You’ve Got to Pho-king Try This…

Vietnamese food has rightly taken Brighton by storm and continues to grow in popularity and prestige. Newest kid on the block is the cheekily named Holy Phok on Landsdowne Place that offers a plethora of delicious dishes.

BOAB visited this charmingly intimate farm to table restaurant on 07th April, that proudly uses free-range meat and vegetables sourced from Sheffield Farms, and grows many of its own Asian herbs and spices as part of a social enterprise called, Roots to Growth.

I had the pleasure of a dinner sitting but you can order online too. Now, down to tasty reviewing business…

Being a lover of affordable culinary experiences I have to start off by praising Holy Phok’s fabulous value for money. With starters/snacks from £3.50 and mains from £9.25 you’ll receive generous portions that will leave you fuller than a chubby fella at a food festival, and I would phok-ing well know.

HPWe had the pleasure of sampling a range of delights on the menu but most notably for me the VESTO starter (a delicious Vietnamese pesto made with home-grown coriander, garlic, roasted peanuts and chilli. Served with an impressive amount of black sesame crackers.)

This was swiftly followed by a CHARGRILLED STEAK & TAMARIND GLASS NOODLE SALAD (An enormous, healthy and fresh combination of Free-range Sussex bavette steak marinated in apple and soy overnight, house-smoked cherry tomatoes, pickled carrots, radish, fried shallots, Vietnamese farm herbs, toasted peanuts, sesame seeds, vermicelli noodles and dressed with their own tamarind and chilli Vietnamese dressing.) I was blown away and you will be too!

There is something for everyone at Holy Phok including 2 impressive Pho bowls- though I imagine folk with certain food allergies may be a tad limited, but the place is very accommodating and willing to please.

Holy-Phok-Brighton-600x395The food was incredibly well prepared, cooked and presented and will no doubt give Pho, Brighton a run for it’s money.  Especially when combined with the attentive service, excellent waiting staff and beautifully quirky street food dining ambience.

It should also be noted that Holy Phok has a small but expertly crafted selection of cocktails and, never being one to turn down a the booze-ahol, recommend the simple yet refreshing Lemongrass Gin. This tasty number is a perfect accompaniment to Holy Phok’s food and was made with-yep you guessed it- gin, lemon grass, mint and tonic

I can’t praise Holy Phok enough and suggest you book a table immediately, in fact do it now…go on, off you phok!

Authentic Chinese in Brighton

If you’re looking for authentic Chinese food but can’t quite afford the flight to the Orient, put on your elasticated trousers and head to Sichuan Garden on Queens Road.

Tuck into some duck neck, nibble upon the undercarriage of a jellyfish, or, for the nay so brave, chomp on down on the kung pow chicken because it is GREAT! Having lived in Shanghai, I am a BIG fan of Chinese food, so much so that it makes ME SHOUT IN CAPITAL LETTERS AAAAAH!!

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And I miss it. So imagine my ABSOLUTE JOY when I discovered a menu with more animal parts than an exotic abattoir. Now duck neck, beak and flippers aren’t for me, but you sure can tell your authentic Chinese from your sweet and sour crap by the range of terrifying offerings on their menu.

So for those who are adventurous, or who want to just give it a go, head there now and let us know how you fare!

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Hup and holla,

Sophie x

Whiskey and chocolate, hear me roar

Whisky and chocolate, not in the same mouthful I hear you cry, tis madness of the highest calibre. I mean yes, you’ll get a box of cherry liqueurs from your aged grandmother or try the rather horrid chocolate flavoured Baileys at Christmas, but that’s different. Surely chocolate and whisky don’t mix…well guess again fair reader, for they mix very well.

The ninny and I had the pleasure of a whisky and chocolate pairing at the Hilton Brighton Metropole located right on our wonderful, yet chilly seafront. It was a lovely gift said ninny purchased for our 3rd year anniversary (yes it’s been that long!)

The tasting itself was run by The Whisky Lounge and the delectable chocolates were provided by Iain Burnett aka The Highland Chocolatier. Both organisations have prestigious CVs with Burnett winning international awards and providing choccies for the Royal Family (the actual one, not the one Ricky Tomlinson starred in!), and The Whisky Lounge being a front runner in the whisky events world.

The Hilton is a grand location and upon entering the suite where our tasting was to take place we were worried it would be a slightly stuff affair. Fortunately we were joined by 4 other jolly couples and our tasting expert, Tim Forbes, was a delightful, knowledgeable and all round appealing fellow.

We were presented with 4 whiskies, 4 chocolates, a bottle of water, a pipette (never got used but I took it for funsies) and writing implements. From there, Tim explained some fun facts about the industry, answered any questions and gave us some background on the whiskies and chocolates in front of us. We all took our time, first nosing the drink and hearing a bit about the distilleries, as well as the rarity and prices. We then got into the tasting and sampled the following:

  1. Oban Little Bay 43%, raspberry and black pepper truffle
  2. Bunnahabhain Ceobanach 46.3%, lemongrass and lime truffle
  3. Notch 12yo Single Malt 48%, dark sea salted caramel heart
  4. Red Breast Mano Lamb 46%, orange and clove truffle

The prices for whisky varied from £59.99 to ₤65.00 and were utterly delightful in their own right. Some worked wonderfully alone, like the Oban and Bunnahabahain, while the others needed the chocolate to really get the depth and character of what you were supping.

I personally found the Red Breast, orange and clove truffle combo to be unlike anything I’ve ever tasted on this planet and the each sip and bite was like a swig of Christmas. The Notch was like pure ethanol but with that salty caramel it transformed into something rather special.

You got a real sense of how things like the peat (soil essentially) forms the backbone of each whisky, while the still shape and size creates the heaviness of the drink; that and how long it’s matured for. They all packed a considerable punch but had wonderful notes and tastes that varied from smoke to fruits.  You could certainly see why all the whisky won awards and the great merits of discovering that chocolate accompanies them.

Overall this has been one of my favourite experiences to write about. It was a fun, lively evening that was well presented and highly informative. That said, be prepared to leave with a slightly faltering step as you’ll receive very generous pours and a chance to re-taste some of your favourite tipples.

Cheap eats: Cherries done four ways

10 fresh large cherries

3 table spoons of caster sugar

2 cups of water

1 small ramekin of vodka (are any unflavoured alcohol over 40%)

4 shots of cherry brandy

Salt & pepper

cherry 2

This little invention is a right treat for you cherry lovers out there. Despite the ‘occasional’ shoddy weather, we are in fact in cherry season and this recipe explores some of the scrumptious ways to serve a cherry or 10. It makes an impressive and boozy after-dinner treat when all plated together.

Cherry No.1

The easiest of the 4 cherries; pour a shot of cherry brandy into your 2 favourite digestif or shot glasses. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cherry No.2

Mix the water, sugar and 2 shots of your remaining cherry brandy into a sauce pan. Melt together slowly, stirring often until you are left with cloudy red simple syrup. Take 4 of your cherries and generously coat in the syrup.

Leave them to set on baking paper. If you put them in the fridge overnight they set completely into a solid candy style treat but I prefer to only let them set for an hour or so and are still a little runny and sticky.

Cherry No. 3

Put 4 cherries in foil or baking paper and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. Heat your oven to 200C/Fan 180C/360F/gas mark 6. Put the cherries in to bake for 7-10 minutes. They should be too hot to handle but still well formed.

Cherry No. 4

Put your final 2 cherries in a ramekin/small bowl and fill until completely covered in vodka/high proof alcohol. Then set fire to it!

Leave this to burn it’s self out or if you’re a bit nervous carefully blow it out when the container becomes very hot, you’ll know because the heat will radiate.

Plate Up

When you have prepped your 4 cherry types plate them up in as artful a manner as you can and serve. It’s cherry-licious!

Cheap eats: Lemon and thyme popcorn

This is an absolute treat for savoury popcorn fanatics. The corn absorbs the delicate, herby, fragrant flavours and puts the traditional salt or sweet options to shame. It makes a great snack or movie watching accompaniment.

Ingredients:

½ cup of popcorn kernels

3 sprigs worth of thyme leaves (plus one whole sprig to garnish)

Handful of parmesan shaving

Juice of half a small lemon (a wedge of lemon to garnish)

Knob of butter or table spoon of canola oil

Salt

Melt your butter or heat your oil over a medium-high heat in a large sauce pan.

Add the kernels, give the pan a good shake and cover leaving a small gap for the steam to escape, no one wants soggy corn now do they!

Once the kernels have popped (a good way to gauge this is if there is a gap of more than 3 seconds between popping sound) add the thyme, a good pinch of salt and the lemon juice.

Give it all a good shake again and transfer to your munching bowl of choice.

Sprinkle over your parmesan and serve. Garnish with your spare thyme sprig and lemon wedge. Serve and enjoy!

 

Steak, Portobello mushrooms and rocket served with marrow & sweet potato discs

This is a slightly sluttier dish, but well worth it for a special occasion. Last Sunday, I decided to surprise my lady love with a three course meal. We both love steak, so that easily made it on the menu, and it was so delicious that I couldn’t resist sharing it with you fine folk. So, go on, you have our permission….treat yourselves.

For the main:

(serves 2)

2 packed handfuls of rocket

2 Portobello mushrooms

2 rump steaks

3 gloves of garlic, finely chopped/crushed

Handful of parlsey

Salt & pepper

Small handful of parmesan shavings

For the side:

1 large sweet potato

1 marrow

Olive oil

steak

This beautiful, simple and relatively inexpensive dish is derived from a recipe created by Polpo founder, Russell Norman.  It has been tweaked to cater for my personal preference of a slightly thicker steak (flank is used in the original), more garlic and a vegetable side dish that I felt would work well.

I’d get working on the side dish first as it takes a while:

Peel your sweet potato and cut into chunky discs (I did 4 of each). Do the same with the marrow, but remove the centre seeds so you have a disc with a hole in.

Next, par boil your sweet potato until soft and set aside with the raw marrow on kitchen towel to dry out.

Prep your steak by rubbing it with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. I like to let it breath at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. You could do this while boiling your sweet potato.

In a dry frying pan, cook the steaks on a high heat to your liking, I recommend not going much further than medium-rare to compliment taste, texture and presentation of the dish. I cooked mine for about 4 mins on each side and left them to rest covered in foil I carried on cooking.

Cut your mushrooms into thickish slices, finely chop or crush your garlic and roughly chop your parsley. Heat 2-3 table spoons of oil to a frying pan, the one you used for your steak will be dandy, then add the garlic, mushrooms and most of the parsley. Cook on a medium-high heat until the mushrooms are soft. Move the mushroom mixture around the pan regularly so the flavours get to know one another.

Once that is done remove from the heat and keep warm. Next get a clean pan and heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add your vegetable discs and cook until tender and brown on both sides.

Once this is done put a generous portion of rocket on each plate, drizzle over a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Top the rocket with the mushroom mixture and place the cooked vegetables discs around the sides.

Cut the steak into slices and put it on top of the mushrooms. Sprinkle over the leftover parsley and your parmesan shavings.

Enjoy with your favourite person and bottle of red wine.

Brighton’s best pre-theatre dinner deals

Living on a budget does not mean sacrificing mirth for monotony. It certainly doesn’t mean turning your back on delicious, extravagant, well-prepared food in favour of dull, cheap slop. No, by-jingo! Living well on a budget means being savvy and seeking out the very best, but paying less.

With that in mind, we’ve taken to the more opulent of Brighton’s eateries in search of the very best pre-theatre dinner deals in town.

  1. The Coal Shed

Holy hell balls, their steak is something else.

Usually, The Coal Shed is reserved for special occasions (I actually went here for my Master’s graduation meal and it was awesome!) However, if you shimmy on down between 6pm and 7pm, you can enjoy two succulent courses for £12.50, or three courses for £15.

I shit you not…one of the dishes on at The Coal Shed pre-theatre menu at present actually contains truffles.

So the next time someone tells you that you gotta spend it to make it, show them the money… that you saved while digging into a steak, dripping chips and chimichurri.

The Coal Shed’s latest culinary venture, The Salt Room, also offers a similar pre-theatre menu with a focus on high quality, fresh and sustainable seafood.

As a fun, thrifty “did you know”, The Coal Shed has a BYOB Monday offer. They charge £5 for corkage and the rest is up to you.

  1. The Chilli Pickle

This gourmet take on one of the most delectable cuisines around, is a real Brighton sweetheart. For me it’s particularly special. Due to the fine ingredients and fresh approach to cooking, The Chilli Pickle is the only Indian restaurant I have ever eaten at that hasn’t made me feel mighty sick afterwards.

£13.50 will get you a delicious curry (think chilli monkfish and tiger prawn delight), with rice, chutney, riatta, snack, pappad naan and sweet. I’m gluten free and the lovely folk accommodated beautifully, bringing me a rice version of the naan that was still delicious as leftovers the next day.

Their set pre-theatre menu is available between 6pm-7pm, Sunday-Thursday, and their Jubilee Street address has the added bonus of being super close to the Royal Theatre.

Chilli Pickle

3. The Jolly Poacher

Venture a little further out of town to this lesser known, epicurean’s delight. The Jolly Poacher’s pre-theatre menu offers two courses for £14 and three for £17. Choose between seasonal delicacies such as chilli salt squid, corn fed pan fried duck breast and bitter chocolate tart.

4. Alduomo

I stumbled across this unassuming Italian by accident one lunch time while casually searching for somewhere to have wine in the sunshine. It is perfectly situated next to the Pavillion Gardens and provides ample outside seating with fantastic service.

It was amazing! I enjoyed a very generous portion of garlic butter prawns followed by moules and frites, all for an astoundingly reasonable £9.95. On a Saturday! If you’re feeling particularly peckish, dig into a three course banquet for £12.75.

moules

This lunch deal extends until 6pm, Monday-Saturday and comes with a very high recommendation from your’s truly.

  1. Cote Brasserie

I know it’s a bit naughty to hail a chain restaurant as one of the best in Brighton, especially given how much choice we have for fabulous eateries in our great city. But hear me out.

Cote really does have an excellent pre-theatre set menu: delicious, great value for money and a fabulous environment (we’re talking pretty darn swanky!) It’s also one of the cheapest on our list – two courses for £11.70 and three for £13.65. Go there, stay a while, and only then can you judge.

And as an added bonus! Riddle & Finns

I haven’t actually had their pre-dinner menu but I have enjoyed their extravagant feast menu, and man it is good!

If you love fresh seafood in a close, romantic environment, then you must must must go here. The one in the south Lanes is my favourite, mainly because Nick took me there on one of our first dates. The only downside is you can’t book, which means you may be waiting around for a while (there’s a cosy pub just around the corner).

Their pre-theatre menu runs from 12pm – 7.15pm and changes daily

Image contributed by Chilli Pickle