Who’d mourn for their old boozer when it comes back to life as a seafood gas­tropub?

The Observer Magazine - - Food & Drink -

The Urchin

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’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.