We all know that one of the best things about Brighton is its wide array of Independent shops, cafés and restaurants. This is something that has not gone unnoticed by friends Angela and Cat who have set up their very own walking Brighton Food Tours – the first version of which being the “Very Independent Brighton” tour. This is what they say about it:
“The V.I.B Tour is a walking tour for foodies – a celebration of independent Brighton, packed with the eclectic sights and tastes from the unique makers and producers to the unsung heroes of Brighton’s indy food & drink scene. We’ll take you on a journey to enjoy the taste of real independent Brighton beyond just the pier, pavilion and the pebble beach.
Over the course of approx. 3 hours you’ll get a bit of everything: visit off-the-beaten-track street food stalls, hear about eco-aware sustainable food systems, get down and dirty with the most passionate burger-makers in town, meet food industry revolutionaries, re-live the quintessential old-school seaside Brighton… and a whole lot more.”
I joined a group led by Angela on a slightly overcast Saturday morning to see what the tour was all about and where they would take us.
We meet on the steps of the Unitarian church in New Road, me feeling somewhat full from my full English at Café Plenty and wondering whether I will regret that decision. There is a group of ten people, each of us has been provided with a food tour sticker – things are starting well. After a short briefing Angela leads us to our first stop, Bluebird Tea Co.
I was pretty upset when this shop opened as it cemented the end of Borderline records, but would not let that sway my opinion. I am an English breakfast tea aficionado (black no sugar) and so was not sure what I would make of Bluebird. We were treated to some lemon macha tea “lemonade” which was incredible refreshing and all was forgotten. A great shop with some incredible teas that is well worth visiting.
Next up one of the cities food landmarks, the Brighton Sausage Company. When I first moved to Brighton my new housemates bought me cider and sausages for my birthday – this is what they had come to know about me in the two months prior – I like this shop and so should you.
This was followed by a visit to the open market on London Road where we tried houmous at Smorls. They are fighting the good fight against bland supermarket houmous and good on them. Their handmade dips were delicious and fragrant with the triple clove “Thunder” the pick of the bunch but I do love garlic.
The second London Road stop was at Rainbow Organic Chocolates – which is somewhere I must return to. This tiny artisan chocolate shop is run by French trained, Scottish chocolatier Suzanne who really knows her stuff. We were given a hot chocolate that I would have happily swam in before perusing the slightly chaotic treasure trove that was her shop. If you are a chocolate fan it is a must and the prices are unbeatable value.
Heading back towards The Lanes we stopped off at Hisbes on the London Road to celebrate their independent spirit and flair for equality. You have got to admire what these guys are doing and we can only hope that the larger supermarkets start to take note.
Back in the Lanes and after a little detour via the Pavilion gardens we headed to our final two destinations. First up was a visit to a restaurant that is synonymous with Brighton’s food history. English’s is one of the city’s premier seafood restaurants, and it’s oldest having been in existence for around 150 years. We popped into their champagne and oyster bar and were offered a choice of mollusc to sample. This was a real treat and, although not everyone partook, I devoured my West Mersey Rock oyster with a little shallot, red wine vinegar and sweet tabasco with glee. You can pop in there any time to enjoy some oysters on ice and a bit of fizz and I would highly recommend doing so.
Finally one of the newer success stories in Brighton and a visit to Boho gelato. Seb has really hit the ground running with his flagship store and all the hard work has really paid off. Undoubtedly the best ice cream available in the city his flavours range from classics through to slightly leftfield but inspired. We sampled the silky and buttery olive oil flavour which was a revelation through to their top selling peanut butter sea salt and caramel flavour aka “crack”. A top shop that never fails to deliver and even has vegan ice cream and I understand they are working on diabetic versions as well.
I really enjoyed my stroll around the city and Angela was a fantastic and enthusiastic host. Even as someone who knows the food scene pretty well we visited places I did not know about until that day. The tour lasts roughly 3 hours and you will get a 10% discount offer in most of the shops. They are working on some other themes such as a food history tour, drinks tour and also Christmas walks and I would highly recommend spending your Friday or Saturday morning taking a food wander with them.
This review first appeared in the July 1st edition of the Brighton and Hove Independent