Who’d mourn for their old boozer when it comes back to life as a seafood gastropub?
Once upon a time the Urchin was called the Bell and before that, the Belfast after its street address in Hove, which is definitely not Brighton, even if you can’t see the join. You only need look at the architecture to see the role it once played: it’s a block of a building on a corner site, surrounded by terraces of simple, flat-fronted houses. This pub was once the classic extension to the domestic; the living space outside the home in which everybody congregated. If you lived here and your dad went AWOL, it was probably worth looking in the Bell first.
These past three years the Urchin has been a seafood gastropub, selling shelves of craft beers and things that once swam. Some will find this infuriating. I’ve been doing this so-called job for almost two decades and in all that time the narrative has been a constant: how dare they take our pubs? The identity of “they” being unclear, but almost certainly including me. How dare they bring in interior designers and menus of edible food that didn’t arrive frozen in the back of a truck? How dare they sell beers with names that only people who are too young to remember Margaret Thatcher as prime minister would find funny? Young people. With their beards and rising hormone levels.
Smell my sarcasm. And yet I do get it. Restaurants, and eating out in general, have become part of a culture war. I can argue that the very people who criticise those of us who spend sizable sums on dinner will not think twice ce about spending the same dosh on tickets to a football otball game. That only emphasises the gulf. And don’t even ven think about arguing that old pubs have died because use of economic imperatives or supply and demand. People ple like me, making those arguments, are still so far up ourselves selves we can see daylight through our open, greedy, sauce- slicked mouths. It’s about tribes (though yes, of course, e, the Venn diagram overlaps; you can both like eating out ut and buying tickets to Premiership matches). There is a tribe that will hate the idea of the Urchin.
I’m not a member of that tribe. Partly this is because I was never interested in pub culture or, to be more exact, pre-1990s pub culture. Rip out the sticky carpets, sand down the floorboards and scribble up a blackboard menu full of sexy buzz words like “’nduja” and “salsify” and I’m there, dribbling. But please don’t ask me to nurse a pint. It’s not part of my skill set, this whole pintnursing business. Mine’s a rosé and I won’t apologise for it, even as that culture war rages around me. I’m also not part of the tribe, because a) I love seafood and b) the Urchin does its thing with gusto. 15-17 Belfast Street, Hove BN3 3YS (01273 241 881) Small dishes £7-£10.50 Large dishes £10-£14 Dessert £4
Wines from £18 sea-
‘ThemThemenu offers salt-and-pepper squid because it’s become a British classic. Very good it is too. Crisp, greaseless, punchy’