The Better Half Pub
On a Sunday evening after a gorgeous weekend in Brighton (which for the last month or so has been an unusually common occurrence), my partner Jonny and I vow to go until at least Wednesday without too much indulgence. This in our household predominately suggests no booze and dinners at home, cooked by us. So as we drive from our flat near Preston Park across town to The Better Half pub in Hove, on a Tuesday night, we feel a small sense of excitement. We are almost certainly going to drink and we are definitely going to eat more than we should – perfect!
The pub is beautiful. Outside we are welcomed by the beautiful scent from the flower baskets in the windows. Brick effect tiles around the bar give a wonderful authentic feel and the funky frames hung haphazardly on the walls give The Better Half pub a warm homely feel; which even in 20 degrees heat still feels just right. At the bar we are greeted by a friendly lady who offers us drinks – Jonny and I are unashamed beer snobs so are delighted by the selection here with both local breweries and classic ales on offer. We both go for the Pale Ale from The Gun brewery, a firm favourite, and head to our table.
European influenced menu
The food is modern pub grub with a European influence and to be honest, we are relieved to see this refreshing take on what could have been a ‘play it safe’ pub menu. Whilst we are deciding, Jen our waitress offers us more drinks and upon recommendation I go for a Chilean Viognier which is soft, buttery and beautifully mineral. Jonny chooses a organic Argentinian Malbec that is mellow and smooth and not too heavy – perfect for a warm evening.
In the meantime Lyla, our 5 year old Jack Russell is stealing the hearts of almost everyone in sight; although hers is set on the jar of treats sitting on the bar!
Simple flavours done well
For starter I go for crispy halloumi served with a sweet chilli sauce. In my opinion, anything deep fried is a bit of a winner but deep fried cheese takes it to a whole new level. The sweet chilli sauce gives a good kick to the dish and is a perfect companion to the relatively neutral taste of the halloumi.
Jonny chooses the Lamb Kofta with a toasted pine nut and pomegranate salad. ‘Mmm’ is the unanimous noise that we both make on the first bite. Beautifully spiced Kofta’s are hot with chilli but smokey with cumin and the burst of fruity pomegranate makes for a perfect mouthful of flavour.
They are soft, juicy and moorish and it is the sort of food that is best described only with noises.
As we eagerly await our mains I notice the pub has filled up and what on arrival felt like a mellow locals pub has now been filled with happy chatter from the couples and groups around us.
For my main I chose a feta cheese, pine nut and sundried tomato stuffed portobello mushroom served with crushed potatoes and salsa verde. The mushroom was perfectly cooked with some bite to it, the creamy feta filling was salty with good depth of flavour from the sun dried tomato and the pine nuts gave a clever texture to the whole dish. The star of the dish for me was salsa verde which can so easily be misused. Earthy from fresh herbs with bursts of sour caper and a sweet finish from white wine vinegar and olive oil. This chef knows how to balance difficult flavors!
Juicy, smokey and full on flavour
Jonny went for the beef burger which came with sauteed onions inside a homemade brioche bun. From experience, burger buns are really hard to get right especially in big batches and again the chef’s skills show here. The bun is soft, light and everything we had hoped it would be so hats off for effort.
The patty was succulent and the onions gave a smokey flavor giving the burger that summer’s evening BBQ taste. To put a Better Half twist onto this otherwise classic pub grub dish a gherkin salsa is added. Neither of us could quite figure it out however it was pretty inoffensive and if you are a gherkin lover, this is right up your street.
Puddings, not desserts..
Almost bursting at the seams we then appear to be looking at the pudding menu which is an all too familiar occurrence when we eat out. I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth but for Jonny, leaving without pudding is nothing short of an outright disgrace.
The trifle catches his eye as anything with custard brings back nostalgic memories of home for almost everyone and it doesn’t disappoint.
A recurring theme throughout this meal has been slight surprises with each plate and here the ‘jam’ is almost a compote which is sweet but tart with raspberry seeds for crunch. To be ultra critical it could have done with a little more custard however it was delicious and equally beautiful to look at.
A new favourite
As we think about heading home it feels as though the night has only just started at The Better Half pub. People are still eating, friends are still drinking and the staff are still smiling. Simon and his team had made us feel welcome and at home while feeding us fresh and full flavored food that was beautifully presented. We left the pub asking ourselves why we had not visited before and wondering when we would be visiting next.