Tuesday, 16 February 2016

5 Hotels for Weekend Escapes in Brighton and Sussex

Whether you’re craving a weekend of hedonism or retreat, the impartial experts at The Good Hotel Guide have selected five of their favourites from their collection of hotels in Brighton and Sussex.

Best for foodies: Green Oak Barn, Berwick 
Green Oak Barn has got all three sides of the holy trinity of weekend escapes covered: wine, food and tremendously comfortable beds. A refreshing twist on the restaurant-with-rooms concept, the place is primarily known for its shop dedicated to English wine, as well as its Michelin-recommended restaurant. The English Wine Centre stocks over 150 varieties of wine from English vineyards, and does tutored and impromptu wine tastings. Tucked up close by, The Flint Barn Restaurant has a short but interesting menu, which is, as you’d hope, served alongside unusual English wines that you can sample by the glass. Good thing then that you won’t have to stagger far to get to bed. Five smart bedrooms are set in the same landscaped gardens as the wine centre and restaurant, in a reconstructed traditional Sussex barn; the large communal space on the ground floor has sofas, a bar and a baby grand piano.

Best for romance: Drakes of Brighton
To really splash out on a Brighton city break, head to Drakes. The fabulous Feature Rooms have sea views, free-standing baths and super-king size beds, while the four attic rooms have a large balcony accessed by climbing out of the window. The arrival packages are, um, inventive, with options ranging from the romantic to the downright naughty. The only thing you won’t find in your room is a mini bar – the folk at Drakes prefer to mix you a drink from scratch. Call down to order or, even better, sample a few drinks from their excellent cocktail menu as you soak up the atmosphere from the black granite-topped bar. The Restaurant at Drakes, headed up by chef Andrew MacKenzie, is one of Sussex’s finest dining destinations – make sure you reserve a table. If it’s good enough for Kylie…

Best for pets: Deans Place, Alfriston  
Plumped on the outskirts of a pretty medieval village, Deans Place is slap bang in dog walking heaven. It stands on the banks of the Cuckmere River, amid the South Downs National Park. Good thing then that there are dedicated pet-friendly rooms – just ask for one when you book. Note that Deans is ‘pet’ friendly, not simply ‘dog’ friendly; it has been known to house guests’ ponies in its paddock. As you’d expect from somewhere so accommodating, this is a traditional country house hotel with a home-away-from-home feel. Think plenty of nooks and crannies for getting lost in a good book, log fire, and an extensive gin menu that requires at least one evening of your time.

Best for nightlife: A Room With A View, Brighton 
Follow Lewis Carroll and Vita Sackville-West to Kemp Town village, one of Brighton’s most desirable neighbourhoods. The bohemian area is home to some of Brighton’s best bars and pubs and is the heart of the city’s lively Gay Quarter. Strolling along Kemp Town’s genteel Regency crescents and gardens, which are dotted with blue plaques, you’ll find delis, interiors shops, quirky second-hand bookshops and antiques alongside natty independent restaurants and lively pubs, bars and clubs. Then collapse into bed in A Room With A View, in a light, airy Grade II-listed building. Book the attic room and treat your hangover to views stretching the length of Brighton sea front from your own private terrace.

Best for a lie-in: Five, Brighton  
Breakfast in bed – with a sea view – comes as standard at Five, where award-winning breakfast hampers are delivered to your door at a time of your choosing. The wicker hampers contain products from local suppliers and Sussex farms and change according to the season. Expect oven-warm pastries and muffins, local cheeses, cute Kilner jars overflowing with strawberries and condensated glass bottles of fresh milk. Located in a Regency town house a stone’s throw from Brighton sea front, Five is actually more of a B&B, with well-equipped modern bedrooms decorated with local artwork and photography.

By Emma Field for The Good Hotel Guide

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

My Mexican Monday at Las Iguanas

A murky Monday after work/school was the timing of our visit to Las Iguanas.  A good time to eat Mexican food and a great time to visit by all accounts as, for the first half hour at least, we had the place to ourselves.  

I say Mexican but officially the restaurant is billed as South American, offering dishes from ‘Brazil and beyond’ as well as the classic fajitas and burritos. Louis and I started off by sharing a large bowl of nachos loaded with melted cheese, guacamole and sour cream; chillies and salsa came separately as my nine-year old dining companion isn’t so fond of the spicy bits.  The plateful was large – enough for two - and kept on the table for picking at throughout the meal.

Las Iguanas is a chain with outlets across the country so the Brighton USP was our lovely waiter Joe who gave us a warm welcome and knew his way around the menu, answering our questions knowledgeable and helpfully.  He highlighted the two for one drinks deal - in celebration of the restaurant’s 25th year – so I opted for a cocktail, non-alcoholic, to accompany my spicy fare and although not cheap at £3.30 for one, still competitively priced when compared to other eateries’’ beverage prices and positively a bargain for two!
Our main courses included cheese burger with curly fries for Louis and chicken fajitas for me.  A colourful combination of char-grilled chicken, peppers and onions were delivered on a hot skillet with a crisp salad and sauces on the side.  Had I planned ahead a bit better I probably shouldn’t have chosen the fajitas as although very tasty, another helping of the accompanying sour cream and guacamole was perhaps just a bit too much, even for me!  Other options - which I shall explore in future - are Sea bass fillet with spring onion and crab, creamy coconut plantain curry and on-the- bone char-grilled ribeye steak.

Pudding time is always a highlight for Louis and his choice of ice cream and chocolate brownie went down extremely well but what really knocked our socks off was the churros (cinnamon-sugar dusted Spanish-style donuts); omg I actually cleaned the bowl of dulce de leche (caramel sauce) with my finger!  Sorry, but it was just the most moreish combination of sweet unapologetic decadence I’ve experienced in a while.
So, my top tips for dining a Las Iguanas style:

Do, do Mexican on a moody Monday when it’s quieter, it’s a   lovely start to the week
Don’t double up on the dips
Do try the churros with con de Lecce – (I’m going back on my own for this one!)
Do go with friends or the whole family so you can take full advantage of the sharing plates and two for one cocktails!

Las Iguanas, Jubilee Street, Brighton
Foodies can look forward to tucking into a diverse menu inspired by authentic regional dishes from Argentina, Mexico and Brazil. Favourites include Sizzling Fajitas, Enchilada's and Moqueca (light coconut curry). Las Iguanas also serve light Latin lunches, imaginative menus for children and have a tasty tapas selection. www.iguanas.co.uk