Ever wondered why a guidebook for awesome restaurants shares the name of a popular tyre company? Well, back in the 1900s tyre-manufacturing brothers Édouard and André Michelin were alarmed to note very few people were buying cars in their native France. Which, in turn, meant they sold barely any tyres.
So the brothers hit upon the idea of publishing ‘Michelin guides’, tantalising potential motorists with reviews of restaurants (among other attractions) that, hey, might be worth driving to (and, hint hint, if you need a new set of tyres they know just the garçons).The guides were a phenomenal success, and its Michelin Star system soon became world famous: a one-Star rating in the guide meant a restaurant was worth visiting if you were nearby; two Stars were ‘worth a detour’, whereas the coveted three Stars suggested cooking ‘worth going out of your way for’.
Scandalously, Brighton’s otherwise stellar restaurant scene is yet to garner a single Michelin Star (incroyable!), but many local eateries are recognised with Michelin’s still-coveted ‘Bib gourmand’ and their plates, a nod to ‘Bibendum’ (the real name of the ‘Michelin Man’, trivia fans).
Here’s Wriggle’s pick of the best ‘Bib gourmand’ recipients in town. Be sure to check them all out, before their Star rises and the prices are driven up…
This fancy-dan Lanes eatery won top prize at the Brighton Restaurant Awards back in March last year. And small wonder, with its fantastic small plates, atmospheric lighting and open kitchen supervised by superstar chef Michael Bremner. If this place doesn’t get a Star soon we’ll eat our hat. And literally everything on the ever-rotating menu at 64 Degrees.
Well-executed, bold takes on Indian regional dishes served with panache in a lush contemporary setting.
Much of the emphasis is on Thali (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy morsels presented on a single tray), but a versatile team in the kitchen are equally at home whipping up sensationally saucy fare from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
Everything at Chilli Pickle is arrestingly colourful on the plate and capped off by the sharpest subcontinent-inspired dessert menu around.
Cin Cin is the neighbourhood Italian Restaurant you have been waiting for - the authentic food and drink experience you wish you could bring home from those sun-drenched Italian holidays is now right on your doorstep in Brighton & Hove.
Their open kitchen ethos and attention to regional flavours – Parmesan from Modena, blue cheese from Milan, sheep’s cheese from Sardina – is truly bellissima. Special shout out the totes instagrammable blood orange pannacotta with pistolhio ice cream desert.
This upmarket eatery has been peddling its vegetarian wares since 1993 (no mean feat, even in Brighton). As well as rigorous ethical sourcing, chefs pride themselves on thinking big and being creative: try the tongue-in-cheek KFC (‘Korean Fried Cauliflower’ with onigiri rice, pickled mirin ginger jelly, green leaf salt-dried chips and a smidge of chestnut purée.)
Plating is extremely Instagram-friendly and the ambience is subtle, subdued and date-night fancy.
As the name implies, the team behind The Set work on a set-menu basis. And they’re so confident in the format they only have three set menus on at a time; one for the fancy restaurant, one more of a café vibe and the other focussed on Sunday Brunch.
The content changes partly with the whims of the excellent chefs, partly with the seasons, but it stays solidly British; think celeriac rarebit, salted pollock croquettes or (amazingly) a ‘beef, marmite, turnip, parsley’ starter.
…or any of the Ginger Group places really – shout-out to Ginger Dog in Kemptown or Ginger Pig in Hove. However the downtown flagship, discreetly tucked away off Western Road, isn’t trying to be a pub like the others.
A long, narrow cabin of a room with a chatty hubbub and theatrical lighting, which combines awesome experimental cooking (the lobster veloute they frequently serve on arrival is mind-blowing) with deftly executed classics (pork fillet with caramelised celeriac and purple sprouting broccoli).
Book now before they get their inevitable Star and you won’t get a look in.
This innovative concept eatery claims to be the first zero-waste restaurant in the country. In keeping with the hippy ethos the decor is handsome bare wood chic, with an open kitchen so you can gawp at foxy man-bunned chefs preparing whatever flora is in season on the Sussex Downs that week.
They literally don’t waste a scrap, offering cut-price ‘yesterday’s bread’ (still gorgeous) and scraping every remaining morsel into their giant Star Wars-esque composter. Not that you’ll leave much on your plate here.
Just on the cusp of Hove, this handsomely tiled joint is famous with locals for its hearty brunches and conversational bar-style searing. Less well known (but nonetheless fab) is the spanish deli-style tapas in the evenings, with fancy cheese selections for around a fiver a plate and no fewer than six varieties of sherry to wash it all down with.
The Spanish vibe continues into the desert menu – try ‘churros with truffle honey’ and prepare to have your mind blown. Friendly, well turned-out staff and impeccably chosen furniture seal the win. Go. .
Don’t let the tiny space, a former fishmongers on a nondescript grey corner at the back of Western Road, fool you. Real virtuosity lies therein. Sole cook Duncan Ray – he’s the owner, and used to work with Heston Blumenthal – whips up a four-course fish-based feast with real élan, while his associate (Rob, the single front of house guy) greets all diners as if they were family.
It’s all fresh, made on the spot, sustainable and unfussy. Pro-tip: if they suggest a wine pairing, go with it. These gentlemen know their stuff.
Discreetly upmarket steakhouse specialising in 35-day dry-aged steaks in a refined yet unfussy setting. Tucked out of the way on quiet Boyce Street, there really isn’t a classier place in Brighton to sup on a Martini or wash down your fillet of rib-eye with a plump bottle of red.
There’s even (get this) five varieties of Bloody Mary, our favourite being the ‘Brighton Morning Cure’ with pickled Absolute Vodka and an actual pickle for good measure.
From the same stable as lauded local steak-sizzlers The Coal Shed comes this glamorous fish-focussed corner spot. Wisely ditching the chi-chi fussiness you’d expect from a former seafront hotel bar, exposed brick and pricey looking bronze lamps set the elegantly sparse contemporary tone.
Get a seat on the right side of the room and gaze out at the West Pier or, according to taste, i360. It ain’t cheap, with many dishes intriguingly (not to say coyly) billed as yours for ‘market price’. But you know it’s authentic, and magisterially well cooked.
Etch. has taken the foodie scene in Brighton by storm since its opening in March last year. Headed up by Masterchef Professionals winner Steven Edwards, who has had a highly notable career at some of the country’s top restaurants, the restaurant has already garnered a Michelin Plate, is listed as Brighton’s Number 5 in The Good Food Guide and has 2 AA Rosettes.
This is British food at its best, with top notch quality produce triumphing at the heart of each dish.