This post has been a long time coming. I’m posting the reviews in chronological order, yes, some will be dated and chefs will have moved on/menus will have changed, so to all the ‘anon’ brigade; cry all you want in the comments section, but what is written below is the experience that I had, at the time, and that is that.
If you’re unfamiliar with what the Brighton Roast Challenge is, then check out #1 , #2 , #3 and #4 of this series of posts here. #5 is based entirely around your recommendations as well as a few revisits.
In a nutshell: I’ve been road testing restaurants and pubs in the Brighton and Hove area to find out whose Sunday roast takes the crown for the best in Brighton.
Things worth noting:
- Early arrival is advised, ideally no later than 1pm or it’s likely to have been sitting about for ages, the pub will be rammed (if it’s any good) and the chef will be stressed out.
- If they are using nice quality/local/free range meat, they will shout about it.
- Roasts come in at around the £12 (used to be £10) mark these days, Lamb is often more.
- It is virtually impossible to get a brilliant roast potato outside of your own home.
- Consistency is a massive issue- this may be down to it being hard to keep hold of a good chef and/or how hungover the chef is.
- You’ll be hard pushed to find somewhere that serves roasts after 6pm.
- If I don’t mention the loo then it wasn’t a problem, it’s not people getting preferential treatment.
- All venues are linked to their google map location (where possible).
Busby & Wilds 9/10
So good I’ve been back three times. Once as a re-test to see if it was as good as the previous one I ate and raved about, and the next time because I’d eaten so many terrible roasts I wanted to go somewhere I could count on. I also took my Old Dear there on Mother’s Day and there was no way I was going to allow her to be served up anything other than the best. Still can’t give it a 10/10 as no cheese element, but I would, and do, wholeheartedly recommend. SO many of the places I’ve eaten at could learn a great deal from Busby & Wilds about quality and absolutely unshakeable consistency.
The Ancient Mariner 0/10
I’ve said all I’m going to say about The Ancient Mariner and one of the worst roasts I have ever been served… It was towards the end of last year, so I’m hoping, that they’ve sorted their lives out and given that vile loo a bloody good scrubbing. You can read my full review here…. maybe not whilst eating though.
The Ginger Dog 7/10
This was a solid roast, everything was hot, tasty and fresh…. I just felt there wasn’t enough of it! The gravy was definitely some of the nicest I had this round of the challenge, as were the roast potatoes, and a bonus point for the spoonful of cauli cheese hiding under the pork too. But that gap to the right of the (delicious) apple sauce was just crying out for a Yorkshire… One of my biggest gripes is when they only come as standard with beef- WHY would it not be offered with every roast? I made this point when I was asked how my meal was and to her credit, the lady said I only had to ask and she’d have brought me one- so if you pay a visit and will feel bereft without a Yorkshire- make sure to ask. At £14.50 this was the most expensive of the challenge.
There was no pork on the menu which immediately upset me, there was a sausage one though which my friend opted for and I went for the free range chicken, and do you know what? it was actually really good. It lost points for only two types of veg (well cooked and seasoned though) but gained them back for the elusive cheese element. The smaller roasties were good, but the larger ones had a powdery interior that told a tale of being boiled for too long. This is slap bang in the middle of Western Road and a bit of an awkward layout and doesn’t seat loads so wouldn’t recommend for a big party of people with pushchairs. The chicken roast cost £12 and the sausages £10.
Noble House 2/10
Now here is an example of somewhere that the chef has moved on to pastures new so I won’t go into detail about the roast, you can see for yourself that it left a lot to be desired in many ways… but what I will do is tell you a story!
One day a friend of mine posted a link to one of my reviews, and said former chef from Noble House (clearly unaware I could see) commented beneath it saying ‘she is a cock’. My response? ‘you will think I am even more of a cock after I have slated your shit roast’… The conversation that ensued involved him frantically backtracking and then deleting the ‘cock comment’…
People may call me a ‘mouthy **** with an iphone’ but at least I have the courage of my convictions. Pathetic, especially from someone I would guess is in their 40’s… call me a cock, by all means, but own it.
The Preston Park Tavern 6.5/10
Again, another place which came highly recommended and which I had high hopes for… sadly they weren’t realised. It was ok, certainly not the worst of this challenge but considering the price (£12 PLUS £2.50 for creamed leeks) I expected WAY more. The potatoes looked like they needed a week in the sun and actually made me wistful for the numerous potatoes I’ve been served that have been re-enlivened in a deep fat frier. The (extortionate) creamed leeks were slopped into a bowl and were piping hot in a way that indicates only one thing… and I was irritated by the fact that they couldn’t be arsed to grill some cheese on top. Other than that it was really quite good. All the veg were done to a turn and a nice variety, homemade yorkie and the meat was very well cooked.
Stanmer House 0/10
I was actually reading this review back to myself earlier, I know it’s poor form to laugh at ones own material, but this, in my opinion, is one of my most LOL-worthy reviews. The Customer Service standards were as sloppy as the £15 roast, and the attitude of owners gave a clear indication of why the bar was set so low in terms of everything. Check out my full review here.
The Jolly Poacher 8/10
Somewhere that’d been on my list for absolutely ages so one Sunday in April (marathon weekend I think) I decided to give it a go. Encouragingly the entire restaurant space was reserved but the lovely lady behind the bar let me have one on the proviso I left by 1pm (whilst not being arsey about it). They do a set menu on a Sunday, 2 courses for £20 so I went for the crab cakes and my standard roast pork. Points lost for the lack of cheese element, drizzle of gravy and small portion sizes but I can’t level any sort of criticism at what was actually on my plate. I’m also going to go out on a limb and say… BEST ROAST POTATOES OF ALL 60 PLACES I’VE TRIED. Overall I was extremely impressed and am keen to go back and try some of their non-roast related offerings. Recommended.
The Longman 9.5/10
Other than my beloved Busby & Wilds this was the definite winner for me. Someone I know has been banging on about it for ages, but as it’s in the arse end of the very outskirts of Brighton and right next to my office, it’s an area I studiously avoid at the weekends. A few things that immediately appealed to me about the menu: 1) describing the meat as ‘falls off the bone’ 2) cauli cheese as standard 3) specifying no screaming kids- I knew I was going to like it from the off. The kitchen is run by the same guy who does the roasts at The Hop Poles and a few other pubs in the area too, which after the rousing success of this I am very keen to try. There was nothing I didn’t like about it and have sent many people their way since too, so if you ever find yourself in the Patcham/Hollingbury area, it’s definitely worth £11 of your money.
The Cow 6/10
*disclaimer* this review is now pretty irrelevant as one of my least favourite restaurants, Carlito Burrito have taken over their kitchen… gutted for anyone whose regular this is, truly.
Another one with lots of recommendations and it was OK. Impressive (if slightly bland) yorkshire, tough old pork belly which they claimed had been slow cooked overnight, but the way it tasted and I had to saw through it with my knife, told a different tale. Potatoes were fine, gravy was tasty and they got a point for the cheese element. It cost £12.
I know my thoughts on this is going to (and already has) made me deeply unpopular in some quarters, but whatever- these photos are pretty hard to defend.
From their reaction to my review on Twitter, it’s blatantly obvious that the chef and owners of Brighton’s alleged ‘best pub’ regard my dislike of the food that they served me as my failing, rather than their own. But hey, that’s ok, cos I care for their opinion as much as they do mine- difference being I came away over £20 lighter and they are laughing all the way to the bank.
What was good about it? I like the pub itself and the guy behind the bar was friendly.
What was bad about it? I could just say everything and move on, but none of you are here for that, sooooooooo:
- WORST seafood platter ever, and it cost £11.95! The mussels appeared to have been cooked in nothing, the prawns tasted like they had been cooked days before, again, in nothing and the stuff which had been cooked in the fryer tasted of little other than the oil in which had been cooked.
- The veg with the roast was borderline raw. I am all for al dente, but this was nothing like it.
- The yorkshire that they served Alex was miniature and virtually all charcoal- slapped wrist to whoever thought it was alright to send that out. I’m not sure on the price of the roast, but whatever it was, it was too much.
- The loos…. I nearly got confused and thought I was back at the Ancient Mariner. I saw them boasting on Twitter about their 5/5 scores on the doors rating, only the other week, so perhaps this issue has been addressed… I do hope so.
- Rather than addressing any of my feedback at all, they blocked me on Twitter (the Head Chef) and unfollowed me (The pub itself)… just wow.
I think that covers it.
The Fountainhead 8/10
I got very excited about this roast, it may not look like much, but was actually up there in terms of best pub roasts of this round of the challenge, especially given that it was one of the cheaper ones at £11.95. The rolled pork belly was stuffed with pork sausage-meat that was spiked through with sage and pepper. They’d even managed to get crackling all the way around the joint and it was lush. Sadly the potatoes let it down as you could tell at a glance (and a taste) that they’d been plunged into the deep frier. All the veg was well cooked and seasoned, and overall I was satisfied. Yes that’s right guys, I am giving a Drink in Brighton roast a big thumbs up- even the loos were up to scratch! If I was in North Laine wanting a roast, this is where I’d go, no contest.
The Sidewinder 5/10
This was another revisit, mainly because I was starving, hungover and it is pretty much on my doorstep. As always the service was absolutely charming, some of the nicest bar staff in Brighton in my opinion, but the food was painfully slow to come out, like, an hour and a half slow. To be fair to them we were warned that there was at least an hour’s wait for food, but seriously, why would it take that long anyway?! When the food did come out it was ok, not much more. Fatty meat, nice gravy, dire roasties, the worst yorkshire and someone was clearly running a very tight ship when doling out the veg. They do claw back half a point for the nice plate though. Such a shame…
Sidenote: the head chef was on holiday when I went in, presumably assuming that his team could be relied upon to maintain standards… they let him down.
The Snowdrop, Lewes 1/10
I’m only including this in the post because so many of you recommended I visit… and I am sad to say, it was absolutely dreadful. Vegetables so dry that it was almost as if they’d been left in direct sunlight for half an hour before piling onto the plate. The tiniest slick of gravy on the plate did little to offer anything in the way of moisture or flavour, the Yorkshire was very definitely courtesy of the deep freezer. The one and only point awarded was for the crackling, which was top notch,but looking at the rest of it, one might be forgiven for thinking it was fluke rather than effort. I wasn’t paying so have no idea how much it was, but I hope they didn’t charge extra for the MASSIVE pube (top right) that was stuck to the lame roast potato.
The Martha Gunn 4/10
This was one of the few pubs who have challenged me to come in and try their roasts, but given that its location is Lewes Road (VOM) I didn’t exactly hurry down there. My biggest beef was with the gravy, some sort of culinary ‘genius’ in the kitchen decided that adding vast amounts of sweet and sticky balsamic glaze was obviously just ‘the thing’… sadly they were mistaken, it was ghastly.The roast potatoes were oil-logged in a way only deep fat frying yields and I have no idea at all what had been done to the apple sauce to make it that offensive colour- all I do know is its placement made one of the only decent things about the meal (the crackling) soggy. Points for a cheese element, homemade yorkie and well cooked veg, but I wouldn’t recommend, or hurry back either. It cost £12 in case you’re wondering.
So there you have it- 15 more Brighton roasts and more abject disappointment overall.
Where do you like to eat a roast in Brighton? Have I missed anywhere? Have you tried any of the places above more recently and completely disagree with my ramblings? Post your suggestions/arguments/comments in the box below- I’d love to hear them.
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