Food for Friends, Brighton, Sussex - Restaurant Review

There's a feast for the eyes at the Brighton Festival - but make sure you indulge your <br/><br/>taste buds, too, says Lulu Larkin. Sit back as she shows you around Food for Friends, the prefect place for your palate...

A perfect place for your palate... 

IF YOU'RE planning a visit to the Brighton Festival this month, you're in for a treat with the dazzling cornucopia of events on offer. Whether you prom on the pier with the players, unwind with a 'monochrome' head-and-shoulder massage or puzzle over the artistic installations throughout the city, you'll be spoiled for choice.

There is also a bewildering number of restaurants to choose from, so the real dilemma is not what to see, but where to eat. I think I may have the answer.

In 1981, Food for Friends opened the doors of its over-the-counter caf� and bakery to a stampede of New Age vegans and vegetarians wanting a cheap, tasty, wholesome meal. But it gradually shrugged off its spliff-and-sandals hippy image and by increasing its appeal to non-vegetarians with its imaginative and nutritious menu, it has become one of Brighton's most popular restaurants.

Even its name conjures up an inviting image of homely conviviality as what could be nicer than sharing a table in good company? But this was surely more than a clever marketing ploy? As Daniel and I love good food and are friends - well, most of the time - we decided to put it to the test.

Occupying a corner spot in the centre of Brighton's Lanes, Food For Friends is a striking, flat iron-shaped building with huge tinted windows brimming with jolly plants and flowers. We arrived for an early lunch at 12.30pm but already the place was filling up with enthusiastic diners with more outside gazing at the menu.

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But as busy as it was, we were warmly welcomed by restaurant manager Rob Barnsley, who settled us in at a window table and immediately brought our menus and took our drinks order. Daniel had his usual mineral water but I chose a glass of Carl Jung's Brut de-alcoholised sparkling wine (LoNo: 01285 850682). It arrived perfectly chilled with a kumquat on the rim and was as near champagne as any sparkler I've tasted. And a third of the price.

A friendly waiter, Gregory, came over to take our order and talk us through the wide selection of dishes. There is a set seasonal lunch menu at �11.95 but you can dip and dive into the a la carte, as we did.

 Daniel's poached egg on toasted brioche with hollandaise sauce with English asparagus was perfection, as were my tofu pockets: a pair of fluffy, golden dice filled with butternut squash, rice and Asian mushrooms accompanied by a pretty salad of mixed leaves, sprouting pulses and enoki mushrooms - the ones with delicate stalks and a bobble on top - dressed with sweet mirin, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Delicious.

 There is a strong oriental influence in the cooking here and, Gregory revealed, the organic Japanese vegetables are delivered by bicycle from Lewes most days.

As we waited for our mains - a short wait I must add, as the service here is exemplary - we looked around the room admiring the subtle Farrow & Ball colours and prints by local artists on the walls. Sophisticated, but without any airs and graces.

Everything was scrupulously clean and bright, including the original parquet flooring, and the tables were placed far enough apart not to hear your neighbours' conversation. Always a bonus. But here was Gregory with our food. We'd continued the salad theme with warm wild mushroom, pear and dolcelatte for Daniel and goats' cheese for me. I counted at least six varieties of exotic mushroom on D's plate and again, full marks for the presentation and the dressing, which added texture and flavour, as did the toasted walnuts and garlic crostini. I had expected a few cubes of goats' cheese strewn over my salad, but no. This was a generous log chunk grilled until gooey on the outside and crumbly in the middle, just as I like it.

The portions here are extremely generous so we passed on the scrumptious-looking desserts but other customers had no difficulty seeing off warm chocolate brownies, homemade raspberry cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding.

But we were happy to sit over an organic tea and a macchiato (espresso cappuccino) coffee and gaze through the window at the passing show that is Brighton street life - an entertainment worthy of the festival in its own right - before contentedly meandering our way back to the station.

And finally two words of advice: be sure to book a window table and if you enjoyed your meal as much as we did, don't keep it to yourself - phone a friend.

Food for Friends,

17-18 Prince Albert Street,

The Lanes, Brighton,

East Sussex

N1 1HF

tel: 01273 202310


3 others...


The Coach and Horses

School Lane, Danehill RH17 7JF

tel: 01825 740369

A friendly welcome awaits at this charming 19th century dining pub in the heart of the Ashdown Forest. Serving excellent, freshly-cooked and modestly-priced local food in beautiful surroundings, it's no surprise that the Coach and Horses has been awarded Michelin Bib Gourmand status for an unprecedented five years in a row. Ladies pay only half-price for their meal every Tuesday evening in May and any diner mentioning this review will receive a complimentary glass of sparkling 'champagne' cider.

Half Moon Inn

Kirdford, near Petworth RH14 OLT

tel: 01403 820223

You'll feel immediately at home in this countryside bar and restaurant - especially if your home is filled with comfy sofas, embroidered cushions, crisp white napkins, crystal glasses and serves delectable food. Or simply relax in the sunny rose garden with a drink and enjoy the tranquillity of this idyllic village setting. What more could you want? Half Moon's convivial owner, Kim Fishlock, celebrates five years here and Julie Stardust - yes, Alvin's wife - will entertain diners with her not-to-be-missed cabaret on May 22. Why not join the party?

Pomodoro e Mozzarella

23-24 Cornfield Terrace, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 4NS

tel: 01323 733800

A quintessentially Italian restaurant in the centre of Eastbourne, where the relaxed, lively atmosphere matches the terrific food. Affable waiters chatter away in Italian to uncomprehending children, who clearly enjoy the attention as much as their pizza.

But friends and families are the real speciality here and P&M will even refund your �2 parking meter charge. How friendly is that?

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