A celebration of local, independent food in Brighton
Having lived in Brighton for 28 years, I’ve made it my mission to eat in as many of the city’s 400+ restaurants, as possible. As a result, I like to think I know the crème de la crème of Brighton. But last weekend, thanks to Brighton Food Tours, I discovered there are still some indy gems missing from my radar.
Launched in April, Brighton Food Tours offers the first and only walking food in the city and my god it’s overdue. Designed for both local residents and visitors to Brighton, The V.I.B Walking Food Tour (Very Independent Brighton) is the creation of teacher Catriona Lane and comedy writer Angela Brightwell. Passionate about shopping local and dismayed at seeing flocks of people in chains like Starbucks, they set out to create a tour that supports Brighton’s amazing homegrown, independent food scene .
Circumnavigating the obvious tourist traps (i.e. The Pier, North Street and the Pebble Beach), over 3 hours we visited 9 independent food retailers for talks and tastings. As well as introductions to the producers and vendors historical sound bites about Brighton were weaved in throughout the tour.
Bluebird Tea Co | 41 Gardner Street
The first stop, at tea mixology store Bluebird Tea Co, was completely unknown to me before the tour but formed a new love – Matcha Lemonade – a refreshing cold tea that’s highly energising due to its crazy levels of caffeine.
Brighton Sausage Co | 28 Gloucester Road
I wasn’t a fan of the Brighton Sausage Co before the tour, having had some disappointing, flavourless sausages from the shop. But after sampling their homemade hot sausage rolls and imported Spanish chorizo, I finally understood what all the fuss was about.
Helm Ston | 1B Pelham Street
Not a tasting stop, more of an FYI point in the tour. If you’re veggie/vegan Angela recommends you pop in. I can’t confirm or deny whether it’s worth it, being that the owner didn’t want his café being advertised on the tour (he’s an off-the-grid sort of person and happy just letting those ‘in-the-know’ pop in). If you take the punt, let me know if it’s a good as we were told.
Smorl’s Houmous, Falafel & Salad Bar | Marshall’s Row, The Open Market,
Of all the new introductions this was my favourite discovery. Christian the co-owner was incredibly charming, wonderfully welcoming and most importantly, passionate about his food. Bringing out all manner of tasty bites for us to sample we were presented with a mini feast of houmous, baba ganoush, beetroot and tahini dips with pitta. The houmous was the showstopper here and comes in three levels of garlic intensity ‘thunder’, ‘extra’ and ‘original’.
Rainbow Organic Chocolates | 92 Richmond Road, The Open Market
Chocolatier Susan makes organic, Fairtrade and vegan-friendly chocolates, in compostable and recyclable packaging. Essentially it’s as close to guilt-free choccies as you can get, with no compromise on flavour. The highlight, a divine, liquid drinking chocolate, served in quaint china teacups.
HiSbe | 20-21 York Place
A supermarket unlike any other, HiSbe (short for, standing up for how it should be) is founded on a social enterprise model that puts people (customers, suppliers and employees) before profit. Co-founder Amy, explained how they prioritise the sale of British in-season fruit and veg, offer high welfare meat and sustainable, managed fish, as well as reduce unnecessary packaging and never throw away food.
Burger Brothers | 97 North Road
If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know I’m a big fan of Burger Brothers and that’s because it’s hands down the best Burger Joint in the land. I will get round to writing a whole separate review of BB soon, but the fact that it was included in the tour assured me that Cat and Angela know good food when they eat it.
English’s of Brighton | 29-31 East Street
English’s is one of the institutions of Brighton, having been founded way back in 1945. I won’t dwell on this stop long as I’ve written a review of English’s before. All that needs to be said is if you’re ever going to be converted to liking oysters, (as I was) this is the place to make that happen.
Boho Gelato | 6 Pool Valley
The final stop was a sweet one and where I made my one and only purchase on the tour. After sampling 4 of the handmade, Italian-style ice creams and vegan-friendly sorbets I fell in love with the crack. (That’s an ice cream flavour by the way, not anything untoward). Crack, made up of peanut and salted caramel,comes as both an ice cream and a vegan-friendly sorbet. I bought a big old tub of the sorbet for £7 (minus a 10% discount) as one scoop just wasn’t going to be enough. Other weird and wonderful flavours offered here include Jasmine Tea and Fig, Olive Oil and Margarita ice cream.
PRICE: £35pp (+ a 10% discount in most stops during the tour)
RATING: Must Go | Worth A Try | Give It A Miss
The tour gave me a newfound love for Brighton and a swelling pride in my chest that my city has such diversity and fierce independence. If you’re new to Brighton I can’t think of better way to explore, than eating your way around it. And even if, like me, you’re a born and bred Brightonian then have a go anyway and expand your eating horizons.
Need to know
Tours run every Friday and Saturday, from 11am-2pm and outside of the regular core tour highlights, they often change/add venues to keep things a little unexpected and to showcase more indy spots. Cat and Angela also plan to expand the tours to cater for different tastes in the future, so keep an eye on their social channels for updates.
*Disclaimer: I was invited to review the tour by Brighton Food Tours, but as always, my opinion isn’t swayed by freebies and you are getting my honest opinion on the whole experience.