From the station I sometimes go into North Laine, sometimes walk down to the seafront. I decided to walk down to the seafront. As it was still a little cool, I crossed the road to be in the weak hazy sun. Opposite where I would have turned left, down the flight of steps, past a chapel to North Laine, my eye was caught by a display of fruit and vegetables outside a shop. Worth investigating I thought.
What I happened upon was Grocer and Grain, and well worth spending the time on my detour. It was a little Aladdin’s cave of food, a labour of love by Hakan who I found serving behind the counter.
Outside fresh produce, inside grains, pulses, oils, freshly baked bread, homemade cakes, fresh coffee. Hanging above the counter, behind which Hakan was serving, were several recipes to which you could help yourself.
Mid-June Hakan had lovely urns delivered from Italy from which he dispenses oil. You bring the bottle or Hakan will bottle it for you. Olive oil from Greece, local rapeseed oil and sunflower oil. I did query the rapeseed oil which I tend to think of being used in factory produced food. Oilseed rape is a member of the cabbage family and for that reason it is not liked by beekeepers as it taints the honey with a cabbage aroma and taste. Hakan said it was fine, a mild oil.
I suggested he tried to get hold of Palestinian oil as it is of high quality. It is brought out by small groups who often also help with the harvesting. As there is a Palestinian group in Brighton I suggested he may care to contact them.
I was pleased to see local and regional, free range and organic, seasonal.
I never did get down to the seafront as intended as between Hakan serving customers we spent an hour or more chatting. He said one reason for the success of Grocer and Grain was that he listened to his customers.
He has a lovely selection of pumpkins. I suggested he found out the varieties. He was aware of Turk’s Turban, but was very surprised when I told him there were many varieties and colours of Turk’s Turban.
I suggested he stocked rare and endangered seed varieties, that he talked with Seedy Sunday Brighton, who in the spring hold an annual seed swap.
He likes to recycle whenever possible. I suggested he talked with Iydea, an excellent restaurant in North Laine (where I then went for my lunch), as they uses biodegradable food packing which can be thrown on the compost heap. For takeaways they provide wooden knives and forks and spoons, the paper napkins are from recycled paper.
On my way home I picked up a cup of tea from M&S. The cup was biodegradable (not sure about the lid), from London Bio Packaging.
Something Hakan may wish to consider is a BookCrossing Zone, available to anyone to pick up and drop off free books.
The back room in Grocer and Grain is stacked with DVDs. £3 each, less if you buy more than one. This dates from when the shop was run as a video store.
Whilst I was there a steady stream of customers into the shop, many of whom seemed to know Hakan personally and they would greet each other as friends.
I came away with a homemade blueberry and raspberry cake (each slice topped off with a raspberry, blueberry or blackberry sitting on top). This I ate for dessert, washed down with a cup of tea, sitting outside Iydea. It was delicious and I am looking forward to the recipe to share.
Check out Grocer and Grain on facebook (which Hakan uses to alert customers to what is new), to get an inkling of the delights on offer.
Talking to one customer she told me that the quality was good and prices reasonable.
I was more than happy to vote for Grocer and Grain as Best Food Store in the Brighton Food Awards (voting closes on Friday).
Brighton is spoilt for choice for food shopping: Infinity Foods, Taj the greengrocer, Grocer and Grain.
Sometimes a day out in Brighton is a music day. I hear good music or pick up some good music or maybe both both. Sunday was definitely a food day. Apart from Grocer and Grain I visited Infinity Foods and Taj the greengrocer. I had excellent lunch sitting outside Iydea in North Laine, a crab sandwich from Jack and Linda Mills on the seafront late afternoon. Strolling along the seafront I picked up two Jamie Oliver cookbooks from the excellent bookstall by the derelict West Pier, Jamie’s Dinners and Jamie’s America.
All in all a very pleasant day out in Brighton with my detour to Grocer and Grain being the highlight of the day.
A couple of days later I was at the farmers market in Guildford. I had an interesting chat with the man from Sussex Gold who supplies Grocer and Grain with their cold-pressed sunflower and oilseed rape oil. He farms sunflowers, oilseed rape, wheat and oats, cows graze the water meadows. The grains and oil seeds are harvested using a combine harvester. The straw from the sunflowers and oilseed rape is mashed up and goes back on the field. The seeds are cold pressed in an Archimedes screw. The husks from the sunflower seeds goes for high protein animal feed. By producing their own oils, the farm has added value. They are also starting to produce sauces from their oils. Now that Grocer and Grain have Italian urns from which to dispense their oils, I suggested Sussex Gold supply them in bulk.