pop-up serving prosecco and nibbles from a vintage Fiat van, Cin Cin’s owner and genial host David Toscano has moved to a bricks-and-mortar site in North Laine. Eighteen stools surround the open kitchen and bar where chef Jamie Halsall cooks up some of the best pasta dishes in the city. Small plates from £8.50.
At this hugely popular but tiny venue, book in advance to bag a stool at the counter overlooking the open kitchen, where you can watch chef Michael Bremner and his team cook modern small plates from a short, daily-changing menu. You might recognise Michael from his stint on BBC’s Great British Menu – he’s also at the helm of Murmur, a casual seafront restaurant close to Brighton’s i360 tower. Don’t overlook veggie dishes such as celeriac with egg yolk and truffle, which are as impressive as the meat or fish selections. Dishes from £8.
Bag one of the prime seats at the counter for a peek into the open kitchen at this lively, stylish modern European restaurant, where traditional Spanish tapas meets robustly flavoured modern small plates like whiting with blood sausage and jamon. Among the specials at Market are 90-day aged beef rump with roasted turnip purée, always worth ordering. Small plates £3 to £11.50, larger plates, £14.50 to £18.50.
This chic but friendly neighbourhood gastropub in Hove is worth a visit for its simple, fresh seafood dishes (check out the chalkboard for specials like whole lobster with garlic butter, £35), and the incredible range of around 100 craft beers. Sunday lunchtime is popular with families and dog owners as well as discerning drinkers. Mains from £8 to £18.
This centrally located wine bar and restaurant is much loved for the charmingly Gallic service from owners Vincent and Thierry, who carefully curate the list of organic, biodynamic and natural wines to accompany the gutsy, eclectic food. Their classic cocktails are among the best in town. Mains from £14.
Part of local celebrity chef Ben McKellar’s Gingerman group, the Ginger Pig is a large bustling gastropub just off the seafront in Hove, serving a mix of pub classics like pies and steaks, plus modern inventive dishes like their duck fat potato terrine. Don’t miss one of barman Rob Maynard’s cracking cocktails. Mains from £13.
This is the mom-and-pop local bistro of your dreams – the kind of place that in-the-know Brighton foodies would rather keep for themselves. Orson Whitfield creates a modern British menu of local and seasonal dishes such as the John Dory with broccoli, almonds and fregola, while wife Linda provides the warm welcome. Mains from £13.
Best for exotic eats
Chef Dave Miney spent three years working in Tokyo before opening Bincho Yakitori, an authentic izakaya (Japanese gastropub). You’ll find him behind the counter of this small, atmospheric and always busy restaurant, tending the charcoal grill. Among the many must-order small plates are sweet and crunchy karaage (fried chicken), teriyaki grilled quail, and grilled aubergine with miso. Dishes from £2.80.
This modern Indian brasserie reinvents subcontinental dining for the 21st century with its bright, contemporary interior, spicy cocktails and authentic regional dishes, such as Coorgi pork curry. The generously proportioned thalis are one of the best lunchtime deals in the city. Mains from £12.50.
Best for special occasions
The roomy terrace at this glamorous seafront fish and steak restaurant offers views of Brighton’s past and present: the remains of the West Pier and the new i360 observation tower. On a sunny day, it’s the ideal spot to share the signature Surf Board of hot and cold crustacea. Inside, there are fabulous cocktails, and chef Dave Motherill’s imaginative dishes include hake with roasted courgettes, clams, basil and burnt lemon. Mains from £12.
Tucked away in a side street just off Hove seafront, former Fat Duck chef Duncan Ray is cooking (single-handedly) some of the best modern seafood dishes in the country. The £69 five-course tasting menu showcases the day’s local catch, transformed into precisely cooked, elegant dishes. Desserts are every bit as delicious and refined as the savoury courses.
Top Brighton chef Dan Kenny (also the brains behind Dizzy Gull, above) serves tasting menus of inventive small plates from the open kitchen of The Set, a rustic modern restaurant. The interconnected café is a more casual affair. Mains from £13.
Street Diner where you can sample some of Brighton’s best street food.