This blog isn’t called Food Booze and Reviews for nothing, and to prove that point here is a review!
The Ginger Pig in Hove (http://thegingerpigpub.com/) is part of the local Gingerman group of pubs/restaurants in the Brighton and Hove area. They have an excellent reputation locally and probably beyond and I have eaten at the Ginger Man previously which I was very impressed with. The Ginger Pig advertises itself as a contemporary pub with a large dining area, I probably wouldn’t agree with that description. In my opinion it feels more like a restaurant than a pub as the bar area is fairly small in comparison with the dining area and most tables in the bar are also set aside for dining, this could be down to it being a Saturday evening so might be different mid-week. Saying that it doesn’t feel as formal as many restaurants would do when aimed at this particular price point and so has a nice relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy a pre dinner drink, which is exactly what we intended to do.
My girlfriend Yolanda and I booked a table at 6:30 and headed down early to sample some cocktails from their extensive menu. I decided to start with their “Corpse reviver #2” and Yolanda had a “Rhubarb and Custard”. The bar staff were friendly and knowledgeable when discussing our drink choices and as usual with cocktails there was a bit of a wait while our drinks were being made. My corpse reviver was very refreshing with a lovely lemony taste to it and did not have too strong an alcohol kick, I didn’t really get much from the lick of absinthe but overall a very pleasant drink. I only had a small taste of Yolanda’s Rhubarb and Custard cocktail but it was pretty tasty and definitely filled its brief. I love a cocktail made with egg whites and this one was pretty fantastic, it certainly disappeared fast enough. I followed this up with a Tom Collins, I like gin even if it doesn’t always agree with me, which was again nice and refreshing although tasted fairly standard to me. I probably should have gone for something a bit different as both of my cocktails were lemon and gin based, but I clearly had not thought that through at the time. Overall the drinks were a good start to the meal and had well-balanced flavours without being overly alcoholic.
Right then on to the main event, the food. They have a good a la carte menu with a variety of choice plus a couple of specials for both starter and main. I decided to start with wood pigeon breast and Yolanda went for the seared tuna loin both of which are on the standard menu you can find on their website. My wood pigeon was a nice looking and tasting dish and the crispy shallot with sweet picked onion really complimented the earthy, gamey flavour of the meat. I’ve only ever had wood pigeon once before and found the flavour that time to be pretty intense. This was not the case with this dish and I enjoyed the pigeon more than before, although I would have preferred it to have been cooked slightly more rare. One negative was that I did find some shot in my meat which I thankfully did not bite into with too much gusto. They do warn about this on the menu and to be honest that sort of thing does not particularly bother me and at least you know you’ve got some good quality meat, other people might not feel the same way and so may have reacted badly to that. I paired my starter with a glass of Shiraz Viognier which was a nice mellow tasting red and very drinkable on a warm summers evening. Yolanda’s starter came cold which was unexpected but the portion size was very generous (as I would hope being the most expensive starter on the menu) and again it looked very appetising. The tuna was nicely seared and the fennel salad went well. We both felt that one element of the dish where this starter was falling below expectations was with the wasabi and avocado puree as neither of us really got much of the wasabi flavour. Despite this it was a nicely presented and put together plate of food and Yolanda was happy with her choice.
Next up are the mains where I went for the hake with langoustine and a herb and caper gnocci and Yolanda went for the hanger steak from the specials menu which came with a chilli mash and kohlrabi. My hake dish was fantastic, everything on the plate was cooked perfectly and there was a satisfying fishy taste to the whole thing which was helped along by the bisque. The gnocchi were delicious with a nice light consistency and surprising depth of flavour, they really complimented the rest of the dish. The food looked great without being unnecessarily showy and the portion size was about right for a pub/restaurant. Yolanda’s hanger steak was a good plate of food with a decent amount of meat which was good to see. The meat came medium rare, as is the standard for this cut, and had a lovely full flavour and a fibrous/tender texture. Neither of us have had hanger steak before and this certainly did not put us off. The accompaniment to the meat was perhaps a little safe with the kohlrabi served as a coleslaw adding a traditional mustard flavour however the chilli mash lacked much of a chilli kick and needed more butter and seasoning, in Yolanda’s words it tasted a little too close to school mash than restaurant mash. Overall a mixed feel to the mains with mine being top notch and Yolanda’s perhaps a little let down by the supporting acts. I was happy that both portions were of a good size and presented in a way that looked effortlessly simple and appetising allowing the food to speak for itself. We shared a carafe of Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc region of France with our mains which despite its full yellow colour was nice and dry with a subtle flavour, Yolanda prefers more mellow whites so was happy.
We decided to go for the assiette of desserts to finish and I went for an espresso martini to alongside this, it would have been rude not to. This was a selection of desserts for two to share consisting of a ricotta cheesecake, passion fruit curd tart, tonka bean ice cream, cherry brownie and lemon posset. This was a great way to finish the meal as I often have difficulty settling on a single dessert and so having a little taster of desserts was a really nice touch, I don’t know why more places don’t offer this. The ricotta cheesecake was nice but nothing to write home about and the passion fruit tart had a subtle flavour to it although the lemon sherbet crisp was excellent. The brownie with the ice cream was a classic combination which is pretty much impossible not to enjoy but the real star of the show was the lemon posset. The posset had a wonderfully natural lemon flavour and a silky smooth consistency which melted in the mouth, a real pallet cleanser. My drink arrived as we finished the desserts which was fine by me and it was a fantastic finish to the meal. I’ve developed a real penchant for this cocktail often choosing one over a dessert and this was one of the better ones I’ve had. This was mainly down to it having a really good strong coffee flavour to it and a great velvety smoothness, I had to do my best not to gulp it down too quickly but it wasn’t hanging about for long.
All round the Ginger Pig did not disappoint despite a couple of potential areas for improvement in my opinion. My main meal was the absolute star in my opinion and the other courses were of a high standard. I like big flavours in my food and often find that some restaurants can be a bit too subtle for my tastes but this was not the case here and I thought that all dishes were well balanced and had enough going on to keep me interested. Best of all the servings were of a decent size and we both left feeling satisfied and full. The venue was a pleasant one to eat in and the staff were friendly and attentive without making you feel like you were being rushed despite them being clearly fully booked. The whole meal with drinks came to £125 which is pretty pricey (for us anyway) but I didn’t feel like it was money wasted and would definitely consider going back and would recommend it to others. If I had to give it a score out of 10 I would go for a 7.5 I think which is pretty high for me as I doubt anywhere will get a 10 as I have very high expectations when paying for food in a restaurant. Apologies for the standard of the images, I hate taking pictures of food in a public place it makes me feel like a bit of a tosser.