The kitchens of our finest and foulest restaurants have remained shrouded in steam for centuries.

But diners now have the chance to gauge the hygiene of an eatery without running a finger along the worksurface.

The scores on the doors scheme hhas revealed some startling results about some of the most high-profile venues in Brighton and Hove. Naomi Loomes and Lawrence Marzouk report.

From police stations to top restaurants and nursing homes to delis, the scores on the doors hygiene rating system has given some reputations, rightly or wrongly, a dunk in the dishwater.

The Hilton Metropole may have been good enough for the former prime minister but it seems its cleanliness lags behind that of a former toilet.

And Gordon Ramsay may have given his all to turning around Momma Cherri's Soul Food Shack but it appears that the restaurant still doesn't cut the kind of mustard you would want on your sandwich after being awarded no stars for hygiene.

These are just some of the findings released by Brighton and Hove City Council this week as part of a policy to spotlight the highs and lows of our culinary culture.

The best food in Brighton and Hove was given a pat on the back on Monday at the launch of a new ratings system for restaurants, cafes, and other food outlets.

While the winners were happy to raise a glass of bubbly to their five-star ratings, those at the opposite end of the scale were not so happy with the way the system worked.

Opponents claim the scores are outdated and can unfairly tar an establilshment. Most feel the scheme will lead to improvements in one of the city's most important sectors.

The scores on the doors allows customers to make an informed choice of whether to take that late-night kebab, early morning fry-up or lunchtime bap.

On Monday, Carol Theobald presented certificates to the top 78 food businesses in the city, which have all been awarded the maximum five stars.

The top outlets range from a sandwich bar in a former public loo - Banjo's in Norfolk Square - to the De Vere Grand Hotel.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, chairman of the council's environment committee, said: "We have a huge variety of good food in Brighton and Hove and scores on the doors will help to celebrate the very best the city has to offer.

"Premises which have been rated as excellent range from cafes and sandwich bars to top hotels and restaurants.

"The new scheme means people will be able to see what the ratings are for local food businesses before they decide where to eat - particularly useful in Brighton and Hove where we have so many visitors.

"Scores on the doors will also help to highlight the importance of food safety and raise standards where necessary."

Banjo's sandwich shop manager Paul Ritchie said: "I feel honoured.

It came completely out of the blue. Banjo's used to be a public toilet.

"It's about 12ft by 8ft so it's fantastic to know we can work in a place of this size, producing only fresh food and still keep everything at such a high standard."

From October 1, hygiene ratings for catering and food outlets have been listed on the council's website at, with premises rated from a "poor" zero to an "excellent" five.

Some of the most surprising results include the zero-point rating for Momma Cherri's in Little East Street, which has reaped rich rewards after appearing on TV chef Ramsay's show.

The zero rating is explained as "a general failure to comply with legal requirements, with little or no appreciation of food safety".

The report also reviewed a risk of E.Coli, adding: "The likelihood that food will be contaminated with organisms that are dangerous to humans is greater than not".

Momma Cherri owner Charita Jones said this was because a boiler had been broken when inspectors visited in July and the issue was quickly resolved.

She said: "We weren't too disappointed with the result. If you have no hot water it's an automatic failure. A fridge was also out by around 1C, which means our temperature readings may have counted against us.

"The inspectors will come again in January and we feel confident we'll do fine this time.

"I approve of the customers seeing a rating on the door but it's a bit misleading if they don't know the criteria of the judgement. We were not told anything about an E.Coli risk."

Marrocco in Kings Esplanade, Hove, is famous for its delicious ice creams but has also received a one-star rating - considered "poor".

Manager Peter Marrocco said: "The inspection took place in August last year and has not been followed up. At the time we were very disappointed with our rating but it doesn't reflect the situation now.

"Since the inspection we have put in place a rigorous cleaning scheme and have hired an outside company to clean the premises regularly.

It's a shame the Food Standards Agency hasn't followed it up."

Bona Foodie is one of the city's most prized delicatessen but it too has also only received a one-star rating.

Manager Nigel Foster said: "We're disappointed.

We feel it came down to a judgement based on paperwork.

"Everybody was doing all the hygiene checks they were supposed to but we've been so busy we didn't always have time to fill all the forms in.

"We don't agree with the one-star rating and we hope people don't take it at face value."

Even the police station social club in Brighton's John Street was given a lowly one-star grade.

Superintendent Graham Bartlett said: "We have acknowledged the contents of the assessment and are working to improve standards.

"There is a hygiene regime in place which is regularly reviewed by the club committee."

And the Hilton Brighton Metropole, classed as one of the country's top hotels, only received two stars, which means it is broadly compliant with hygiene requirements.

Anne Busfield, manager of the hotel, said: "Food safety is a constant focus for our team and we take it very seriously.

"This report was done last summer. We would like the chance to be inspected again."

In all, more than a dozen venues were awarded no stars, most of which were takeaways.

Green councillor Bill Randall said exposing poor hygiene would save tourists and residents from unpleasant surprises.

He said his party had originally called for the scheme to be introduced in 2005 and wanted to see more information, including the provenance of food and whether it is freshly prepared.

He said: "It is good for the reputation of the city, which relies so heavily on visitors.

"If somebody leaves with food poisoning they are not going to recommend it to anybody.

"Those doing their job have nothing to fear."

Certificates and stickers are also being sent out to businesses so that they can display their ratings, although venues cannot be forced to do so.

Brighton and Hove is one of the first councils in the South East to introduce the scheme, which has been set up by the Food Standards Agency.

Karl Jones, manager or The Madeira restaurant and bar in Madeira Drive, which was awarded five stars, said: "The scores on the doors scheme has got to be good news for customers and for all those who work hard to achieve high standards.

"We are delighted to have been awarded five stars. It shows we are doing our best."

Neil Hay, manager of Pokeno Pies in Gardner Street, said: "I think it's brilliant to introduce an incentive.

"If people are eating with you, they need to know how much attention you pay to hygiene.

"The check was rigorous. It was very much about the safety of food.

"I was lucky because I started the shop from scratch two years ago so had everything arranged the way I wanted it. It makes it easy to keep on top of things and easy to keep up standards."

Jonathan Spiers, manager of English's in East Street, which was also awarded five stars, said: "We're very pleased. We've worked hard and I hope we would have been awarded the five stars each of the 65 years English's has been up and running.

"I'm glad the council is taking more of an interest in food standards in Brighton."

To view scores on the doors, visit