Fortunately, those days are long gone and Brighton’s streets are paved with pubs serving food from some of the country’s most dexterous and creative chefs. Here’s nine of our faves.
Baby Bao – The Pond
Okay, we’re biased because The Pond is our local. But Baby Bao kill it with their Taiwanese rice buns literally dripping with umami-packed fillings. Vegetarians will taste the miso mayo in the Mushroom Bulgoggi and book the next flight to Taipei. Don’t worry if you’re gluten-free: the Pond Special Fries, loaded with sweet confit duck, pineapple relish, kimchi, bacon mayo, sriracha, spring onions and peanuts, is surely the result of a bet over who can squeeze the most insanely rich foods into one perfect bowl.
Kitgum is the food child of Fayez Amani and he serves recipes nicked direct from his family’s recipe book. The style is East Africa-via-India, so slow cooked curries and sides like Kenyan potato fritters and hot-and-sour Jeeru’s wings (named after Fayez’s mum) are the order of the day. If you’re looking for a lunch wrap so filling it will destroy your afternoon (in the most delicious way possible) try the Rolex chapati wrap pregnant with chicken, spiced potato, carrot pickle and tamarind chutney. Get ready for the snooze.
Dizzy Gull are becoming famous for their prodigious roasts but everything on the menu is spot-on. Whether you’re ordering the falafel flatbread with its zingy beetroot and turnip pickle or the teetering Dizzy burger, you’ll find they never skimp on the condiments: the smokey bacon mayo and piquant tomato jam in the latter are the kind of fine-tuning that elevate a 8/10 burger to a 9.5.
If all these fancy pop-ups have you pining for some traditional grub, try a visit to The Basketmaker’s Arms. An unassuming place that makes a mockery of the oft-toted belief that the North Laines are a place now only home to hipstery bars, the onus here is on locally sourced pub food cooked better than anywhere else. Expect steaks, fish and chips, seafood platters and hearty stuff that’ll keep your fussy mate happy. It is always busy – sign of a good place, after all – but grab a drink at the bar and wait for a table. It’s worth it.
The Greys’ chef is a culinary Gandalf called Paulo and you’ll need to book to get a table for his famous Sunday roasts. Expect pink beef, crunchy fat-glazed potatoes and a bread and butter pudding that – when combined with a flickering log burner – makes The Greys possibly the city’s best pub for a lazy winter Sunday roast.
Lost Boys Chicken - The Joker
Surprisingly, Brighton hasn’t yet seen the influx of chicken wing joints that are now taking over East London. Lost Boys Chicken – formerly Orange Buffalo but rebranded last year with the same chef – have already staked a place in the local food landscape by winning last year’s ‘Best Pub Grub’ award at the BRAVO awards. Expect American-style sauces suited for all levels of chilli aficionados: try the fruity Mango Habanero if you like some sweet with your spice, whilst the Shadow is so scorching you must be 18 to buy it. Don’t forget your I.D.
Nestled away in the deeper reaches of Hove, The Urchin may only specialize in two things – shellfish and craft beer – but hoo boy it does them well. Everything’s as local and responsibly sourced as humanly possible, and regular specialities like the Singapore crab and Thai green mussels are the perfect dish for those who like their food shelled and submerged in buckets of butter. The candlelit back room is the ideal spot for a special occasion; if the weather gods deign it possible, get there early for some warm-up drinks in the outside seating area.
The Earth and Stars won Best Food Pub and Best Pub at last year’s Brighton & Hove awards and it deserves acclaim for its jackfruit burger alone. A gloriously unctuous thing that is the equal of any other burger in town – except, perhaps, the Dizzy burger – it’s just another element of their thoughtful menu that caters for every dietary requirement on the block. Card-carrying carnivores need not worry either, with all your favourite red meat hook-ups on the menu.
The Better Half always feels like an unknown quantity; tucked away in a sleepy road opposite the King Alfred leisure centre, it’s not on the usual circuit for most of us. More’s the pity, because it serves twanging pub grub and roasts that its locals know is the good sh*t. Very dog-friendly and the sort of place you could pop in for a solitary pint and feel like it’s the most natural thing in the world. You’ll want to book for Sundays.