Once upon a time there were pubs and there were restaurants. One served beer, spirits, and pub snacks; the other food and fine wines. Gradually over the last few decades this distinction has become less clear and the majority of pubs now offer much more than traditional pub fayre.
Many Brighton pubs have linked up with local restaurants and street food vendors as a way of offering their clientele something a bit different. This week I paid The Windmill a visit; the winter home of al fresco dining hot spot Beach BBQ and its chef Kieron James.
During the summer, the Beach BBQ operates near the Palace Pier, offering the UK’s only sous-vide barbecue experience.
This combination of location and top-quality food recently earned it a place on The Times “20 best places to eat by the sea”. Realising that al fresco dining is not going to be a hit in the winter months; Kieron offers up the same barbecue favourites, plus daily specials and sous-vide roasts, at the popular city centre pub.
For those who are not aware, sous-vide cooking is the process whereby meat is cooked in a water bath at a constant temperature. Kieron does this for between 24 and 48 hours resulting in succulent, melt in the mouth results.
These are then finished off on the coals to give the distinctive charred finish and smoky flavour.
On our visit we tried a selection from the menu to get a feel for both the barbecue offerings and the pub specials. We started with Kieron’s Piggy Pop’s (£6) which consisted of pig cheek in a ginger beer sauce served with apple mash.
The combination of juicy soft meat and the sticky ginger glaze was fantastic and the mash with a hint of apple was the perfect accompaniment. These have been a hit on the beach and work just as well when washed down with a pint of ale.
Next up we tried the Thai fishcakes (£6) from the specials menu followed by the Segedin Gulas (£9). The fishcakes had the correct combinations of aromatic herbs and spices that you would expect from Thai food and a pleasant level of heat.
The accompanying sweet chilli and coriander dip ticked all the right boxes and provided an additional spicy kick. The Segedin Gulas was a new one on me and is a Slovakian version of the traditional Goulash.
Made with sauerkraut and pork it has a tangy sweetness and was not as rich as the traditional version; very much a winter warmer for this time of year.
The main event came courtesy of a half rack of ribs (£12). I am not someone who would normally go for ribs as they are often fatty and lacking in real quality meat.
I am pleased to report that Kieron’s offerings were anything but. We were presented with a generously sized rack of meltingly soft ribs with a barbecue sauce that did not overpower the flavour of the meat.
Not only were these the best ribs I’d eaten but they are also a lot of fun to tuck into, provided you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. They came with perfectly triple cooked chips and a spicy red cabbage coleslaw making this a really fantastic meal and excellent value.
The Windmill is the sort of pub that many would go to for a few pints rather than to eat. In linking with Beach BBQ they have brought in a chef that understands this, and can offer restaurant-quality food served for the pub environment. Kieron James is passionate about his food and packs great flavour into every dish; treating the meat with the utmost respect.
Best of all the prices represent excellent value for money and go to show that you don’t have to spend ridiculous money to get top-quality food. On top of this they will be introducing a few midweek deals and already offer a free bowl of vegetarian chilli on Monday nights. I for one will be looking to pay another visit to Beach BBQ to try out the Sunday roasts, which I hear are excellent, and will be looking forward to when they are back down on the beach. Well worth a visit.
Beach BBQ at The Windmill
69 Upper North Street
Monday – Sunday from 12 noon.
This review first appeared in the January 15th edition of the Brighton and Hove Independent. The food was complimentary however this is no way affected the outcome of the review.