Monday, 17 March 2014

Review: The Ginger Fox, Albourne, Near Brighton

Review: The Ginger Fox, Albourne, Near Brighton

One of the Brighton-based Gingerman restaurant group, The Ginger Fox pub is in a remote countryside setting, close to Devil’s Dyke. I had been many years ago when it was fairly newly opened and getting surprise rave reviews from critics of the nationals. I remember it always being nice but a bit… um poncey. I think they were trying too hard, and the clientele were very much the local ‘yah-yah’s’ which made the place a bit stuffy and formal for me.

Anyway a friend and I stopped there for dinner unexpectedly as The Sportsman pub at Goddards Green were full (having an early St Paddy’s shindig apparently). Well we were frankly lucky to get a table there too as even at 7pm it was almost full. The diners didn’t look like they had changed since I last went (grey, conservative, twin sets etc) and I was certainly one of the youngest at the chirpy age of 34!

A lovely waitress showed us a table and took our coats and we chose a bottle of Malbec to drink while we munched on warm complimentary bread with balsamic and rapeseed oil that you pour yourself from the bottle on the table. The menu isn’t extensive, 5-6 choices for starters and mains, although there are specials on the board. I chose the Chorizo Glazed Rarebreed Pork Belly with Carrots and Chicory and my mate went for the Foie Gras Ballotine with Champagne Rhubarb and Sesame Toast.

Our plates arrived beautifully presented. My pork belly slice was on top of a smear of sticky chorizo syrup and was garnished the tiniest baby carrots I have ever seen and a little bit of lettuce. The pork was soft, sweet and fatty but as there were only two bites worth, £8 seemed a tad steep. The foie gras was rich, naughty and thoroughly gorgeous! Quite a small portion for the amount of toast it came with but you really couldn’t eat too much of this heavenly, smooth pate. It was also prettily decorated with radishes I think.

We both had the Char Grilled Redlands Farm Rib Eye with Duck Fat Chips, Roasted Onion and Balsamic Vinegar Butter and Roasted Parsnips with Almonds (£19.50) Wow wow wow - the steak was cooked to juicy medium perfecttion as requested and tasted so beefy with a lovely, smoky char on the outside. Yes there was quite a lot of fat on the meat, but that's ribeye for you, and it all adds to the flavour. The chips (am a proper chip fiend at the moment) were easily the best I have ever had - dark gold, super crunchy and absolutely gorgeous It was almost like they had been fried in a batter - they sounded like glass but were fluffy inside. Reckon they might use the Heston triple cook method, but whatever it is I am coming back for these on my lunch break!

So the bill came to £80 with the wine, and the food was excellent, it really was. If it was 10-12% cheaper I would eat here often, but given its formality and the extra expense, think it might be a place for special occasions only or possibly business meetings. 

Review: The North Laine Pub & Brewery, Brighton

Review: The North Laine Pub & Brewery, Brighton

After an afternoon drinking in the North Laines on the first properly sunny day of the year (yes, in March!) it was time to think about eating something to soak it all up and stop things from looking so blurry.  However, due to the blue sky and 19C temperature, the whole of Brighton and probably the rest of Sussex were in town and everywhere was packed out. So I wrack my slightly fuzzy brains for a large establishment which would have more room than the little caffs and bars nearby and remembered the North Laines pub which used to be my old nightclub haunt, The Gloucester, back in the day.

Of course, no one told me the rugby was on too, so on getting there we actually struggled to find a spare table in the huge place! Never mind, we eventually settled upon two stools around a table converted from a beer barrel. It is worth pointing out on that note, that this pub has its own brewery attached to it – you can apparently book a tasting tour and sample the various nectar.

Back to food, the menu is pretty extensive without being overwhelming – I think they cover off just about everything anyone could want – fish and chips, steak, pie to more unusual fare such as hot dogs with sauerkraut and mustard, hearty lamb hotpot and dumplings, turkey schnitzel (was very tempted by this), and the interesting-sounding sausage sharing board which are a mix of four local sausages with gravy and piccalilli to dip! Sounds brilliant!

However, my alcohol- induced hunger meant I needed some bulk so I went for the Angus Beef burger (they do lamb and rosemary and Cajun chicken, plus ‘The Greek’ halloumi for veggies) and my mate chose the posh ‘fish finger’ sandwich. We were told there was an hour wait on food – I expect that is not the norm at 3.30pm on a Saturday but it really was heaving so we got another glass of wine and waited.

Exactly one hour later the food arrived and I felt strangely sober again. We asked for cutlery as I didn’t want to push my face into my burger like I did at Burger Brothers! The fish fingers were indeed not from Birds Eye but were pleasing rustic breaded goujons and were clearly handmade. No clue what the fish was, but tasted nice and juicy apparently, and the thick cut white bloomer was the correct type for a fish finger sarnie in my opinion. My 8oz burger came in a nice soft brioche bun from a Brighton bakery and included a tumbled mass of bright purple onion relish (it looked like it was made from very thinly sliced boiled red onions – it was strangely tasteless, possibly because it was fridge cold). The fresh lettuce, tomato, gherkin were fine, but I took out the raw red onion as a matter of personal taste. Sadly the burger was very overcooked and without going for optional cheese, it was dry, hard and unpleasant to eat. The chips on the other hand were AMAZING! They still had their skins on and were of different sizes so some of the really slim ones were so crispy it was like eating baked potato skin – almost healthy, right?!

For £9.25 my burger and chips wasn’t bad value, just a shame the meat had no juices left in it. Going to try eating there again when it is quieter as I am convinced they will win points back on food, and the lively atmosphere was fun to hang out in.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Review: Burger Brothers, North St, Brighton

Review: Burger Brothers, North St, Brighton

It seems I am on a bit of a mission at the moment to try out all the amazing burger joints around Brighton. The craze for making the most “dirty” or most gourmet burgers has hit the town in the last couple of years. In fact I just found out that the burger-related term “dirty” means smoky, as in a dirty sauce will have a smoked element to it. But don’t take my word for it – it’s all new to me!

So when I heard that Burger Brothers was the number 1 restaurant in Brighton on Tripadvisor I was intrigued to find out it is not even a restaurant – it is a takeaway with a few stools inside!! Then it began getting lots of mentions on social media and even in foodie mags such as Olive. Reaaally? Well, that was it; I had to get myself down there to see what all the fuss is about.

From the outside it doesn’t look like anything special to be honest, and inside were about 6 stools, an eating ledge and a chalk board menu on the wall. There are 6 different beef burgers to choose from – no fries here. But interestingly they do freshly made smoothies to wash the burgers down with. So, what to choose? I wouldn’t normally write the whole menu, but think it enables you to see the quality of the ingredients and that this is very different from typical post-pub takeaways. It isn’t the cheapest but you get what you pay for…

·         Simple Jack with the American cheese of choice - Monterey Jack, plus mayo and ketchup.
·         Our Favourite comes with goats cheese, roasted peppers, honey mustard, secret sauce, caramelised onions and Cajun sauce.
·         Bennetton Burger with Tuxford and Tebbutt blue stilton, Portobello mushroom, chorizo, wasabi mayo, caramelised onions and balsamic vinegar glaze
·         Classic Beef with  mature cheddar, tomatoes, wild rocket, mustard, relish, black pepper mayo and caramelised onion

Plus 3 non beef options:
·         Chicken Bazinga – marinated chicken fillets with beetroot salad, guacamole, caramelised onions and garlic mayo.  
·         Veggie Special which is their homemade vegetable patty coated in breadcrumbs and comes with beechwood smoked cheese, roasted peppers, wild rocket, caramelised onion, salsa and black pepper mayo.
·         Hello Me is a halloumi, Portobello mushroom, tomato, peppers, secret sauce and creamy Cajun sauce.


I opted for the Classic Beef which cost £6.50 as I think a simple burger shows you how good they really are. My friend had a Bennetton Burger at £8.50. We were offered extras such as halloumi, Serrano ham, chorizo, chilli sauce etc but declined. We took a seat on a stool and watched as they were freshly cooked - the burger was steamed with a cloche which I’d imagine helps to keep it juicy.  They arrived quickly and were placed in poly boxes on a tray with the essential serviettes and toothpicks.  (Note there is a toothpick in the centre of the burger) The shiny bun looked so appealing and it didn’t look scary-huge. Mine had a gherkin on the side – not sure if it had fallen out but I’d like to think they are being clever as not everyone likes them.

To take my first bite I literally had to just push my face into it! The relish mayo and caramelised onions ended up everywhere – it is quite a saucy burger, but not at all greasy. The burger was juicy and pink in the centre and tasted really beefy. My mate’s burger was also excellent and he said the blue cheese didn’t overpower any of the other elements. For me, everything was perfection – loved the wild rocket – will start adding that to my burgers in future instead of Little Gem. But the bun really made it. It was sweet and slightly chewy and much more suitable than brioche which is too doughy for the weight of burgers. The guys said it is Jewish Challah which they get from a local artisan bakery in Hove. And they mince their own Longhorn beef on the premises – they clearly take their sourcing very seriously and done their homework.

Actually, the other thing that really makes Burger Brothers worth a visit is the ‘Brothers’ themselves. Their friendliness and excellent service sets them apart from Grubbs Burgers or other similar takeaways. They are so proud of their product and asked us a few times if we were happy with our meals. They haven’t even been in the food business before, so considering they only opened 10 months ago and already have long queues on Friday and Saturday nights (and sometimes even sell out completely) they must have the formula bang on. Can definitely see them expanding to a bigger premises or opening a chain in the non-distant future. Watch this space.

In the meantime I am going back to try a Chicken Bazinga J