h Pint Pleasures: Four pubs in Brighton / Hunting for Haunts

CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 4 Pubs in Brighton, East Sussex

Previous Pint Pleasures - August 4, 2003

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The Victory, 6 Duke Street, Brighton, East Sussex

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The Hop Poles, 13 Middle Street, Brighton, East Sussex

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The Druids Head, 9 Brighton Place, Brighton, East Sussex

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The Cricketers, 15 Black Lion Street, Brighton, East Sussex

On a recent trip to Brighton we spent the afternoon visiting four pubs in the oldest area of the city. Now called the Lanes, this is where the original town of Brighthelmstone was located. Many of the buildings which were destroyed by storms in the 15th century and burnt to the ground by French invaders in the 16th century have been modernised or replaced entirely, housing upmarket jewellery and antique shops as well as pubs and bars. But the narrow streets still impart a medieval feel to the neighbourhood.

The first pub we visited as we weaved our way through throngs of tourists and shoppers was the Victory. Known as the best place in Brighton to get a Bloody Mary, this is definitely what I would call a beach pub, and on this sunny Sunday you could almost smell the suntan lotion. Since the outside tables were full we sat in the cosy back room on sofas as Latin jazz emanated from the sound system. Our pints of Ruddles Best (3.7% ABV, Morland PLC, Abingdon, Oxfordshire) were served Southern style and at a Southern price (£2.30). Sadly the pints were nothing to write home about, but the atmosphere was relaxing, with dark muted colours and plenty of paintings and mirrors.

Our next stop was the Hop Poles where we had tolerable but unexciting pints of Greene King IPA (3.6% ABV, Greene King, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk). The atmosphere was thumping, i.e. so noisy it was a bit challenging to have a conversation, and the Sunday lunches which were still being served looked quite ample. The pub is decorated with a lot of artificial plants, which for some reason appears to be the common houseplant style in Brighton. I suppose the residents of this bustling, cosmopolitan locale simply don't have the time to spare for watering real plants.

The afternoon was quickly progressing as we searched for somewhere to have a meal. At the Druids Head we had rather warm, treacly pints of Bombardier (4.3% ABV, Charles Wells Brewery, Bedford, Bedfordshire). I don't think the beer was off, but it definitely was not at its peak. But perhaps a crisper, more properly bitter pint of Bombardier wouldn't have suited such a Druid setting. For food Giles ordered a burger which came with chips, but Andrew's regular and my vegetarian lasagnes came as tiny pasta-starved portions swimming in a vast ocean of tomato sauce which completely drowned out the subtle flavour of the lasagne, with no garlic bread for relief. The side order of garlic ciabatta bread we ordered was excellent, so they should really think about including it with the lasagnes. This is simply a suggestion.

For our final pub of the day we longed for a "haunt". Since Giles hasn't lived in the area for too long he didn't know what to suggest, so we went on a "haunt hunt", which may be a contradiction in terms. After all, if one has a "haunt" one knows exactly where it is and doesn't have to hunt for it. Nevertheless we stumbled upon the Cricketers, the oldest pub in Brighton. This two-storey 16th century pub is cavelike and inviting with three bars and a good selection of real ales. Our pints of Young's Special (4.6% ABV, Young & Co. Brewery, London) were definitely the best pints of the day. Actually, they were the only pints of the day: proper pints of Young's Special, a proper beer in itself. What more do you need?

If we ever find ourselves living in Brighton, I think the Cricketers would make an excellent starting "haunt".