“It’s pretty much the only recipe book you’ll ever need,” says Brighton’s Best’s Andy Lynes in the intro to Brighton’s Best Cookbook. It’s a bold claim, and one he might need to take up with Tony Turnbull, whose book The Only Recipes You’ll Ever Need lives beside a pile of gas bills in my kitchen cupboard.
Yes, I’ve finally got my wine-stained digits on the first Brighton-inspired cookbook to boast a double entendre title. “What double entendre?” I hear you ask. Well… in addition to its claim to being the best cookbook from Brighton, the recipes all come from restaurants featured in the Brighton’s Best Restaurant Top 20 list. So we’re talking 64 Degrees, Silo, Bincho Yakitori… all the big guns. And at 280 pages, it’s quite the epic. I was only expecting a couple of dishes from each restaurant, whereas it’s more like five.
So now that Brighton’s highest-profile chefs are giving away their secrets, will we all be mutating into stay-at-home gastronauts, and putting them out of business? Unlikely. You see, this isn’t exactly Delia’s How to Cook. The advanced difficulty level here means that, for all but the most adventurous amateurs, this’ll be more of an inspirational coffee-table curiosity than a practical dinner party manual. Not that this is a bad thing — we need inspiration. We need pushing to our limits. We need saliva-coaxing close-ups of crispy pig’s head kimchi!
The best way to test a cookbook is, of course, to try the recipes. And I quickly realise my limits when I decide to attempt one by 64 Degrees. How hard can it be? All I need is some sushi grade tuna, pomegranate molasses and a drizzle of cabernet sauvignon vinegar. Ah. A tad ambitious perhaps. I eventually change my mind and settle for Cin Cin’s linguini with mussels and nduja (it’s delicious, but I’ll write a separate post about that soon).
Tricky recipes aside, this is a finely tailored collection covering a broad tapestry of dishes — including, as you’d expect, lots of seafood. The classic-cookbook-style layout (sans serif font/lots of negative space) gives Peter Marshall’s exquisite photography room to breathe, although I’m not sure why they didn’t use his food shots for the cover and inner sleeves — I reckon they would have worked better than the graffiti and stones.
Oh, and there’s a recipe (from Terre à Terre) called “Bum”. And if you don’t find this funny, you need to lower your maturity levels.
“What are we having tonight, dear?”
“Well, I thought we’d have bum for a change… Darling?”
Most gratifying is the personal touch of having the dishes served up to us by familiar faces. So if, for example, you’re having trouble preparing your rosemary oil for Silo’s oyster mushroom recipe, it almost feels like you could nip down to Upper Gardner Street and ask Douglas McMaster for help. He’d love that (actually… he probably would).
It’s not hard to imagine friends thumbing through this book in your kitchen and saying “ooh, why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” And the answer to that is, of course, that Brighton’s food scene has never been this vibrant — open the restaurants, and the cook books will follow.
The next Brighton’s Best restaurant awards are in February 2018 (I know this, because they’ve let me onto their judging panel — the fools!). With new kids on the block like Pascere, Etch, Pike and Pine, 1909 and Petit Pois dunking themselves into the soup, there’ll doubtless be new entries. At this rate, it’ll be a top 40 by 2021.
Brighton’s Best Cookbook is available to buy in all the restaurants featured, plus Brighton Pussy Boutique, the i360 gift shop, City Books and online at www.chefpublishing.com. Priced £25 in hardback. Nab one before the Christmas rush.
The Chilli Pickle
The Little Fish Market
The Salt Room
Terre à Terre
Curry Leaf Café
The Ginger Pig
Fatto a Mano
The Coal Shed
Riddle and Finns
Fourth and Church
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