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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Bank Holiday Pub Fun Part two: Pub du Vin


Been meaning to try Brighton's Pub du Vin since it opened, and I'm very glad I finally got the chance.

They have a weird licence that mean s you can only order a drink if you have a seat, and this leads to a distinctly unpubby slew of 'reserved' signs on tables.  But we got there early - in fact we were the first customers.

Six hand pumps on the bar and a good range of bottles in the fridge.  Of the hand pumps, two were Harveys, two Dark Star and two guest micros.  I ordered a pint of Dark Star American Pale Ale and was very happy to see the barman carefully pull through the first pint and pour it away.  he talked knowledgeably about the beers when asked, and told me the range is constantly rotating, with local hero Harveys Best the only permanent fixture. 

To veer off the point a sec - the Dark Star pale ale was awesome, brimming with American hops but not too heady at a sessionable 4.7%.  And it was served in pewter tankards - a nice touch.

A chalkboard explains the concept - a pub from the award-winning Hotel du Vin chain - and that's exactly what the vibe feels like - not a local, not a hotel bar, but a pub with its Sunday Best on.  "Beer is the new wine.  This is your new local."  Finishes the manifesto.  So the only place they lose marks is when we ask to see the menu and are given a two page wine list, but no beer list.  This seems like such an easy own goal.  You wouldn't expect to see a beer list if they hadn't gone on about it, but with such a great range, and such a slogan, it's mystifying that they don't have one, and don't make any beer matching recommendations on the menu - the food certainly begs for suggestions.

One thing I love about the menu is that it contains a range of bar food - single oysters, sausage rolls, pork pies, pickled eggs, cockles, bread and butter, all between £1 and £4.50.  It mystifies me that, as with wifi access, more pubs don't offer this kind of thing.  We are seeing it a lot more now, but only in the poshest gastropubs, and yet it's basic, down to earth, honest good pub snacks that were universal sixty or seventy years ago.  How many times have you been peckish in a pub, not wanted a full meal, but wanted more than yet another bag of crisps or nuts?  A higher spend and a longer dwell time guaranteed.

We had a full meal and it was beautifully served, excellent food.  It's all locally sourced and while a bit fancier than average, it still feels like pub food rather than gastro - fish finger butties, bacon and egg baps, as well as stuff with chorizo and rocket - and you can hardly call a pub that serves cornish pasty and chips pretentious, though some would balk at the £8.50 price tag.

The toilets are worth a visit in their own right.  The tromp l'oeil mock-bare brick wallpaper is trying a little too hard.

We really were in there very early.  Half way though our meal, we were joined by a big family group at the 'reserved' table, who ordered a mixture of Pinot Grigio and pints of lager top to accompany their beer-battered fish and chips, smoked haddock fish cakes and steaks - aargh! That's why you need a beer list!  And then a couple of elderly women sat down and started talking about the MPs' expenses scandal. "When MPs were independently wealthy and did it part time we didn't have to pay them. And back then we had the biggest empire the world has ever seen, and no expenses scandal." Of course!  That's it! Let's simply roll back nearly two centuries of electoral reform and bring back colonialism!

So there you go - great food, great beer, pretty good surroundings, and moronic, ill-informed conversation conducted with great conviction.  Everything you could want from a pub.

And did I mention they stock one of my books in their little lounge? 

8 comments:

Jools said...

Sounds good Pete but £8.50 for a pasty and chips? Christ on a bike! I nearly choked on me pint of Cornish Knocker Ale when I read that!

Nigel Smith said...

Off to Brighton at the weekend. Excellent.

BLTP said...

Can we agree now that if you have to book a table it’s not a pub. The universal law in pubs is first come first served. I don’t mean you can’t book out the upstairs room or even the whole place but all this nonsense where you have people standing because “Jo has booked a table from 7.30” is nonsense. If you want to bagsy a table well you have to get there early. Otherwise places should be honest and say they are restaurants and stop trading on pubs funkiness.

I like the idea of normal food though the one below us at work was advertising “traditional English bangers” recently one of which was “haloumi and spinach” like me old Gran use to make...

ATJ said...

Stayed in a Hotel du Vin in Newcastle, very nice, so this sounds good. So has Brighton got some good pubs then? Always found it a mite seedy, maybe I’ve never got over Brighton Rock.

Sid Boggle said...

ATJ, if you've never been to the Evening Star (Dark Star pub a few minutes from the station), then shame on you. I've never been further from the station than this place in 5 years (apart from one visit, and then I ended up in the Star)...

ATJ said...

Sid Boggle
have heard of it and am out in Lewes in August and will definitely visit it, good idea to be near a station, you don’t have to go anywhere else if you don’t like the town, bit like that in Derby with the Brunswick and the Alexandra.

MicMac said...

I'm still smarting from this chain's double effrontery - opening a boutique hotel in the brewing cathedral that for eons was Brakspear's brewery & then having the added temerity to bleedin' call it "Hotel du Vin".

Ow.

rr said...

Brighton has some excellent pubs. So does Hove, actually.
They both have some truly awful pubs too.

Brighton's Best Pubs is a handy starter (http://brightonpubs.blogspot.com/)

The 'no standing' by-law is, hopefully, temporary (according to the landlord, just after it was opened). Once PdV can prove they can run a pub without causing offence to the good people of Ship Street (i.e. less than 100yds from West Street a.k.a. "Blood and Spunk Street") they might be allowed to serve people who are standing.

Right-on Brighton.