A customer stunned diners at an Italian restaurant by pulling out a gun seconds after ordering a bowl of soup.

The man, in his 30s, coolly walked into ASK in Ship Street, Brighton, and took a seat in the garden area.

He ordered a courgette, pea and bacon soup before pulling out a gun and placing it on the table.

A waitress spotted the weapon and told the duty manager Eaco Luvisutto who called the police.

Mr Luvisutto remained on the phone to officers to keep them updated.

Customers also spotted the gun and the man, wearing a dark suit and pink cardigan, was heard to tell one "don't worry, it's only a gun".

Terrified diners, who had been tucking into pizza, spaghetti and pasta, hurriedly paid up and left.

Bosses told people trying to enter the restaurant that there was an emergency and they were not taking any more bookings.

Minutes later plain-clothed police officers arrived and arrested the man.

As the man was being led away he called out "hold on I haven't paid the bill yet".

Shopkeepers in Ship Street said the dramatic arrest was "like something out of a TV show".

The drama unfolded at around 2.30pm today.

Mr Luvisutto said: "I didn't know if the gun was real or not but as soon as I saw it I didn't want to take any risks with my staff or customers."

He added: "Plain-clothed police walked in very calmly and arrested the man. By this time my other customers had paid up and left.

"As he was being led out of the restaurant he said something like 'hold on I haven't paid the bill yet'.

"His money was the last thing I was worried about. I just wanted him out.

"Once he had gone we took a few minutes and then re-opened the restaurant.

"I was very impressed with the way all my staff handled the situation. Everyone was really calm and no-one panicked."

Mola Animasaun, from Webbers Boutique, opposite ASK, said: "A plain-clothed policeman came into my shop, flashed his badge and said he had to watch out of my window. It was like CSI or something.

"He watched for a while and kept talking on his radio until more officers arrived and they went into the restaurant."

Staff at other shops said the police went in and came out of ASK without making any noise.

Sebastian Moorcroft, from England At Home in Ship Street, said: "When they came out with him there was no commotion or anything. I didn't realise he had a gun at all."

Shopkeepers said the road occasionally had unsavoury characters visit it but no-one had ever seen anyone with a gun.

None of them had seen the arrested man before and had not heard of him causing any trouble.

Miss Animasaun said: "It is a bit worrying to have people going around here with guns but its good to see the police deal with it so smoothly."

It is believed the weapon is either a deactivated or replica handgun.

A Sussex Police spokeswoman said a man was arrested on suspicion of possessing a firearm in a public place.

She said: "A weapon was recovered and will be viewed by armourers to establish if the firearm is a replica or genuine. The man has been taken into custody for questioning."

Were you dining or working in the restaurant at the time? Call the newsdesk on 01273 544514 or leave your comments below.