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?