Review of the Year: A look back at my favourite meals of 2016
This year has been an incredible year of eating, at home and abroad and looking back at all the wonderful meals that have been cooked for me I feel very fortunate. With this in mind, I would like to make my first post of 2017 not only a celebration of the last year but a big thank you to all the wonderful chefs I’ve had the pleasure to meet and who’ve worked very hard in their kitchens all year. So here it is, my best meals of 2016…
Best Breakfast – Mange Tout
My favourite place for breakfast in Brighton is a close call between Moksha Cafe on York Place and Mange Tout on Trafalgar Street. Mange Tout just pips Moksha because of the quality of the ingredients in the breakfast, notably the Toulouse sausage which is made from pork marinated in red wine for at least 24 hours, before lashings of garlic are added along with herbs and black pepper.
Best Pub Food – The Urchin
I’d tried to get a table at The Urchin three or four times last year and each time it was fully booked but then an opportunity arose to shoot photographs for a Restaurants Brighton review. The wait turned out to be worth it with perfectly seared, melt in the mouth scallops and fragrant, zesty grilled langoustines leaving a lasting impression on this shellfish lover.
Best Fusion Restaurant – Señor Buddha
Fusion food was a big trend of 2016 and this restaurant completely nailed it with a bizarre combination of East Asian and Spanish cuisine. It shouldn’t work but it absolutely does. Look out for Señor Buddha’s Fish Thursday nights, usually, once a month, as it was here I had a superb, very delicate fish course of miso monkfish and samphire with miso and sake broth. N.B. Señor Buddha is also moving to a more central location in 2017 – so watch this space for the opening news.
Best British Restaurant – Isaac At
Isaac At has gone from strength to strength in the 12 months since it first opened and in September it closed its doors briefly for refurbishment. On the re-opening night, I came along and tried out the new five-course tasting menu, which I reviewed as “superb”. The highlight of the night for me was something that resembled an art attack on a plate with roasted butternut squash, yeast extract (Isaac’s version on Marmite), seeds and rosemary oil.
Best Fine Dining Restaurant – 64 Degrees
Thanks to the very first OctoberBEST festival this year, I was able to order a four-course menu at 64 Degrees for just £20 in October. That’s unbelievably good value for a restaurant voted 16th in the National Restaurant top 100 list 2016. On a separate visit, I also tried the impressive ‘A Message to the Lode Star’ a tribute to the humble mackerel, set in half a wine bottle and created by Michael Bremner on The Great British Menu TV series.
Best Newcomer – Cin Cin
Until Cin Cin, Brighton came up pretty short on authentic Italian restaurants. However, this new arrival on Vine Street has brought a breath of fresh ‘Italian’ air to the city’s food scene. I’ve been three times since it opened on the 1st November and the freshly made pasta is my must try. The small plates are mouthwateringly good too, especially the citrus cured monkfish, heritage tomato, tapenade and crisp mushroom arancini – specials that come and go on depending on seasonality.
Best Pop-Up Restaurant – Four Sharing Kitchen
Aaron Dalton’s Four Sharing Kitchen was a late addition to the food scene in 2016. Taking the pop-up world by storm on December 1st with a five-course menu of modern, seasonal, British food. The 18-hour, slow-cooked, smoked venison was nothing short of stunning and made the night pretty unforgettable.
Best Innovator – Silo
Silo is the UK’s first and only zero-waste restaurant – a real gem for Brighton to be proud of. Not only is all the food sustainably sourced and waste recycled in Bertha the in-house composter – the interior is made entirely from upcycled materials too. One of the highlights of 2016 was meeting Doug the chef/founder of Silo and hearing all about his vision for the future of food industry. During the visit, I sampled two beautiful dishes; the first dish of cod cheeks, green tomatoes and marigold was delicate and juicy. The second, a stronger flavoured dish of Candy Beetroot, Workshop Blue Cheese and Potato Dumplings.
Best Street Food Restaurant – Bincho Yakitori
I ate at Bincho four times in 2016 and every single time I’ve had to roll myself out of the door because I’ve had to order “just one more dish”. I’ve loved everything I’ve eaten here but there are two standout dishes I recommend are the Korean fried chicken and chicken skin – trust me on that second one, it’s tastier than it sounds.
Best Indian Restaurant – The Chilli Pickle
Try as I might, I still can’t find anywhere that matches up to The Chilli Pickle when it comes to authentic Indian food. On my most recent visit, I discovered another new reason to love the restaurant – Masala Chips. They’re not on the menu but if you ask nicely they will make them up for you.
Best Burger – Burger Brothers
It’s a tough one to call because I’m a huge fan of both The Trollburger and Burger Brothers, but the fun and friendly service from front of house managers Nadz and Pip adds a whole layer of pleasure to eating their burgers. And the burgers, well they’re juicy, full of flavour and filling as well as consistently rated as the best burgers in the land. Plus, they cater excellently for alternative diets and allergies (as explained in my Nut Friendly Restaurant Guide).
Best Pizza – Fatto A Mano
August saw the opening of a second Fatto A Mano pizzeria on Church Road in Hove – twice the size of the original on London Road. On the press night for the launch, I ordered a calzone pizza with tomato, ham, mushrooms, salami, olives, basil and mozzarella. To my delight the chefs put a little artistic flair to their work, fashioning my calzone into a star shape so it not only tasted delicious it looked impressive too.
Best Roast – Market Restaurant
Taking inspiration from Southern Europe, the USA and the British Isles, Market Restaurant usually serves up sumptuous small plates, made with top quality ingredients and bursting with flavour. It’s also my go-to spot for a first-class roast having never disappointed me with generous portions of thickly-cut medium rare roast beef, a variety of season veg and a huge crisp Yorkshire pudding.
Best Dessert – Terre á Terre
On a visit to Terre á Terre last summer, I tried two of the summer desserts a Raspberry Spring Thyme Bery Nice and Churrosimo. Both were divine but the Berry Nice was the prettiest. Reminiscent of a stunning English garden in full bloom, it was more of a work of art that was almost too good to eat. Almost…
Best Takeaway – Wolfies of Hove
Bucking the trend of eating healthily in January, Simon and I took a trip to Wolfies fish & chip shop in Hove. This award-winning takeaway offers sustainably sourced fish, gluten-free batter and pies are made entirely from scratch. Andy and his team also deliver top notch service. Try the homemade steak & kidney pie – it blows the typical pukka pie offering out of the water.
Most Missed Restaurant – MAW
Every year restaurants come and go and one I was very sad to hear close was MAW, a pop-up restaurant in Brighton Square, from Chef Mark Wadsworth (as seen on the recent MasterChef: The Professionals). Having discovered MAW just before it announced its last series of pop-ups, I was gutted I wouldn’t have chance to try more of Mark’s food. Hopefully, 2017 will see a return of the chef with MAW or another reinvention.
Best Restaurant Abroad – Kokotxa
Somehow I managed to squeeze in six trips abroad in 2016, all of which involved exploring the gastronomy in that country at some point or another. One destination stood out above all others – San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain. As well as working our way through the copious pintxos bars this seaside town had to offer, we also dabbled in Michelin Star dining visiting both Mirador de Ulia and Kokotxa. The unforgettable dish of the trip was a venison sirloin with carrot, parsley and rye sauce served at Kokotxa.
What a year it has been, bring on 2017!