European Dining in Brighton
When I was growing up, in the seventies, the idea of European food was limited to the occasional slice of ‘French cheese,’ spaghetti bolognaise or tinned ravioli. The cheese, more often than not, was not even from France – ‘French’ was just a catchall for anything that was not cheddar and would not usually grace the household fridge. The Spaghetti was really cottage pie, with pasta instead of potatoes and the ravioli was glutinous, scarily orange and, we thought, the height of sophistication.
Positive effect on our dining scene
How times have changed and, whatever your opinion about the European Union, the relaxing of trade barriers, agricultural subsidies and free moment of restaurateurs, chefs, baristas and bar staff has had a hugely positive effect on the dining scene. You no longer have to go abroad to sample Mediterranean, Scandinavian or Eastern European cuisine.
It’s all here on our doorstep:
Aubergines and asparagus, paella and polenta, moules Marinières and slow cooked pork belly appear on the menus alongside British stalwarts like fish and chips, steak and kidney pies and roasted ham hock.
The areas around St James St in Brighton has been dubbed Little Poland and the buzzing atmosphere of Thewitchez Photo Design Cafe Bar on Marine Parade showcases the best of the country’s art inventiveness and cuisine… It’s a restaurant with a photographic gallery, owned by Poles, with a pan European menu. Polish sausage with dumplings and sauerkraut are served alongside specials such as chicken with Amarillo chili, Greek salad, chicken gyros and lamb steaks with cous cous.
And don’t pass up the chance of a cappuccino – for truly inventive art! With a summer like the one we’re having, we all want a taste of the Med and there is plenty of choice.
Cypriot Estia is one of Brighton’s not so well kept secrets. Tucked away in a quiet street behind Western Road, you are transported to sunnier climes with lavish dishes of feta saganaki, kefdedakia meatballs, lemonata mussels and pork aefelia. Nearby the Archipelago taverna is a favorite amongst Graecophiles who rave about the calamari, kelfitko, beetroot feta salad and Mydopilafo (Greek paella).
If you need a sea view to heighten the holiday atmosphere Al Fresco, a stones thrown from the skeleton of the West Pier, offers modern Italian cuisine with a sweeping vista, while Al Duomo, Brighton’s oldest Italian with its large outdoor terrace bordering the Royal Pavilion gives a taste of bustling Italian Piazza with authentic restaurant food.
From Spain we have gained a clutch of tapas bars and restaurants serving a huge variety of dishes with fine Spanish wines and Sherries. Casa Don Carlos in Union Street had a particular cosy charm and its rabbit in garlic and oil is a favourite of mine while the chorizo flambéed in rum at the table is a theatrical crowd pleaser. Agua Dulce on the Kings road is perfect for paella. Ole Ole in Meeting House Lane, has flamenco on the side while Bogeda D Tapa on Church Street and Solera D Tapa on Sydney Street are both owned by Spanish wine producers and have wine lists as extensive as their menus.
We may not have Noma but the Northern Lights bar tucked away in Little East Street serves authentic Nordic and Scandinavian cuisine with platters of pickled herring, smoked fish pates and gravalax for sharing as well as individual fish dishes and plenty of meatballs. For a bit of ‘hygge’, which translates roughly as the Danish ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures, you can while away the winter (or wintery summer) over a coffee and a Kanelbullar (cinnamon bun).
French leisurely lunches
And of course, our closest European neighbour, France, is and always has been well represented by restaurants. La Ratatouille on Preston Street has the feel and food of an authentic back street restaurant, while Cote Brasserie with its magnificent setting in the old music library transports you to Parisian boulevards and Hotel du Vin’s pub and restaurants are perfect for one of the greatest things we have inherited from Europe – the leisurely lunch.
A common staple
It’s all a far cry from tinned ravioli and Jacob’s crackers with Brie, but, as European ministers prepare to sit down and lay their cards on the negotiating table, European cuisine remains firmly on the dining table.