If you’re a Brightonian it’s pretty much a given that you love seafood. We have some of the finest restaurants in the UK, many of which serve superb seafood dishes. Residents and tourists alike tell great tales of the elegant seafood platters of Riddle & Finns; Marrocco’s bottomless brodo dell’ adriatico; English’s king scallops St Jacques; Regency’s grilled fish medley… (I could go on.)
Now of course I am all for these fantastic dining experiences, but for a charity worker, such as myself, these are rare treats. So where does the average ‘piscaphile’ get his seafood fix with only 20 squid to his name? The seafood shacks, obviously.
They lurk along the seafront, hidden among the throngs of people trying to get to the beach or pier. They’re run by the ruddy faced and hardened sea veterans of Brighton. And they add even more character to our quirky little mistress.
Here are my favourite three:
Jack and Linda Mills Traditional Fish Smokers aka The Smoke House:
Now you’ve probably walked right past their hole in the wall, or smirked at the fact it looks like part of the Brighton Fishing Museum, yet if you were to venture, in you’d be offered hot mackerel sandwiches, fresh crab sandwiches, a bloody good grilled mackerel and more! Jack and Linda also own that funny little black shed across the board walk and, no, it’s not an outhouse. It’s a smoke shed were they smoke fish with applewood and oak most days of the week.
Best dish: Fish soup. It’s hearty, warming, and salty.I am yet to try a better one in the city.
Fishmongers Hut on Hove Beach:
It’s situated behind Hove Bowls Club and a stone’s throw away from the back of King Alfred Leisure Centre. This is the most simple set up in the world and if I knew a damn thing about fishing I’d quit my job and set one up today.
The gents who run it fish, cook and sell – £20 goes a long way here and you’re supporting a traditional form of small, local business. The menu changes more than the tides and whatever you’re eating was probably plucked from the sea 30 minutes before. They offer all manner of seafront shellfish – winkles, cockles, shrimp, oysters, clams etc. all served in chilled Styrofoam cups with a pin or wooden chip fork.
These guys don’t muck about. Once I saw a particularly grisly fisherman damn near cut his hand open shucking my oyster- man barely flinched. He looked at me like I’d slapped his mother right on the bottom when I asked for one without blood on the shell!
Best dish: (I hope they still do this) I call it a sea cup. A half pint cup filled with a bit of everything on the day minus oysters. Sprinkle on a little vinegar, pinch of salt and pepper and you’re full o’ crustaceans for the day!
Brighton Shellfish & Oyster Bar
Nestled nicely in Brighton’s Fishing Quarter along the sea front by the massive merry-go-round, this is a right fishy gem.
It’s owned by the lovely Linda and Cliff who know how to create mouth-wateringly tasty take-away treats. They offer delectable crayfish, Maldon Oysters with lime & chilli dressing or my favourite shallot vinegar with a hint of strawberry. They have the largest selection of dressed shellfish I’ve ever seen at extremely reasonable prices. The whole set up harks back to a simpler time. Just seeing the shack draws your mind to a sepia hazed whirligig time. It is probably my favourite of the three and has featured in numerous photo annuls and portfolios. To me this shack is Brighton.
Best dish: Olive and anchovy cocktail. It packs a heavy flavour punch but I can see why it’s a specialty.