Churchill Square Shopping Centre set me the challenge of eating at each of the five eateries in Food Central in just five days.
Now I’m going to be completely honest – I didn’t think of Churchill Square as a destination to eat and I never really knew about ‘the places upstairs’, plus I usually regard Shopping Centre cafes as run-of-the-mill big brands that you’ll struggle to find anything healthy at.
But it is these honest opinions that make me the perfect candidate to give a well-balanced review of them all, so you get the truth and see if you want to try them too.
The experience was an educational eye opener…
Chopstix Noodle Bar
Best for: Filling and Tasty Food on-the-go
This place surprised me as I think ‘street noodles’ and imagine greasy dishes that go stale beneath the lights as they wait there all day to be eaten. Not so! Chopstix cook little and often throughout the day, everyday. All ingredients are hand chopped and cooked freshly on site with fresh ingredients delivered every day too. So what I actually ended up with is tasty Oriental cuisine made from natural ingredients, including Halal certified chicken, no less.
My favourite was the salt and pepper chicken with egg-fried rice, which I had to-go in a traditional carton and of course, chopsticks. It’s no frills, which is why I think it’s best to take out and if you have that craving for Oriental food, you’ll get it with speed and a smile here.
Best for: Child-Friendly Fun
I normally don’t step near a McDonalds, having labelled it unhealthy, processed food (!) but when I visited with my son, I found an array of healthy options. My son had the children’s Happy Meal containing three fish fingers, a portion of fruit and a strawberry milkshake for £2.59. I chose the Sweet Chilli Wrap Meal (medium), £5.59 consisting of the wrap, a salad carton and a drink.
From the moment we walked in, we felt well catered for. In fact, the facilities for children are really well thought out. The kids are given balloons, crayons and colouring sheets, plus the highchairs come on wheels for easy manoeuvring and are ready prepared with a disposable bib and wet wipes. Genius.
Frankie adored the fish fingers and the shake, the latter now being his favourite. Not so much the pineapple though – hilarious.
McDonald’s have a lot of kiddy-friendly food including a brand new Crispy Chicken Wrap in toddler size – one piece of chicken, lettuce and ketchup all wrapped up in a small tortilla.
I was truly surprised at the quality and taste of my wrap and discovered McDonald’s don’t add artificial flavours and colours to their chicken, they only use breast meat from approved suppliers. McDonald’s holds numerous food industry awards, now even including one for ‘Compassion in World Farming’. Every one of those farmers is a member of a farm assurance scheme, which ensures good standards of animal health and welfare. Times have changed and I’m so happy they have. Since we BOTH enjoyed ourselves I’m going to head back there and I never thought I’d say that!
Ed’s Easy Diner
Best for: A Family Day Out
This retro American Diner is so much fun. It’s as though you step back into the charming 1950s with Elvis playing on the juke box and leather booths housing smiling faces tucking into Ice-cream Sundaes, burgers and shakes. You can even pick your own music from the tabletop duke boxes for 20p a track. Viva Las Vegas made the experience even more authentic.
The burgers are among the bestsellers so it would be rude not to, and with fresh farm-assured beef, we all had one. It was my husband’s choice that was the clear frontrunner: The Original with lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickle and Ed’s Diner Sauce. We made it an Ed’s Plate for added fries, onion rings and coleslaw. The onion rings were something else, we all loved the cheesy fries and impressively, they have extended their wine list, which is pretty darn good – so everybody gets a treat!
The kid’s menu features three main dish choices then a junior size sundae and shakes. We went for the junior burger, a child sized portion of the adults – useful if your kids love to eat what you do. The burger was too well done for our liking in comparison to our perfectly pink ones but I understand they need to play it safe. Ed’s is very kiddy-friendly with happy, understanding staff (so understanding that your tired and over-excited two year old is not a problem), plus they get colouring packs and little Chef’s hats to enjoy.
What really stood out from the entire food experience, for my son and I in particular was the strawberry milkshake. Extra thick and blended with Ed’s exclusive own brand ice cream, the shake became a treat we were all fighting over.
Choose from numerous flavours and add a little malt for a more filling treat. It was so good; I have since been back to have a shake at the bar while picking my own tunes to fill the room.
Best for: Honest Food in a Hurry
Spudulike is what it is – a cafeteria environment that sells spuds! The speedy environment is fantastic if you just want a pit stop, have your family with you on a shop and want to refuel before you set off again. There are enough options that you’ll all find something-u-like (sorry, I couldn’t help it), the exclusively handmade coleslaw is something of a triumph and for affordability – it’s a front-runner. The Kids Meal Deal includes half a baked potato with either baked beans or grated cheese and coleslaw with a Robinson’s My5 Drink all for £3.49.
I’d like to see more adventurous fillings for the future but for good, honest, filling food for all the family – you can’t go wrong.
Best for: Dining in Style
This was my absolute favourite. As you head up the escalators to Food Central, this wonderfully authentic Italian eatery greets you with a pleasant surprise as it nestles amid more familiar brands. Elegant, bright and inviting, the atmosphere draws you in and I hope it’s a sigh of things to come.
My friend and I worked our way through a bottle of Prosecco, Tricolore Salad, Bruschetta, a number of pasta dishes then Lime Cheesecake and coffee to finish. Needless to say we rolled out of there but oh my – what a treat!
The Chef was formerly based at Brighton’s Food for Friends and adds that same level of taste and quality but with the speed and style you want in a busy Shopping Centre. You can start your day pre-shop with a simple breakfast such as pastries and flat white or stay a while and devour a Full English or Eggs Benedict.
The lunch menu consists of freshly made sandwiches, Panini’s, baguettes and wraps, as well as your classic Italian favorites like thin crust pizza, pasta dishes and seasonal salads.
My favourite pasta dish was the Linguine Veneziana: spaghetti, salmon, crayfish and prawns in a garlic and tomato sauce. I had a brief When Harry Met Sally moment with my first bite although I wanted the prawns to be larger.
My friend most enjoyed the traditional Spaghetti Bolognaise which the Chef tells us is made the traditional Italian way with ‘the magic 3’ – celery, carrot and onion and reduced down with tomatoes and seasoning for over six hours. You’ve got to appreciate that!
The Tricolore Salad was so incredibly fresh and delicious and the Prosecco was so good – I may have since made the most of the Centre’s free Wi-Fi, done some work here with their delicious coffee and then, deadlines met, had a glass of fizz on completion. Well why not?
It’s also worth knowing that Italian Kitchen offer afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, scones and cakes served either with a pot of English tea or a glass of Italian sparkling Prosecco – perfect when you’re with the girls and you want to relax and chat about all your new purchases.
After enjoying myself along with my family, I feel guilty that I so quickly (and harshly) judged Food Central. OK, so I’m not going to go all the time and we all know that in Brighton, we are spoilt rotten for choice. BUT – if you’re out shopping and you want a bite to eat – you have every occasion catered for here and you won’t be disappointed. Really.