For a seaside resort, Brighton has a surprising number of good places to eat. Ahead of next month’s Brighton & Hove Food Festival – and updating our previous guide – here are 10 restaurants where you can eat well for under £10 a head
The New Club & Seven Bees
Such is Brighton’s fascination with burgers that the New Club even has one on its breakfast menu: a sausage patty with egg and melted cheese on a glazed brioche bun. Its finely shredded Boston “boxty” hash browns, served with bacon and fried eggs is, likewise, typical of this sharp US-influenced bar-diner. Later its menu runs through a tick-list of hip “dirty” diner classics, from pastrami sandwiches, fish tacos and fried chicken to burgers.
Fair as the prices are at the New Club – given its prime location on the front, just along from the Grand – its breakfast menu isn’t the cheapest in town. So where should you dispatch your hangover if you’re really watching the pennies? Plenty of Brighton cafes offer a full English for under £5, but few can match Seven Bees for quality. Found down a tight ginnel off Ship Street, it may look like a basic greasy spoon, but it’s a greasy spoon that uses proper ingredients (bacon, sausages and black pudding from local outdoor-reared pigs; free-range eggs; bread baked by a mate in Hove), to produce breakfasts that are a cut above. A sausage sandwich (£3) was a thick fistful of liberally buttered, daisy-fresh bread stuffed with properly porky, if heavily seasoned, sausage.
• The New Club: breakfast £3.50-£8.50, sandwiches and salads from £6.50, mains from £7.50; 133-134 Kings Road, 01273 730320; thenewclubbrighton.com. Seven Bees: full breakfast £4.95-£8.50, other breakfasts from £2.50; 7 Ship Street Gardens, 01273 205477, facebook.com/SevenBeesCafe
Acclaimed new-wave burger joint MEATliquor is opening a branch in Brighton next month, on York Place. But does Brighton need it? The town is already packed with burger perfectionists delivering juicy, loosely packed, next-level patties. Burger Brothers at 97 North Road is a tiny takeaway with late-night opening, dryly amusing staff and, on this taste test, Brighton’s second-best burgers (from £5). Its dense buns had an almost doughnut-y, residual sweetness to them.
If you want a burger after a dip in the sea, Lucky Beach (burgers from £5.95), is the undoubted standout among the beachside cafes and bars that line the Kings Road arches. Luxury mayo, a serious brioche bun with a nice chew to its crust, and the novel addition of pickled red onions were notable, although the patties didn’t quite boast the profoundly beefy flavour of what, for me, is Brighton’s best burger experience, Troll’s Pantry.
You’ll find Troll’s in the covered beer garden at the back of the Hobgoblin pub, a big, old, gussied-up Victorian boozer. It has six real ales on from local micros such as Dark Star and Hammerpot (pint from £2.99). Troll’s owner, Paul Clark, is notoriously fastidious about everything from the classically squishy but durable buns to the rum BBQ sauce for his cult classic, the Smoky Mountain. I don’t know whether it’s the 35-day aged steak mince he uses, or the fact that the burgers are fried in beef dripping, but my sample Imperial, topped with Sussex St Giles cheese, was a pure beef bomb. Juice dripping off your wrists, a beatific grin on your face, you may well get carried away and proclaim this the best burger you will ever eat. Perhaps it is. The only problem, particularly if you’re a bit strapped for a cash, is how to resist going straight back for another.
• Burgers from £6.50. The Hobgoblin, 31 York Place, 01273 682933, thetrollspantry.wordpress.com
First the bad news. Brighton’s best chippy isn’t on the front; it’s tucked away on a side street, heading out of town on London Road. Despite the unpromising location, however, its prices (and this is a theme at all the chip shops in Brighton) are steep enough to give visiting northerners vertigo: £7.20 for chips and a small haddock. And they leave the skin on.
But there is a reason why Bardsley’s has been here since 1926. It delivers a damn fine portion of fish and chips. Said chips were as soft and buttery as can be, while the haddock, literally squeaky in its freshness, came in an airily light, but definitively crisp, well-seasoned batter. Sometimes good fish and chips requires a bit of effort and Bardsley’s – its sit-in restaurant an incongruous mix of Veuve Clicquot champagne buckets and vintage Max Miller posters – is definitely worth the detour.
• Takeaways £3.70-£11.70. 22-23a Baker Street, 01273 681256, bardsleys-fishandchips.co.uk
A riot of Mexican wrestling masks, death heads and gaudy floral upholstery, La Choza is Brighton’s go-to venue for first-rate burritos, quesadillas and tacos. Passing on the deep-fried catch of the day (in a burrito!), not to mention the pit-smoked pulled pork and homemade chorizo, I opted for shredded beef, which had both surprising heat and a wonderful depth of complex, whole-spiced, slow-cooked flavour. Around it, everything – the mild, spritzy pico de gallo salsa, the green rice, even the burrito itself – tasted fresh and full of life. Which is key. It’s not just about the meat.
If you’re hell-bent on a burrito, but want to shave a pound or two off the bill, the takeaway Bang Bang Burrito (from £4.50, 6 Jubilee Street) does a credible job. But if you can stretch to £6.50, La Choza’s burritos are in a different league. They’re big, tightly packed batons, too. You won’t go hungry.
• Mains £6.50-£7.50. 36 Gloucester Road, 01273 945926, lachoza.co.uk
The Coal Shed
Travelling on a tight budget needn’t preclude you from actually sitting down and eating somewhere relatively grown-up, now and then. The Coal Shed majors on meats cooked in a whizzy charcoal-fired Josper (half grill, half oven). At lunch and in the early evening, its express menu offers a number of mains, including a good looking onglet steak and beef-dripping cooked chips, for under £10. There’s also a short menu of hefty takeaway lunchtiime sandwiches. These include a shrimp po-boy, a hot-smoked American belly bacon number, and a generously filled BBQ pulled pork ciabatta, slathered with red cabbage slaw and underpinned by a fiery tomato sauce. Be warned, though, it’s a sloppy business. You won’t be able to walk and eat. Unless you want to end up wearing half your lunch.
• Takeaway sandwiches £5, express menu mains £8.50-£10. 8 Boyces Street, 01273 322998, coalshed-restaurant.co.uk
The words “vegetarian canteen” are normally a warning sign, shorthand for worthy cooking of a 1970s vintage. But park that prejudice, because in right-on Brighton, such laziness wouldn’t fly. Instead, Iydea serves some of the most vibrant food in the city. The deal is you choose from one of several hot mains (for example, veggie lasagne, Thai green tofu curry, daily roti and quiches), pair that with a couple of salady sides and add sauces or toppings. Everything on my plate, from a well-judged curried bean salad to a thick hummus with a garlicky, lemony lick to it, suggests that the kitchen is going about its work with exemplary commitment and honesty. A couple of pea and goat’s cheese arancini – with their panko crumb, plump arborio rice filling and sophisticated flavour – would have passed muster in many good Italian restaurants. Iydea is cheap, so invest the money you’ve saved in a pint at the Evening Star, a few streets away. A plain, handsome hop-heads’ pub owned by celebrated regional brewer Dark Star, it has 12 keg and cask pumps, plus beers from such trendy micros as Brodie’s and Magic Rock (pint from £3.10, 55-56 Surrey Street).
• Takeaway meals £4.35-£5.80, eat-in £5.85-£7.30. 17 Kensington Gardens, North Laine and 105 Western Road, 01273 667992, iydea.co.uk
The Lion & Lobster
This lovely, unpretentious pub (a warren of dark rooms and levels, including two shaded “internal” roof terraces), serves good food in remarkable portions all day. Feeling the strain of a day’s eating, I opted for a supposed starter of smoked mackerel fillet with streaky bacon and shaved beetroot (a good interplay of flavours), which arrived on a large doorstep of sourdough, with a decent leaf salad and creamed horseradish on the side. It cost £4.95, but most places would have passed this off as a main course. Elsewhere, the menu runs through the pub staples (most mains under £10), but in an engaging way. A black pudding and roast pork toastie, a superfoods salad and a shepherd’s pie made with regional lamb all confirm that this is a pub kitchen going that extra mile. Not least in its veggie options. One of the day’s specials was grilled polenta with grilled aubergine, ruby grapefruit, parmesan and rocket (£6.95). Which beats the usual goat’s cheese salad.
• Sandwiches (until 5pm) from £3.95, pizzas from £6.95, mains £8.95-£11.95. 24 Sillwood Street, 01273 327299, thelionandlobster.co.uk
This busy takeaway specialises in exotic toppings (lamb prosciutto, smoked tuna, shitake mushrooms), and proper bases, made with Sardinian 00 flour, blast-cooked in its gas-fired stone oven. Being picky, I had a couple of issues with it. I don’t understand pizza places that add basil to their tomato sauce. It detracts from what should be a fantastically clean, fresh, sweet passata. Pizzaface also goes a bit OTT on dusting its bases with semolina, which mitigates against char – it was lacking – but does add a pleasing crunch.
But these are finicky points. Pick up a slice of Wild! (it comes with a heat warning: I opted to lose the ghost chilli, because I’m a wimp), fold it as the pizza gods intended, stop analysing each component, and in its mix of chipotle chilli, wild boar and pepperoni, it delivers a long smooth arc of smoky, cured, piggy flavours, borne aloft on a warm chilli heat. Choose carefully and two people could share a 12-inch pizza, a salad and a 500ml tub of ice-cream from Boho Gelato for under £20. You can also find Boho and their rather brilliant sea salt caramel and Ferrero Rocher-inspired Ambassador ice-cream at their own shop in town (6 Pool Valley).
• Pizzas £6-£11. 35 St Georges Road, Kemptown, 01273 699082, pizzafacepizza.co.uk
A former chef and the one-time editor of food magazine Delicious, Matthew Drennan now runs this Hove bakery-cafe. It’s a sharp, simple, utilitarian space which delivers upmarket daytime snacks and light meals, in the form of scrambled eggs with avocado and aged cheddar, seasonal pies, and perhaps a chicken sandwich jazzed up with a homemade spicy chipotle mayonnaise. It also, of course, doles out lots of tarts, cakes and pastries baked on site. Look out, particularly, for the American breakfast muffins (the oatmeal and maple syrup one, studded with raisins and pecans, is a bit of a revelation), as are the excellent open puff pastry flats topped with, say, ricotta and spinach. A flat white (£2.35) was without distinction, a complaint that I make with such regularity in this series that I might swear off coffee altogether. If you do need a credible caffeine shot while you’re in town, Coffee@33 (33 Trafalgar Street), near the station, is very, very good.
• Snacks and pastries £1.95-£2.95, sandwiches and meals £3.10-£7.50. 63b Holland Road, Hove, 01273 321147, flourtown.co.uk
Open from midday to 11pm daily, this cute, compact Japanese cafe and takeaway, is the go-to address for busy locals who need tasty nourishment, quick. Along with a few stir-fried noodle dishes, the main focus is on simple donburi rice bowl dishes. None of these breaks the £5 barrier, so don’t expect miracles. However, the main components in my dish of pork and kimchi (fermented cabbage) delivered good flavour and the short, stubby rice was well-cooked, even if the thin sauce was a little ho hum. Fans of Japanese food may also want to check out the rather more sophisticated E-Kagen (22-23 Sydney Street), upstairs from a Chinese supermarket and best-known for its affordable sushi and ramen. Unfortunately, it was closed for two weeks in mid-August, when I visited.
• Mains £4.50-£4.90. 110 Church Street, 07796 001927, pompoko.co.uk
Travel between Manchester and London was provided by Virgin Trains. Accommodation was provided by the Market Inn (01273 329483, reallondonpubs.com), which has doubles from £85 B&B, and two-night weekends for £160. For more information on Brighton, see visitbrighton.com