Dine out for the day

Breakfast, lunch or dinner - there's plenty to get your teeth into, says Siobhan Dolan

With more than 400 restaurants in Brighton and Hove (more per head of population than anywhere in Britain outside London), Brighton certainly rocks where food is concerned. From breakfast to a mid-morning espresso, a lazy lunch, followed by tea at the De Vere Grand and then dinner, you might be hard pressed to fit it all in. All tastes and budgets are catered for - from vegetarian (Brighton was recently voted the best UK destination for vegetarians) to Indian, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Mongolian and Lebanese. And don't forget the fish and chips.

With more than 400 restaurants in Brighton and Hove (more per head of population than anywhere in Britain outside London), Brighton certainly rocks where food is concerned. From breakfast to a mid-morning espresso, a lazy lunch, followed by tea at the De Vere Grand and then dinner, you might be hard pressed to fit it all in. All tastes and budgets are catered for - from vegetarian (Brighton was recently voted the best UK destination for vegetarians) to Indian, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Mongolian and Lebanese. And don't forget the fish and chips.

BREAKFAST

For a gourmet breakfast, the award-winning Real Eating Company (01273 221 444; www.real-eating.co.uk) at 86/87 Western Road is worth the walk/bus ride from the middle of Brighton (it's in "Hove, actually"). From French toast with crispy bacon and maple syrup (£6.50), Cumberland sausages and roast onions on sourdough bread and Pata Negra ham with fried eggs (£12.50) to a more restrained freshly-baked almond croissant, eggs Benedict, or fruit compote with muesli. You'll probably end up staying for lunch too.

Alternatively, try Frank-in-Steine (01273 674 742) which has a cool name (the owner's called Frank and it's located in the Old Steine) and a well-deserved reputation for great coffee, toasted sarnies and other deli-style snacks. An ideal fuel-stop before heading to the Brighton Pier (where there's a smaller version just by the entrance). Great for kids, too.

The Market Diner Café (01273 608 273) at 19 Circus Street is a Brighton institution. Home of the legendary "gutbuster", this greasy spoon offers the ultimate in post-club hangover fare at weekends, when it's open all night.

Another local favourite is Billie's (01273 774 386) at 34 Hampton Place in the Montpelier district of town (a five-minute walk from the Churchill Square shopping area). Billies gets very busy, especially at weekends, serving great breakfasts, including huge hashes.

To fill an early morning hole, look no further than The Bagelman (01273 387 171) at 7 Bond Street and 106 Church Road, Hove (01273 777 251). Eat in or take away one of their superlative bagels (steamed in the oven to give a lighter texture) and choose from a range that includes poppy, cinnamon, sesame and even chocolate chip.

Another Brighton stalwart, The Bystander (01273 329 364), sits directly opposite the train station at 1 Terminus Road. Recommended full-on English breakfast - including veggie options - in no-frills surroundings.

LUNCH

There's no better place for the obligatory fish and chips than The Regency (01273 325 014) at 131 Kings Road, overlooking the beachfront; Mr Fish himself, Rick Stein, described it as "a really good all-things-to-everybody restaurant". The menu has everything from fish soup (£2.75) and cod and chips (from £4.95) to a grilled fish medley (£10.95) and lobster (from £20), with pasta and steaks for the non-aquatic.

When the sun's shining, El Taco Way (01273 710 031) at 143-144 Kings Road Arches offers a great beachfront alternative to fish and chips. Tuck in to very reasonably priced Tex Mex including guacamole- and salsa-laden nachos and burritos (around £6).

Bankers (01273 328 267) at 116a Western Road is one of Brighton's best-loved fish and chip restaurants, with everything you'd expect and more - Greek salad or gefilte fish balls anyone? Starters include fried brie (£2.90), while cod and chips starts at around a fiver. Children's menu (£3.50) comes with a fizzy drink (sorry Jamie!) and ice cream.

A veggie landmark in Brighton for more than 20 years, Food For Friends (01273 202 310; www.foodforfriends.com) at 17-18 Prince Albert Street has updated its menu. It now draws on a range of influences to feature great value food with starters such as plum and sesame tofu with wilted ginger bok choy (£3.90). Mains include thali for two (£13.95), and cannellini and barley galettes with buttered baby vegetables and Somerset cider gravy (£8.50).

Cate Blanchett, is rumoured to be a regular at Café Nia (01273 671 371), a popular North Laine eaterie at 87-88 Trafalgar Street with art on the walls. A varied menu includes pan-fried gnocchi with gratinated courgettes, ricotta and roasted tomatoes (£10.25) and sesame chicken fillet with pak choy, baby onions and a balsamic jus (£11.25).

Finally, for an Italian lunchtime feast, try Donatello (01273 775 477; www.donatello.co.uk) at 1-3 Brighton Place, The Lanes. Always busy thanks to its impressive range of reasonably-priced pasta, pizza, meat and fish dishes, it's family-friendly, too.

DINNER

If the nation's food critics are to be believed, Due South (01273 821 218; www.duesouth.co.uk) at 139 Kings Road Arches is the only place to go when you're in Brighton. The locals agree: you'll need to book to stand any chance of sampling the fresh organic and free-range ingredients in an unrivalled location, at beach level between the two piers in a restored fisherman's arch. Mains include free-range Sussex beef tournedos with chunky chips and roasted tomatoes (£16.50) and steamed vegetarian suet pudding filled with creamy leeks and old Sussex cheddar (£12.95). Top it off with elderflower and vanilla pannacotta with elderberries (£5). Check out its express lunch menu too.

Terre à Terre (01273 729 051; www.terreaterre.co.uk) at 71 East Street has set new standards for vegetarian food. Combining myriad flavours and textures, it's popular with non-veggies, too. Flesh-free treats include the Terre à tapas (£14.95) - a great way to taste your way around the menu - and Camembert sausage stumpf and home smoked garlic cloves (£13.10).

With its knack for conjuring up culinary surprises, One Paston Place (01273 606 933; www.onepastonplace.co.uk), at 1 Paston Place in the heart of Brighton's popular Kemp Town district, remains one of Brighton's most talked-about restaurants. The modern European menu reflects the best seasonal ingredients, often with an inspired twist - Jerusalem artichoke with cocoa, or courgette flowers with lemongrass sauce. Mains include seared scallops with truffle fondant and port sauce, and John Dory with parsnip purée and salt cold mille feiulle with vanilla essence.

English's Oyster Bar (01273 328 645) at 29-31 East Street is Brighton's most famous seafood restaurant, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Housed in three fishermen's cottages dating back almost 400 years, the menu has plenty for traditionalists, alongside dishes with a more contemporary feel, such as crab Americaine (£10.95). If the sun shines, you can enjoy your pan-fried squid with chillies alfresco.

If it's atmosphere you're after, then Momma Cherri's Soul Food Shack (01273 774 545; www.mommacherri.co.uk) at 11 Little East Street is hard to beat, and children are very welcome. It serves everything from jerk chicken (£10) to jambalaya (meat, fish and veggie, £11). "Soul in a Bowl" offers three courses for just £10. Smokin'!

Murasaki (01273 326 231) at 115 Dyke Road serves an unfussy yet utterly tasty menu: everything from sushi (from around a fiver) to black cod (£6.95) and yakisoba (£6.85). Situated in the Seven Dials area (a five-minute walk up the hill from the centre of town), this chilled-out café bar serves up exquisite morsels of Japanese food quicker than you can say " konichiwa".

Another Seven Dials success story, the Sevendials Restaurant (01273 885 555; www.sevendialsrestaurant.co.uk) at 1 Buckingham Place is "one of the best places to eat in Brighton" according to The Independent's Caroline Stacey. Housed in a former Lloyd's Bank building, the décor of the contemporary 55-seater restaurant is impressive. It offers a varied selection of modern European fare, using the best and freshest ingredients. Among the starters: wild mushroom, spinach and pancetta tart. Mains include: slow cooked Boyton Farm Tamworth ginger pork belly on grain mustard mash, savoy cabbage with cider and apple sauce. Top it off with the likes of lemon and blueberry cheesecake with raspberry coulis. Two courses for £21.50; three courses for £26.50.

Imaginative and sophisticated South Indian food is on the menu at Indian Summer (01273 773 090) at 5 Victoria Terrace, Hove and 69 East Street (01273 711 001) - and not a tikka masala in sight. Starters include masala dosa, a rice and lentil pancake filled with savoury vegetables, while mains include the delicious prawn polichettu: king prawns cooked in spiced coconut. Vegetable dishes incorporate everything from aubergine to mango. Three courses from £23.50, two courses £19.50.

Latin in the Lane (01273 328 672) at 10-11 Kings Road is an Italian eaterie located on two floors just a few yards from the beachfront. Renowned for its huge prawns and langoustines, it also has plenty of interesting alternatives to fish, such as ostrich. Starters from £6.95, main courses from £8.95.

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