Generally speaking, when it comes to date-night dinners, small, cosy, candlelit restaurants have the most romantic charm. Obviously the food must be spot on, too. Seeing as Brighton is the ‘romantic weekend-away capital’ of the country, it’s packed with restaurants – some set the tone for date night far better than others. Cheesy places handing out single red roses to the ladies must be avoided at all costs! So, to make sure you have one of those fantastic, giddy, date-night dinners you’ll remember for years to come, here are nine small, cosy romantic restaurants in Brighton the Ellie & Co team have tested and highly recommend.
1. Riddle and Finns in the Lanes is a champagne and oyster bar tucked away up a little alley between the Lanes and North Laine. The decor is ‘New York’ elegant – white subway tiles, marble table tops, flickering candlelight; the menu filled with superb seafood dishes like homemade fishcakes with tartare sauce, fish pie and crab linguine. They also do delicious fresh salads and obviously plenty of oysters and champagne.
2. Semolina Bistro is a cosy neighbourhood gem restaurant hidden along a quirky side street close to Preston Circus at The Level park. It’s great for mid-week catch-up dinners but also laid-back weekend date nights. It’s owned by a couple, Orson and Linda, who immediately make you feel welcome and relaxed. The food is a mix of French and English and beautifully presented, the wine crisp and cool, the cocktails delicious. Finish up with a ‘Brighton coffee’ – a heady mix of coffee, cream and Tuaca (a sweet butterscotch liqueur).
3. Mediterraneo Deli. This postage-stamped size Sicilian restaurant is magical. The dark, opulent decor makes you feel like you’re in a Sicilain grandmother’s house. The food is comforting and delicious – my favourite is the Parmigiana de Milaneze: a creamy dish of layer upon layer of aubergine slathered in Parmesan cheese. So good. Dan and I have had some of our loveliest dates here (it’s also good for groups since you can book out the whole restaurant). Insider tip: It’s only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, so you need to plant ahead as it fills up fast.
4. Carlito Burrito. Sometimes you just want a laid-back, low-key fun date night. The ambience at this colourful ‘dive’ Mexican street-food restaurant, filled with Mexican curios, is buzzy but still romantic – you can easily lose yourself and feel like the only people in the room. The food is comforting and the portions huge. I recommend the fish tacos and hibiscus margaritas.
5. Isaac AT on the fringes of the North Laine serves exciting tasting menus in a cosy, modern dining room. Every dish is a work of art and served by the chef along with a thorough description. Meanwhile, the exceptional sommelier recommends wines to go with each course. Insider tip: For a fun date lunch or dinner, book the two seats at the front of the restaurant at the chef’s table and watch the chefs work their magic in the buzzy open kitchen.
6. Solera de Tapas. Being in this little tapas bar makes you feel like you’ve left the North Laine for Spain for the night with their authentic dishes and local wines. The atmosphere is dark, cosy and rustic and all the food hearty and not-expensive-at-all. Try the garlic chicken, meatballs in tomato sauce, chorizo in wine stew and of course, patatas bravas. Insider tip: most people don’t know they also have a quiet, cosy patio out the back.
7. 64 Degrees. This fancy perma-packed restaurant in the Lanes has a small, sleek, buzzy dining room. The food is a major conversation starter if your date night needs some juice. Imaginative small sharing plates (think: pork shoulder, pineapple and gojuchang and brill, grapefruit and chilli!) are served as they’re made. It’s fun to sit at the counter and watch the chefs at work. Insider tip: this place is no secret having won tons of awards, so book ahead!
8. The Gingerman. Set by a pretty square a couple of blocks north of Brighton seafront, this smart but relaxing spot is good for a dry special date. The food is full-flavoured modern European, beautifully presented (think: venison with croquette, parsley puree, celeriac fondants, calvero nero, blackberry and cocoa oil). If you prefer, there are two- and three-course menus. Request a table away from the door, order up a not-too-expensive bottle of wine, and enjoy!
9. Little Fish Market in the backstreets of Hove serves the most amazing five-course tasting menus for the perfect long, laid-back, date night. The atmosphere is quiet and relaxed and the service elegant; you can pay extra to have a different wine served with each course. Only the main ingredient of each dish is listed on the menu, so each plate is a fun surprise. We came here to celebrate Dan’s birthday once and it was perfect.