With so many quality pubs and bars in Brighton there are some that, no matter how many times you walk past them, you may never go in.
This is not because they are terrible or dodgy, it just seems that you are always on your way to somewhere else. We are creatures of habit, tending to stick to places we know or have been recommended.
When I first moved to Brighton I lived in the fabulous Kemptown area and one such bar was Brighton Rocks. It always seemed inviting but I never popped in. I put this down to never really knowing what it was about and the style of venue it was.
Clearly there was one way to resolve this. I was invited to pop by to try some of the food. The new owners are trying to resolve one of my original questions by giving it more of an identity. Their vision is to create an intimate gastro-bar that serves interesting home-cooked food and has a bar stocked with quality craft beers and a cocktail list that is second to none.
Upon arrival I opted for a half of unfiltered lager, which reminded me of a saison or sour beer. It was an interesting beer, and representative of the new owners’ desire to stock varied options. Lager is making a comeback with craft brewers producing their own versions. With that in mind, I followed the lager with one of the original craft lager producers – Estrella Damm. I am a real ale and craft beer drinker, but was impressed with the depth of flavour in the Estrella.
The food is prepared from fresh on site, even the sauces and relishes. The menu features lots of pub fare; burgers and pizzas are the main events, with lots of sides on offer. I tried a selection of dishes, including an inventive Indian-style vegetarian burger bursting with zesty freshness. The signature Kentucky fried duck, including a vegetarian version, looked delicious, although I thought it had been fried slightly too long and dried out a little. The star of the spread was the superb mac ‘n’ cheese, which was comforting and moreish. It was a great spread, and with a little tweaking would have been spot on. The presentation was eye-catching, although the plates over slates crowd would have something to say about the serving vessel.
I ended my meal with a fantastic espresso martini, made slightly more luxurious with the addition of Dooley’s toffee liqueur. The owners have some exciting plans for cocktails and the staff are well versed on all things mixology. Brighton Rocks is a bar that is going places. The quality of drinks is in keeping with the current expectations of customers. Keeping the kitchen in house and making everything from scratch ensures a better experience for all, and I am reliably informed the Sunday roasts are superb. With an open mic night that regularly features surprise appearances from some quality acts, and plans for other events, it could well be a bar no longer lacking identity and easy to walk past.