REVISIT and REVIEW: Sussex Yeoman, Brighton

by - October 16, 2013

It's been a long time since my last visit to Sussex Yeoman, one of Brighton's much loved "pubs". My passable yet utterly mediocre last meal four years ago didn't have me running up the breath-taking hill for more, but enough time has passed for a revisit.

The SY masquerades behind a pub front, but the exterior, much like a wild west film set, is where the pub ends. Behind the facade is very much a restaurant, decorated with a twist of pub influence. I wouldn't even use that weird term gastro-pub for it. All the tables in the evening are filled with diners not drinkers and the bar, despite taking up a ridiculously large percentage of the small floor space, isn't one you would prop up with your elbow. One of the main drawbacks, as mentioned in my last review is that they have almost gone out of their way to create the most uncomfortable space to dine in. Once you have squeezed yourself around crammed table legs and other diners to plonk your way into your seat (and at 5ft and 105lbs even I had issues), you have to get up, trundle past all the people at the bar and go to one end of the room to read the chalkboard (print a menu for Christ's sake), then go to the bar to order, then squeeze in again. I want dinner, not an Olympic Sport experience.

Prices too are bistro/restaurant level. If you are paying more than £12 for a main meal in a "pub", that my friend, is a restaurant. If you still think it is a pub then you are being royally mugged off. Expect to pay £12-18 for a main meal here.

However, when you do make it over to the board you will be rewarded with a divine selection. Squid, sole, steaks, burgers, fish & chips, open ravioli...varied but select enough to read well and guarantee freshness. The sides for many of the dishes were well chosen with plenty of nice touches. A lot of care has clearly been put into the menu.

My duo of Salt Marsh lamb, a roast loin and pressed shoulder, with cavolo nero, potato rosti, and chantenay carrots was so good and worth every penny of the £14.50 it cost. The rich gravy soaked into the perfect rosti, and the cavolo nero, one of my favourite vegetables on the planet, still had bite. But the lamb was so tender, so lean and the different texture between the cuts was a nice touch. The portion size was generous but not over the top and the combination of ingredients was a win. I guess it is this sort of cooking which keeps people loyal to this place and it was nice to finally get as taste of the hype.

Funnily enough, there was no mention of the home-made sausages that made their name on the local food scene years ago, I believe that particular chef has gone onto pastures new. Now their place has been taken by their burgers and most of the ladies I was dining with opted for them. The classic beef version had a healthy dose of wholegrain mustard added and the meat was a lovely crumbly texture. The venison version looked darn fine too. Although not to everyone's taste, or today's fashion for bloody centred patties, they were cooked all the way through but succulent none the less. The fries were mediocre but crisp and side salad decent enough. However the buns, similar to those in 2009, were still the ridiculous supermarket ciabatta style buns. Too dry and too rigid (and too fricking SQUARE) to support the patty for eating, I noticed most of those who ordered the burger left the bulky top bun uneaten. For all the burger talk in this country right now, have we learnt nothing? There are a good handful of local bakers that could sort this problem out and a call Sussex Yeoman need to make urgently.

For desserts only three of us ordered and we all chose tarts. My fig tart sounded good but to be honest was a bit dull. That really jammy, sticky figginess just wasn't there. It was a plain ol' tart with a fig sunk in it. The treacle tart, which seems to be a more permanent fixture on their menu, seemed better. To be honest I can't describe it any clearer as I have no food memory of it whatsoever.

Despite the mains being excellent, buns aside, there are still too many environmental things that irk me about SY for me to go back on a frequent basis. But there is no denying that this place is popular and if you are by the station or have an hour before your journey, then this would be a good option for something decent to eat. Sundays roasts would be a good punt as well but in all instances I think it would be best to always book as the location is on the small side.

Sussex Yeoman
7 Guildford Rd
Brighton BN1 3LU

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