Well… I thought last month had been full-on food wise, but oh no. In May there was the Brighton Festival and the fantastic Brighton and Hove Food Festival, providing a dizzying array of innovative dining experiences. And of course there’s the free Hove Lawns event (my excuse to gorge on pulled pork), curated and organised by a local team of passionate food fanatics, led by officially appointed ‘outstanding Brightonian’ Nick Mosely. More about all that later.
First up, my inaugural experience of the bohemian Spiegeltent. Residing in Steine Gardens, what a magical place this turns into at this time of year. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to discover this wondrous pop-up mini hippy festival. Me being me, I was more excited about trying out the street food than any of the shows on offer, in particular the pop-up Cypriot café Papa Pitta. I’d read a local food blogger wax lyrical about it. I do crave a bit of street food and the odd dirty burger here and there, and as I was with my skinflint ex-boyfriend, I knew the price point would please him immensely. It did.
We ordered the pork souvlaki for which they are well known, a feta salad, and fried potatoes. We were given some complimentary Cypriot sausages. These turned out to be the best item – more like pork kofte than a sausage. I gobbled these appreciatively as the rest of the food was frankly rather dire. The pork was extremely gristly to the point that it was almost inedible. The salad that accompanied the kebab and feta was comprised of flavourless tomatoes, diced white onion (who puts raw white onion in a salad ffs?) that I had to pick out. The potato was greasy and not crisp.
If you’re going to do street food you have to do it well. Papa Pitta are looking for permanent premises and seem to have a cult following. I am assuming they were having a duff night. Cough.
Further afield I enjoyed a fantastic lunch at Le Magazin in Lewes. What a little gem this is. Good quality well executed Mediterranean style dishes that you really want to eat. I enjoyed a sharing plate of charcuterie, a mozzarella, avocado and tomato salad with excellent homemade pesto followed by a beautifully cooked slow roast pork belly. The fat had been rendered away (as it should be) leaving just meltingly soft meat and crispy crackling. The wine is great value and the outside seating great for people watching especially given its location on the main drag. Highly recommended.
Other highlights included a decent Thai dinner at Mango Tree, (full review to follow) just a stones throw from Victoria station, (except for the appallingly made gin and tonic at their bar – don’t go there, head to the bar at the nearby Goring Hotel instead) and locally in Brighton at Semolina. Here I discovered excellent cooking, a great wine list and an unfortunate location (just off the London road area), but don’t let this put you off. I will review this place more fully in the coming months.
Then came the food festival – the highlight of my gastronomic year. I have to carefully choose which events I attend as I could easily book myself in for lunches, dinners, cocktail and wine events all day every day. As much fun as that would be, I wouldn’t survive it.
My absolute favourite of them all is Food Lab at 64 degrees. This is an ingenious event where top local chefs pair up with local food producers to create a six-course tasting menu. I go every year and it always turns into a wonderful boozy party.
This year Matt Gillan’s beef with horseradish ice-cream (provided by Boho Gelato) was the star of the show. A flavour and texture sensation. It was also good to see up and coming Tom Griffiths of Flank making his first appearance. His food is sublime. Look out for him in a future chef profile.
I also attended the Curry Leaf Café charity banquet which was brilliant Bollywood fun, and the Taste of Guernsey lunch with the excellent Simon McKenzie at the Market restaurant. Great venue, great cooking. Do look out for similar events later in the year.
Finally I spent much of the bank holiday weekend helping out at the Hove Lawns event. I was kept in Ridgeview and gin. It was such a hardship. So hard in fact that I had to book a spa break to Portugal the very next week.