Lanes Deli and Pasta Shop - This tiny shop is stuffed with good food. They have a (not vast) range of fresh pasta, plus sauces, in addition to dried pasta, cheeses, jars of good condiments, wine vinegars, olive oils, a selection of cookbooks, and takeaway deli food. 12b Meeting House Lane Brighton 01273 723522
Bona Foodie - A deli with sexy looking and fantastic tasting quiches and flans and so on in the window, for taking out or eating in with sandwiches and coffee. Inside there are cheeses, olives, dried pasta, jars of condiments, etc. And they have just opened a Hove branch! Very excited. 21 St James St Kemptown, and 75 Western Rd Hove.
Infinity Foods - It took me a long time to come to love Infinity Foods. Then I realised that the only real problem with this shop is that the vitamins and stinky stuff are on the shelves right near the door, so when you come in, it's through a fug of vitaminy-wheatgermy-ugh smell. Once past that, however, this place is fantastic. You want a weird flour? It's here: spelt, rye, chestnut, barley, lots of others. Japanese seasonings? A whole shelf full. Organic or fair-trade chocolate? Several brands to choose from. This place is the opposite of the Real Eating Company, in all the good ways. They're not a deli, by any means, but just a damn good food store. Largely organic, quite good produce section, friendly staff. 25 North Rd Brighton.
Taj Mahal International Foods - We go here a lot. They often have some of the best looking aubergines I've seen in my life, so shiny and plump and healthy. I've got a couple of aubergines of the gods there, ones with almost no seeds and flesh that cooks to softness perfectly. Of course, I've also had a few duds, but who's perfect? Their pomegranates are also several levels of heaven above the average withered beige tennis ball-like ones you get in Brighton - they're large, deeply coloured and juicy. They've got a good range of other fruits and vegetables too, but a different set to that you'd find in most places - no parsnips or turnips, but various other Asian root vegies I haven't identified yet. If you go during the day you can get big bunches of herbs which are usually pretty fresh, but some evenings the herbs (and often the other vegies) are gone or only rather flaccid specimens are left. They also stock a good good range of international grocery items - a whole aisle of powdered and whole herbs, lots of different flours, curry pastes and pickles, pastas, capers, Indian sweets, tinned oddities. There are lots of types of bottles or packaged cheeses - several types of feta, sheeps cheese, paneer, etc, and also a fantastic range of olives (about 12 types) which you can try before you buy. 21 Bedford Place, Brighton 01273 325027
Yum Yum - Bliss, for they sell decent tofu. They also have lots of other good stuff for Asian cooking - miso, noodles, sauces, spices, etc. 22 Sydney St Brighton
Real Eating Company - This poor shop was never going to live up to my expectations of it. I remember, the week before it opened, thinking "mmm, I'd love to make Matt's scorched serrano chilli salsa - but where would I get a kilo of serranos in Brighton? I know, the Real Eating Company will probably sell them!" Yeah, along with properly aged French cheese, good quality orrechiette, South Australian olive oil and all those other things I long for and will never, ever get in Brighton. So, needless to say, the first time I went to the R.E.C. I was thoroughly underwhelmed. I asked the beautiful and stylishly-dressed woman behind the cheese-counter if they sold fresh ricotta (seriously, my number one deli object of desire these days). She looked confused, thought about it for a while, and then said "no, but we've got buffalo mozzarella!" Thanks dude, but not really the same. We bought some of the lovely looking olives (click here to see what £8 of olives looks like - prepare to be horrified!). They were pretty, but tasted like they'd been tinned, and we ended up throwing them out. I was so ready to spend massive amounts of money here, but there just wasn't much that I wanted. They've got a couple of types of pasta. Lots of jars of sauces and jams. A couple of varieties of olive oil. All fine, but nothing special, and not enough choice to be exciting. They stock gorgeous vegetables downstairs, and I've never been dissapointed with any produce I've bought there, but there's generally only 8 or 10 varieties of fruit and vegetable on offer. Which is great if you happen to be after chestnut mushrooms, kale, sage and quinces today, but otherwise, tough luck. To conclude, I guess that there's a reason that this place is called the Real Eating Co, rather than the Real Cooking Co - despite the fact that it sells food, it's just not designed for people who actually cook. The vegetables are arrayed like gorgeous flower arrangements, because they're there for people who like to look at food, not use it. As a local food store, it's useless. And I don't care how pretty the salespeople are - I would much rather that the person behind the cheese-counter (or any counter) were morbidly obese, dressed in a cheese and grease-smeared apron, and had tried every cheese on display and could communicate his knowledge. I'll keep going in to the Real Eating Company when it's on the way to where I'm really going, and I'll keep buying produce there when something catches my eye, but I'm not dilettante enough to be enthusiastic about it. 86/87 Western Rd Hove BN3 1JB. Phone 01273 221444.