The Brighton dining scene is crazy, even I can't keep up at times. Openings, closings, pop ups, residencies, collabs, start-ups, non-starters, and often don't get to a place before they shut the doors. The night before this I was in a box fresh opening being assaulted by a 100 dish strong menu, service from the textbooks of Faulty Towers and a tongue curling sauce that featured in almost every dish (I can't vouch for the dessert, I wasn't going to find out). It was new and packed to the rafters with excited diners...for now. It's easy to be carried away with novelty, but where the truly good stuff is often found is in ones that have survived the years.
And OGs of Brighton restaurants will always be The Gingerman Group, flying their flag since 1998. The Ginger Dog may have taken time to stand tall next to the Man, Pig and Fox (and Flint House) as the more casual sibling of the bunch, but I think it's very much ready to stand on its own four feet.
Refurbed with a more moody tone; less quirk, more luxe, it speaks volumes about the quality of the evening and food you can expect.
Don't overlook the snacks, even if you're fully dining; A classic hummus is given a sultry souk make-over with ras el hanout spicing and a lively, grassy green olive puree. Absolutely delicious dunked with fat soldiers of fried gluten-free bread. As I'm building myself up to being the leading local authority on margaritas (hells, everyone needs a hobby) I had to order for research and can vouch for the fact it's a good one. Lip puckeringly sour and the ideal aperitif to gently browse menus with. If you, however, prefer your drink like any good woman; pretty, cute, yet stealthily dangerous as hell, then the raspberry and lychee martini is a good choice, like drinking a Jo Malone candle, in a very good way.
You can tell the group have worked hard on their drinks menus throughout the restaurants, particularly the cocktails. You won't find showy garnishes like clouds of candy floss to navigate your philtrum around, just a carefully curated list of drinks as good as their food, yet another art most miss the mark on.
Surprising good was a vegan stater of fried, spiced cauliflower. This often overlooked veg was amplified with a perfectly acidic and spicy cucumber kimchi, cooled with the smooth cashew and miso puree.
Whilst that dish may have screamed January 2020, my Duck yolk with gently spiced duck leg ragu sat on top of fried bread was the opposite end of the spectrum; unctuous, rich and decadent in a classic, yet modernised way.
Talking of classic, can you really beat a good steak and chips? The Salt-aged Delmonico steak, translated to rib-eye in this instance, juicy and flavour loaded with possibly the best chips in East Brighton, prob the whole city. Simple is wonderful, if it's the best it can possibly be and this really was.
Showcasing more of the Ginger Dog's creativity however, was the roast cod with a substantial cauliflower steak, clementine, fennel, hazelnut dressing. Whilst I found the dense puree a little murky, the fresh, clean flavours of fennel and clementine were enough to brighten the dish and bring back the balance.
However, don't dare leave without trying the salted caramel martini. They are well known for their drinking desserts, I'm sure they'd be a protest if they ever took this particular one off the menu, and after finally trying one, I'd be painting up a placard myself. It also reminded me, being in my 'hood, that I should use the bar here more for drinking and save myself a shlep into town every now and then.
The Gingerman Group touch everything with class. It's all rather relaxed but service, environment and touch points of the meal are always well considered and elegant. Their formula of running successful restaurants despite a challenging time for hospitality is testament to their experience and confidence to stick to what they do, yet evolve only when they need to, whilst resisting the fads and trends, in order to create a brand that diners can trust in. Whilst the Ginger Dog has been tweaked, it is still, if not even more so, very much part of the family brand.
This may not be the cheapest pub meal in town, but it will exceed your expectations in terms of quality and finesse, and is the standard of what premium modern pub gastronomy should be.
The Ginger Dog
12 College Place,
Brighton BN2 1HN