If you want to jump on the current zeitgeist, then I suggest you find yourself a food tour and get strolling. It's the new way to discover a city you are new to or even one you know already. Expect insights, discounts, food and drink samples and a little wandering combined with a knowledgeable guide.
I'm such a convert it's made me regret not joining a food tour on our recent trip to Florence. I had kind of banked on finding great places on our own. I thought, we've got Pinterest, we'll find places. My thinking turned out to be naive at best.
Back in Blighty and I get offered the chance to go on a food tour in my own front yard. I'm interested. I also think, I hope I know at least some of the places we are taken to. I check out Brighton Food Tours online and I'm none the wiser. It's also looking like rain.
Saturday morning at 11 am and I meet the gang on the pedestrianised street outside the Unitarian church and we're a group of about ten.
The Matcha Mixers
Our guide Angela begins with a quote about Brighton, a great way to start most things in my opinion and we head into the north laine area and arrive at our first desto. An independent tea mixology centre. My Welsh One is a big fan and I'm relieved that it's somewhere I'd recommend too. We listen to a short talk about matcha, the Japanese import that is currently causing a storm. We sample the lemon matcha and then move to the main counter to smell the tea blends that these leaf-enthusiasts have created. My own personal favourites are the Coco Chai and Monkey Chops (great with hot milk).
The Sausage Combiners
Onwards and while we start to mingle and chat as a group we pass a whole host of places I'd recommend for a Vintage Finds Tour (not yet in existence). We arrive at our next stop, the famous sausage seller. We find out his sausage meat comes from West Sussex, near Steyning and he loves to try out new recipes such as smoked bacon and maple syrup or marmite. We're told the number of local cheese suppliers is on the rise. It's a good time for small producers and he's enthusiastic. We're given a sausage roll sample to try and it tastes so good. The pastry falls apart with a delicious crunch.
Our next stop finds us loitering outside a curious little tearoom that our guide recommends we try out another time, the owner doesn't want any publicity, so I don't take a picture and we don't go in. Enough said.
The Houmous Authenticators
Another quote and we're trying three grades of houmous and freshly made falafels. The houmous was born out a frustration with the number of mass produced versions that lacked depth of flavour. It's all delicious as is the superbly creamy tzatziki. Not only does this place get featured on the Brighton Food Tour but it's been recommended to me by some other foodies I had spoken to the day before, so I was glad to have a chance to check it out.
The Chocolate Hitters
Around the corner and we've reached my favourite stop of the tour. That's a tough call btw. It's like entering a British version of the film Chocolat. There are signs of chocolate making and there are baskets and glass cabinets filled with chocolates of all sorts. It's quite uplifting. The owner chatters in a jolly way and we learn that chocolate like red wine should be enjoyed at room temperature. The chocolate lady tells us of how she experiments with seasonal flavours and we're left feeling there'll always be something new to discover. We're handed petite cups of rich hot chocolate and invited to dollop cream on the top. It tastes divine and this is my reason for making this my favourite stop of all.
The Independents Champion
We curve back round and head towards the centre of Brighton again and on route stop at the fabulous independent grocers hiSbe. Started in response to how large supermarket chains are run, with approximately 9p in every £1 returned to the producer, hiSbe wanted to find a fairer way. Their proposition has meant that they can offer approximately 69p to the producer instead. There's lots to say about this store, such as their commitment to choosing brands and producers that do things responsibly. They refuse to throw away food that can be eaten, care where the food they sell comes from and how it's made. This is nothing short of a revolution and their store has succeeded to such an extent that they're now looking to open a second store in Worthing.
We move on to our next stop and wend our way through the blooming Pavilion Gardens before stopping for a brief talk about the Prince Regent. I'm impressed, our tour guide is well informed and her tidbits are brief, on point (food and drink) and interesting.
The Oyster Catchers
We cross onto East Street and we enter a fabulously refined marble-topped oyster bar and seafood restaurant. I've only eaten here once before, it was with my parents. We sat in the sunshine and had a meal accompanied by the most wonderful bottle of wine. To my lasting regret I didn't take a picture of the wine we had. We stand at the bar and the ever so charming oysterman, Jonathan Speirs talks to us about oysters. Around him mill neatly turned out staff carrying out bottles of wine. We're invited to choose an oyster to sample. I shout out for the Northern Irish one and it tastes of the sea as I bite and swallow. We are told if you're not looking to stay for a full meal there is also the option of sitting at the bar for a glass of wine and some oysters.
The Scoop Creamers
The group is buzzing after our brush with sophistication and we move on to our final stop, which is quite appropriately with ice cream. It's another place I know and have been to frequently so I'm glad my Brighton foodie radar has passed muster. Again the same theme keeps re-emerging, one of experimentation with flavour. We try an olive oil ice cream and it tastes surprisingly creamy and delicious. We also try a strawberry and basil combo and a peanut ice cream that is so popular there are complaints when it is not available.
We walk to the seafront and we've not had a drop of rain. Visiting these shops has been incredibly uplifting. We've listened to shop owners and staff who are passionate about what they do, they're inventive, support local industry and offer a unique visitor experience.
I've deliberately avoided using the names of the shops in case you'd like to go on the tour and discover the places like I did en route. However, if you'd rather just find out which shops Brighton Food Tours visited scroll down to the comments and I'll list them there.
With thanks to Brighton Food Tours for my complimentary tour. My views my own.
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