Seafood Brighton – Our Top 5 Restaurants
It stands to reason that you should be able to find a decent plate of fresh seafood in a seaside town. Here’s our pick of the best to be found in Brighton and Hove.
(This list doesn’t include places that specialise in fish and chips as we’ve already dedicated a list to those, or sushi places, which will be covered in our forthcoming top Japanese feature. It also doesn’t include The Little Fish Market in Hove as unfortunately we were unable to visit owing to it being booked about eight weeks in advance – surely testament to just how good it is!)
Subscribing to the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ adage, The Regency is a delightfully old-fashioned restaurant with views of the sea and a menu of British seaside favourites. As you might expect, tourists love it, as you might not, so do Rick Stein and Jay Rayner.
There’s really nothing fancy about the food and you’re scuppered if you don’t like chips (very good, chip shop-style chips) but it’s refreshing to visit a restaurant in Brighton that hasn’t pandered to trends. Instead, The Regency seems to have found a winning formula and stuck to it – really stuck to it. Little seems to have changed here since the 1970s, including the menu, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It offers a vast selection of locally caught fish and shellfish, perfectly prepared without fuss – mountainous portions of crisp-fried whitebait, for example, whole lobster with garlic butter, or a meaty grilled skate fillet served simply with a classic caper butter and a slice of lemon. The latter is so superb that you wonder why anyone would ever bother doing anything else to a fish.
131 King’s Rd BN1 2HH
Seafood restaurants in Brighton tend to fall into two camps, being of either the high-end oyster and Champagne variety, or the deep-fried with chips sort. Fishy Fishy, by comparison, is cleverly midrange. Set in a historic house in the Lanes the décor is playfully maritime but manages to avoid looking like a nautical-themed bathroom from a Homebase catalogue. In fact, the surroundings are so lovely that you can imagine happily lingering over lunch here for a few hours.
The menu is full of sharing favourites like calamari and fruits de mer platters, which is great, as Fishy Fishy is the sort of place that makes you want to share food, dedicating the best part of an afternoon to de-shelling prawns, cracking crab claws and picking out mussels with a bottle of chilled sauvignon.
36 East Street BN1 1HL
The Leigh-Jones family have been running English’s since 1945, but seafood has been served on this Lanes site for over 150 years. The atmosphere is undeniably fusty, with red velvet curtains draped over theatrical painted murals and a serious lack of background noise. There’s an air of faded… well, faded something. Despite this, or maybe because of it, there is a sense of propriety here, a feeling that going out for dinner ought to be a special occasion, and staff will treat you accordingly as though you’re the most important customer who’s walked through the door in those last 70 years.
The menu offers a mixture of traditional and more contemporary dishes, epitomised by the starter sharing platter that comes not only with beautifully fluffy lobster croquettes and salt and pepper squid with soy dip, but also a shrimp cocktail in a sundae glass, with iceberg lettuce and marie rose sauce. For the real English’s experience the Classics menu offers dishes that the restaurant has served for decades. They’re classics for a reason. The bouillabaisse, for example, is delightfully flavoursome, loaded with fresh shellfish and served with grilled crusty bread and rich, creamy aioli.
29–31 East Street BN1 1HL
The original Riddle & Finns is a chic, candlelit oyster bar in the Lanes, renowned for Champagne brunches and freshly shucked shellfish. Riddle & Finns has also recently opened a second venue in the beachfront arches on the promenade, and tables at the front of the restaurant benefit from floor-to-ceiling windows, so that you can now scoff a variety of native oysters as you gaze out to sea, which, let’s face it, is the view you really want as you devour shellfish.
The seafood here is incredibly fresh; fishermen have even been known to stroll off the beach and flog fish straight to the chefs in the kitchen. Dishes of pan-fried catch of the day fillets are served with well thought-out accompaniments and artfully presented, but if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty in such refined surroundings (one of the great joys of eating seafood) then the whole wok fried crab with Singapore chilli is so sublimely spicy you’ll find yourself forgetting your finger bowl and licking your fingers clean.
12b Meeting House Lane BN1 1HB
139 Kings Road Arches BN1 1FN
Brighton’s iconic seafront Grand Hotel has recently undergone renovations, which have included opening the new seafood restaurant GB1. At the entrance of this sparkly new dining room is a circular oyster and Champagne bar, set in elegant surroundings that are gently reminiscent of the golden age of cruise ship travel. At the front of the restaurant is the conservatory terrace, which makes up for what it unfortunately lacks in atmosphere with views of the sea and the crumbling West Pier.
Of course there are native oysters and fruits de mer platters on the menu, but it’s nice to see some unexpectedly experimental dishes alongside these. Diners are brought a pot of shrimp popcorn to kick off the meal (think fancy prawn crackers), and raw scallop carpaccio with vanilla and edible flowers is as unusual a flavour as you’re ever likely to taste in a seafood restaurant. As much thought has gone into creating the dessert menu and sweets, including a showstopping lime panna cotta with pistachio dust, are a highlight.
97–99 King’s Road BN1 2FW