So, without any further delays or faffing, here are six secret restaurants in Brighton I highly recommend for your next clandestine date night or catch up – all of them tried and tested by me several times over…
1. Clandestine dining inside a bohemian home design shop
People come to Brighton just to visit the iGiGi General Store, a beautiful design shop filled with rustic curios. Get too distracted by it all, though, and you’ll miss the tasty secret hiding upstairs…
For above the shop is a rustic dining room which is home to Chard, its resident family run restaurant serving lunch, afternoon tea/cakes – and dinner, too, when more tables are set downstairs in the shop, so you literally feel as though you’re having dinner in your most stylish bohemian friend’s house.
Here’s a little backstory: Chard started out as a pop-up restaurant, eventually settling at Cafe Rust (my local cafe with a pretty secret summer terrace), quickly made a name for itself as one of Brighton’s best dining experiences. It’s recently moved into its new bohemian home you see here.
Obviously with such a stunning setting, it goes without saying the food is absolutely incredible, too – each dish is thoughtfully created, beautifully presented and tastes delicious. The menu also changes every month, so there’s always something exciting and new to try each time you visit.
Chard is open for lunch Tuesday to Saturday and dinner only on Saturday nights. From December it will be open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. Find Chard at the iGiGi General Store at 31 Western Road.
Update: In early July, Chard has announced it has packed up its little restaurant while it temporarily looks for a new home. Follow me on Instagram for updates.
2. A no-frills Thai restaurant hidden at the back of a supermarket
It might look like an ordinary Thai supermarket on a busy main street in Brighton and Hove, but the Unithai Oriental Market is actually hiding a secret no-frills
Find Unithai at 10 Church Road, Hove.
3. Cocktails in a smugglers’ tunnel
Hidden underneath Brighton’s oldest hotel, The Old Ship, is the setting for a clandestine cocktail party, wine tasting session or candlelit dinner. Known as the Cellar Bar and Dining Room, this subterranean venue is located in what is thought to have once been used by smugglers’ tunnel. It’s mostly used for private events, but occasionally opens to the public as the Cellar Cocktail Bar, details of which it posts on its Facebook page.
Find the Old Ship Hotel at King’s Road.
4. Japanese food above an oriental market
It’s easy to miss the doorway to this Japanese restaurant above the Yum Yum Oriental Market on Sydney Street in the North Laine. Go in and head up the stairs and you’ll find a spacious canteen-style noodle house and open kitchen. It’s old fashioned in its décor, but that adds to its charm. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for lunch and dinner it serves up the most amazing steaming hot big bowls of ramen, as well as delicious sushi and dumplings.
Find E Kagen Japanese Noodle House inside Yum Yum at 22-23 Sydney Street.
Update: Sadly, this no-frills noodle house has closed as a result of Covid, sad times. So here’s a bonus place for you…
POP-UP REFINED MEXICAN FOOD
This is the best Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been to. Apart from the one I talk about in this post, which is great, in a different way (it’s more of a burrito and spicy fries kind of Mexican you go to if you’re seriously hungry.) Tlaloc is more refined, with a simple menu – 3 starters, 3 tacos, 3 desserts. Dishes are delicate works of art, almost too pretty to eat, and each mouthful a taste sensation. You’ll spend your time munching in satisfied silence. The fact it became popular through word of mouth testament to how good the food is. Oh, I almost forgot – the cocktails! The best ever, especially the hibiscus margaritas. I drank mine too fast to take a photo of it… you’ll just have to take my word for it.
The reason I call it a ‘secret’ restaurant? It doesn’t have a permanent home, preferring to surprise us by popping-up around the city, most recently at Oseta; a regular cafe by day; a ‘secret’ pop-up Mexican restaurant at night.
Find Tlaloc at Oseta Cafe, 34 North Road, Brighton BN1 1YB. Although since Covid hit, their future at Oseta his uncertain, but they’ve been popping up at the Golden Pineapple in central Brighton, and collaborating with various other restaurants. Check their Facebook page to find out where they’ll pop up next.
5. ‘Fine dining’ in a college restaurant
This could well be Brighton’s best-kept secret restaurant – seriously, I only just found out about it despite living here for 15 years! Hidden inside the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College, The Gallery Restaurant serves inexpensive bistro lunches and creative ‘fine dining’ dishes for dinner, all cooked and served by students training to be chefs and learning the front of house ropes. They also collaborate with some of Brighton’s best restaurants, like Isaac AT, to name a few.
Find The Gallery Restaurant inside Greater Brighton Metropolitan College at Whitecross Street.
6. Dinner in an ‘abandoned’side-street deli
Hidden in plain sight in Preston Circus is this mysterious restaurant which I’ve just decided to name ‘Brighton’s abandoned secret restaurant’. You only really hear about it from word of mouth – you don’t easily notice it if you walk past since the restaurant has a kind of ‘closed down’ look about it, plus it’s not open during the day. But… come Friday and Saturday nights, it throws open its blinds and comes to life as one of Brighton’s most romantic restaurants serving up delicious and inexpensive platefuls of homemade Sicilian food.
Find Mediterraneo Deli at 2 Clyde Road.
Update: This place has moved to Hove, heartbreak! But at least it still exists, phew… find new address details here.
Psst. More local gem restaurants in Brighton: 9 tiny romantic restaurants, a secret cocktail bar, Brighton’s most Instagrammable cafes and restaurants and a few honest food gems.
(Old Ship Hotel wine cellar photos by Emma Croman)