GF Great Finds | Brighton Shopping: Workshop

This is a wonderful new shopping addition to Brighton. Appealing inside and out, their timeless products have been cherry picked for their equal balance of style and function.

Beyond the luscious navy exterior (that logo!) you'll find a great selection of Nick Membery stoneware all handmade in Llandeilo, South Wales. His plates, cups and bowls are is fantastic quality and would bring a bit of luxury to the everyday table. Their other kitchenware is also beautiful with lots of plain stoneware, enamel and divine wooden tools. I need that French rolling pin in my life for sure.

If you're a real man's man or have one in your life, you'll like the proper shaving brushes, horn combs and bone shoe brushes.

Workshop also have a lot of other desirable lifestyle products for the home as well as a gorgeous range of Children's toys that offer a welcome break from the plastic tat for style conscious parents. 

Prices are surprisingly affordable which is handy as you'll want it ALL.






www.workshopliving.co.uk
13A Prince Albert Street
Brighton
BN1 1HE


Graphic Foodie Great Finds | Brighton Shopping
A series of articles featuring stylish kitchenware and lifestyle shops in Brighton
For other stores featured visit www.thegraphicfoodie.blogspot.co.uk/greatfinds

REVIEW: Le Nantais Bistro, Hove

I came across a tongue-in-cheek print* this week declaring that "Brighton is a city split between the Hoves and the Hove nots". I think I fall pretty much into the latter category. Anything past Palmiera Square and I'm packing a passport and unplugging the toaster. But there has been a growing list of Hove cafes, bakeries and restaurants, some shiny new and some ticking along with consistently good feedback that have been tempting me out of my BN1 and BN2 comfort zone.

And I adore French food. I think after Italian, French is what I most crave when dining out, the decadence and richness of it. Pascal Benamari is a chef who's has been behind a few local favourites with his latest restaurant, Le Nantais Bistro, taking over a nice little space that used to be the very popular Harry's. The interior is a contemporary, sophisticated soft grey affair, something that would suit both a romantic dinner for two or with friends. They have made it stylish but not over the top.

Normally I'm straight in with the specials board but unusually nothing appealed. Not sure if lasagne or mozzarella have any place in a French restaurant and as for anything wrapped in Parma ham, I parked that in the early 00s. The a la carte though is bursting with French classics and modern tweaks.



Quenelle are something I fell in love with after a trip to Lyon and these light, airy langoustine quenelle were the best I've had to date. They can suffer with being too dense, almost like a dumpling, but these were anything but. The rich crustacea bisque sauce was exactly what I look for in French cooking; rich, luxurious and silky. I've been thinking about this sauce a lot since I ate it, having such amazing depth of flavour. Freshened with ribbons of courgette tagliatelle and a plump langoustine, it really was a perfect dish.



I was dining with my blogger friend Rosie and luckily she can really put her food away (and she's tiny - grrrr!). The duck carpaccio was an extremely generous portion. Normally you would expect a few slices, even this thinly cut, but the plate was quite something. The classic celeriac and apple remoulade was the perfect accompaniment, a fresh and crunchy contrast to the earthy duck.


For main I ordered the rabbit, something I cook when I can get hold of it, which is not very often, so always feels like a treat. You have to work hard for your dinner when eating rabbit, picking though intricate bones and the meat is typically conservative, but this was a good portion and not in the least bit dry. Again in a sauce, a deep mustard, this was a more rustic dish but done so well it felt like it had been given a waistcoat and smartened up for the evening. Served simply with a fine pomme puree, it was another hit. 


The only dish that slightly disappointed was Rosie's soft shell crab Caesar Salad. The eggs were greying and croutons seemed a little greasy but the crab batter was fine and anchovies fresh. They had also forgotten to dress it which was rectified quickly. It was ok, just compared to the other dishes, probably could have been elevated to be a little more special. 

The table next to us, reassuringly a group of French youngsters (I can say that now I'm OLD), ordered an eye-popping sharing plate of Cote de Boeuf. Luckily our forks had been taken away as I'm sure they would have found themselves missing a piece or two. I will most definitely be returning for that. Quite possibly on my own! 



The only way to finish was the Assiette of desserts of course, perfect for the indecisive and greedy, of which I am both. There was a nice syrupy crepe Suzette, a ball of nougat glace, a piece of chocolate and raspberry delice, apple tart and a brulee. All nice enough and a good opportunity to sample a cross section of practically the whole dessert menu.

Service was friendly if a little sketchy in places, things like forgetting cutlery, cutlery placed upside down on the table and missing dressing, all minor really. I like that the waiter refused to take our dessert plate away unless the last mouthful, which inevitably remains when sharing, had been polished off. There's always a place for a bit of charming French cheekiness in my book.

Le Nantais Bistro is a great neighbourhood restaurant. Smart, good quality and really reasonably priced. A place people will return to again and again because of it. (Our bill without alcohol was just £30 per person which I though was good, honest value.) They are even open from breakfast and have a good looking lunch menu too. 

www.lenantaisbistro.com
41 Church Road
Hove BN3 2TB



Print by Alex Bamford www.alexbamford.com via Cardigan Kate's Instagram 

REVIEW: Agua Dulce, Brighton

Good Spanish food in the city is almost as hard to come by as Italian cooking even though two of the most popular restaurants are exactly those. When you walk past they are heaving to the rafters with parties and hen dos lining their stomachs on set meal menus. 

But if you like it authentic then it's all a bit sad face. So when fellow blogger Rosie wrote a glowing review of Agua Dulce, a place I've been hearing very good feedback from in general, I knew I had to pay a visit.

Located in a slightly grotty street just off the seafront, the grey and grubbiness subsides as you pass through the doors and are transported into the sunny interior. The welcome was slightly less sunny and turns out the charm is only showered on the "pretty girl" tables. Myself and Mr GF clearly were not the waiter's type! We were also gruffly told that we'd only be allowed to put an order in once to the kitchen as they were busy, which looking at the half empty room and trying to get my head around what I believed the casual concept of tapas was, peeved me off slightly. Not the greatest start.

Still, I was generally in a rare good mood so didn't walk out but ordered two dishes initially, stubbornly retaining the menu with a solid grasp my best firm "business" smile.

Luckily the food arrived and we soon forgot about the bad start.



The fish here is very, very good. I have never eaten octopus that didn't remind me of car tyres, but here was cooked by someone who must be very experienced with seafood. Being thinly sliced helped the off-putting texture of the suckers and made it far more enjoyable. Usually Mr. GF has to polish off the seafood plates but I ate my half of this quite happily. I also like that it had been placed on sliced potatoes for substance and generously sprinkled with paprika. Although it was one of the more expensive small plate dishes, was larger and good value at £8.95.


Small pieces of marinated shark steak were floured and fried, giving you that crisp exterior whilst locking in the sweet, tender fish on the inside. Delicious.


Gambas Pil Pil is a classic, simple dish and what not to like about a sauce of wine, lemon and chilli? 



Chorizo is a must and although not as interesting as some of the other dishes, essential for mopping up that incredible oil with bread. I normally like it cooked in sherry but this was just pan fried, but still really nice.


And finally...Padron peppers are an absolute must, aren't they?

On the subject of bread, I was amazed, even though I'd seen it on Rosie's blog, at how rubbish the bread was. Cheap, gloopy supermarket "French Stick". (Won't insult the French by calling it a baguette even.) It could be a lot better, especially with the increasing amount of the great bakeries in town. I almost felt sorry for the decent aioli served with it.

We didn't really bother with the dessert menu which had the usual flans and things. Moving on for dessert after a meal is my new thing this summer.

I would be very keen to go back for the main meals, especially the fish, possibly even a paella. The one on the table next to us looked a treat. Some of the more unusual tapas specials were quite enticing too. 

So what they lack in desirability of location, they do make up for with fresh, good quality and reasonably priced food. I think our bill came to abut £60 which included service (ho-ho) and a £28 bottle of wine.

If you fancy that taste of Spain then I think this it the closest you are going to get to it. Just make sure you go with a group of your prettiest girlfriends and leave the bearded dude at home in front of the telly.

Brighton
East Sussex BN1 1NE

Brighton Gourmet Bus Tour: Vinyard visits


Brilliant fun, a dash of adventure and plenty of deliciousness, I think anyone interested in food or drink (or both) should hop on a Gourmet Bus Tour. Run by the fabulous people behind the Brighton & Hove Food Festivals, they have so many contacts to the best of our Sussex producers that they can create the food itineraries of our dreams.

I've previously been on their food bus tour which visited CocoaLoco, Dark Star Brewery and High Wield Dairy but today we were heading to a couple of Sussex's amazing vineyards. I love visiting these and take a geek load of notes but really go yourself and find out why we should be buying more English wine.

The bus tour itself is great, pulling out of Brighton all pleasant and genteel and arriving back full of chatter and laughter. There's a jolliness about a Routemaster bus that compels people to wave at you or raise a smile as it passes. At times it's pretty impressive it squeezes down some of those narrow country roads too.

Bolney Wine Estate

First Stop: Bolney Wine Estate www.bolneywineestate.com
This estate has been around since 1972 and is a family business. The daughter of the original owners, Sam Linter, is now head winemaker and the feminist in me LOVES the fact that a lady is the wine head honcho here (her assistant winemaker and vineyard manager are also female). Sam has won plenty of national and international awards and you can also buy the wines in places like Waitrose.

The estate is very pretty and geared up for tours. Normally they do the lunches in the cafe but we had ours in the winery itself which made for a stunning backdrop. We tasted four of their wines; The sparking Blanc de Blancs, Bolney Rosé and the Pinor Noir. I find Bolney wines to always be surprising, either lighter than you expect or very fragrant and sweet (the rose), certainly never boring. My favourite was actually the Pinot Gris we had with lunch which was a really well balanced white, very creamy.

Lunch was very well done, buffet style but lots of dishes.


The tour was informative, interesting and relaxed and the vineyard itself is actually a lovely place to walk around in the sunshine.

Ridgeview

Second Stop: Ridgeview www.ridgeview.co.uk
Ah Ridgeview! I must say, these guys produce some of my favourite sparkling wines so let's get straight onto them. The Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs is a must. I insist on a bottle for special occasions and if I were to be washed up on a dessert island I'd prefer a few cases of this than rum for company. It's very light, super pale and fresh. It doesn't suffer from that biscuity yeasty dryness (all official wine terms!) that some sparklings suffer with. Love it.

I also adore the Fitzrovia Rose (all the wines are named after London Boroughs). It has the most beautiful salmon colour and again, fresh, light and so drinkable. I discovered this at Plateau in Brighton so grab a glass if you're passing.

We also tried the Bloomsbury (their entry level sparkling) and Knightsbridge, all of which are excellent. Everyone will adore at least one of their wines, look them up if you can.

The story of Ridgeview is charming. Again primarily a family business, with the second generation now heading up production. The tour is very detailed, well put together and again delivery is entertaining. There are plans to extend their visitor facilities soon which will make visits even better. We were actually hosed in the temporary marquee but was really pleasant!

I was surprised by the volume of production since my last visit a few years ago and that they had been selected to produce wines for the likes of M&S and Waitrose, which goes to show their quality of produce.

If you want to learn about wine in an informal and relaxed way, then these tours are great. Wine production is so interesting and especially learning the challenges and quirks of growing grapes in Sussex.

The whole bus tour last around 8 hours. This vineyard trip was £75 which represented good value for money with lunch, amount of tasting (and generous wine at lunch), plus breakfast pastries and a trip on a Routemaster. Would make a fabulous gift for someone special too.

For more details or to see the next available tour dates then visit www.brightonfoodfestival.com
(There is actually only one left this year in October so go, go, go! http://brightonfoodfestival.com/events/sussex-wine-bus-tour-2/)


I was a guest of the Brighton Food Festival.

Cookery lessons at home with Indian Tadka


I've been to so many cookery classes and demonstrations over the years, from courses at Leiths School to one-on-one classes at the teacher's home. But I've never been taught in my own kitchen and this is one of the services Indian Tadka offer. I thought it may be a little odd but owner Kirthi Mundada was so sweet and friendly, that she instantly made me feel right at er, home. 



We started the lesson with a spice tasting. Some were from her masala dabba, the steel tin with a number of smaller pots inside, kept close for everyday cooking. Things like mango powder, turmeric, salt, coriander and cumin seeds. Then a wide range of spices from Kirthi's next set of most used spices (and she has a further two sets!) with some more unusual spices like asafoetida, khus khus and even some Indian salt varieties I hadn't come across. We tasted them both raw and some cooked and I think I gained a much better understanding of the spices. I used to be quite proud of my collection but this made me realise I only own the tip of the iceberg! It was also fascinating to discover their healing properties too although some of my Indian friends have already forced me to eat raw fenugreek seeds and turmeric drinks in the past (they work!).



Although you can choose to learn many things, my favourite on the day was making dosa, something I adore to order in restaurants and now know how to make! Tips like adding oil to the edge during cooking to really crisp them up and how to make the dosa so paper thin was really useful. And they are so easy too, I had no problem making them for dinner later that evening on my own. Kirthi brought the batter but the recipe booklet (which included all the food cooked on the day) she left me seems very simple to follow. We filled them with a fragrant potato curry and dipped them in peanut and tamarind chutney. I was so impressed with these, and the complete dish was as good as restaurant level. Without doubt I'll be giving these a whirl from scratch and perfecting the thinness.



Tadka means tempering and is an incredibly important element of Indian cooking. (Hence the inspiration for the company name.) This tempering is nothing to do with chocolate (as we may know it), but heating spices in hot oil to wholly extract their flavour and aroma. This can be done at the beginning or end of a dish and Kirthi showed examples of both in her dishes. The peanut and tamarind chutney for the dosa had used a tadka poured over the top to finish the dish and the rice dish we cooked began by tempering the spices.

The simple sounding "Lemon Rice" dish is a little misleading as it contains two different dals, a number of spices and peanuts, all fried in oil so they are aromatic and crunchy. The sweetness of grated carrots and sourness of lemon as well as heat from fresh chilli all added dimension to a humble rice dish. As a mid-week quick meal, this would be pretty special and so good to try everyday Indian food. Most Indian recipes I normally go for are quite involved so I keep it to weekends, but simplicity with so much flavour like this dish is a great combination for time-poor people.



Kirthihad also made up a gorgeous shrikhand yogurt dessert, infused with saffron, cardamom, honey and nuts to finish off our wonderful meal. I'm not really a fan of Indian sweets so this was a great alternative.

Not only was I left with a better understanding of Indian food, and more confidence in cooking it, Kirthi also left a pot of her mum's garam masala mix, containing no less that 56 spices. A really lovely touch I thought. Although Indian Tadka is a relatively new Brighton business, you can tell this is the sort of knowledge someone has amassed over the years with a heritage rich in food culture. Kirthi's stories of growing up with the food she is so clearly passionate about is something I could really relate to with my own childhood.



Indian Tarka also offer catering for events and parties you can even have Kirthi as a personal chef for a dinner party or a special occasion for two of you. After sampling even a small selection of her food I would have no issue recommending her for that. Cookery lessons range from £30 - £80 per person depending on how many dishes you choose to learn and how many people in the class.

Learning to cook unfamiliar dishes makes for a really enjoyable afternoon, either as a one-to-one of a group of you. All you have to do is supply a list of ingredients and you are good to go.

For more information or to choose your dishes to learn and book lessons visit: www.indiantadka.co.uk

I was invited to review Indian Tadka

COMPETITION: Win a Discover the Origin hamper worth £70


I met Discover the Origin at the last Brighton and Hove Food Festival over a gorgeous supper at Hotel Du Vin, with all courses made from their fabulous products. And really, pretty much all the produce they promote are my favourites; Parmigiano Reggiano, Parma Ham, Bourgogne Wines, Douro Wines and Port. (Although I must say the white port did have me skipping home a bit too merrily!)

Anyway, the work that DTO do is vital for consumers to know where and how these products are made by making information available about their provenance and unique characters.

These products are so steeped in tradition that their status as heritage products is protected, guaranteeing that they’re made using age-old methods that in turn give an assurance of quality each and every time. You can learn how to spot real Parma Ham at the supermarket and find out which wines pair best with your favourite meals by visiting the Discover the Origin website which is full of tips and recipes for enjoying these natural, nutritious and affordable luxuries at home.

And I'm so pleased to offer one lucky Graphic Foodie reader a chance to win the most incredible hamper filled with £70 worth of these luxury authentic European products. The hamper contains Parma Ham, a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano, Douro Wine, Bourgogne Wine and port. Don't say I don't treat you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Discover the Origin is a campaign financed with aid from the EU, France, Italy and Portugal that celebrates and protects the fine heritage of products with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. For more information visit discovertheorigin.co.uk

T&Cs: The competition closes on 09/04/2014. A winner will be chosen at random. Winners must be over 18 years old. UK entries only.

REVIEW: Blackbird Tea Rooms, Brighton



A visit to Blackbird Tea Rooms really is a must if you adore that quirky vintage vibe served along with your tea. It's really difficult to pull off without being too gimmicky or themed but they do it with such style and authenticity, as well as a contemporary twist in the food they offer. So far from stuffy or quaint.


I particularly like that the areas of their interior give you a different experience. The gorgeous, formal tea room upstairs would be nice for a special occasions but there is a more casual, yet splendidly vintage cafe at the front. And a real rarity in Brighton town centre is the hidden gem of the garden for a peaceful pit stop. (And check out the outside loo!)


Huge cakes are housed in vintage glass cases and they are well known for their sweet treats but their latest chef has brought in a new brunch and lunch menu...and why my focus for this visit wasn't the afternoon tea (which is handily on display - look how lovely it is!)



So, back to the job in hand, I started with the homemade granola. It was really nicely presented, topped with plenty of varied fruit and had two layers of yogurt, one that was blended with fresh fruit. The granola itself was an interesting mix with a lot of ingredients too. Portion-wise, this would set you up for the day, possibly even a mountain trek.



I love panzanella for a light, summery lunch. Normally the bread is stale and soaked in the juices of fresh tomatoes but this version came in the guise of croutons. There was a generous full buffalo mozzarella here, which when you think about the £5.40 price tag is pretty amazing. A nice touch was that the red onions had been pickled to take the edge off them and the colourful mix of heritage tomatoes were not fridge cold. Hooray!



The smashed avocado with feta on granary toast is somewhat of a "signature" dish here. For me, feta and avocado is an odd yet not unpleasant marriage, my main issue is the similar mushy texture. The toast was decent bread but suffered from the heavy loading and dressing and became a little soggy. Poached egg was a good addition and you can have bacon added too. This one wasn't for me but apparently customers love it and does make for a hearty breakfast/brunch alternative. Strangely this dish with bacon tots up to £9.80 which, when you consider the price point of the rest of the menu, seems a bit on the high side too. Not sure what that lemon was doing either!



But this I did like! A Moroccan twist on sausage and beans. Underneath the vivid green herb breadcrumbs were baked chickpeas in tomato sauce and spices. The chef's links to NZ and love of fusion food were apparent with the addition of a goat cheese bon bon, chorizo sausage and poached egg. Can't say I've had anything like it before but I really did enjoy it.

The service here is attentive and just adorable. The lovely ladies are dressed in vintage clothes but as per the interior, doesn't come across as themed or gimmicky. They have struck a very difficult balance to achieve and honestly felt transported back in time for an hour or so.

Cakes themselves were sublime and I couldn't leave without a little taste. The chunky carrot cake was moist and not over frosted which is a pet hate. The chocolate option was decadent, rich and fudgy. My favourite was the orange and almond though, the lighter option of the bunch. I loved the unfussiness and quality of these cakes, think of the best upscale nanna cake you'll ever have in your life. That. 

The presentation and craft of the full afternoon tea is very good and at £14pp is much better value than some of the more generic teas served in the city. That is certainly the case for the hotels who charge far, far more for less.

So, the food now goes beyond just the (very good) cake and tea you automatically think of with Blackbird tea rooms and on the whole the prices make it a viable option for a quick workday lunch as well as a special occasion. It's a gem and one that's made my Brighton Black Book listing for being somewhere different in the city.

www.blackbirdtearooms.com
30 Ship Street
Brighton 
BN1 1AD

I dined as a guest of Blackbird tea rooms. Views, as always, are my own.