One’s choice of drinking establishment is a very personal thing and one that changes over time as our lives and needs change. Being conscious of massively stereotyping here, the younger crowd prefer something a little more ostentatious with cheap drinks and a party atmosphere; whereas the more mature look for something traditional with well-kept ales and a solid menu.
Some pubs, however, look to entice a wide range of people and clientele. Often these are the local boozer or community pub. They look to maximise their appeal by being both family friendly and serving quality food; while also satisfying those looking for a good night out prior to, but not always, hitting the town.
One such place that I feel fits this bracket is The Stoneham Pub and Pizzeria on Portland Road.
We went to the Stoneham early one Friday for dinner before heading into Brighton to catch some comedy. As the name suggests the Stoneham is predominately a pizzeria; although they do serve some traditional pub classics and a selection of burgers.
The pub itself is very large and airy with lots of soft wood and a clean feel throughout. There is ample seating and the pub is naturally split into three sections. The open kitchen and large bar area give a welcoming feel; and on our visit it had a lively atmosphere with a mixture of families with young children and post-work drinking clientele.
As I mentioned the food focuses on pizza and so this was what I decided to give my attention to; going for the Aglio Puttanesca (£6.50) for my starter and a Lahmacan calzone pizza (£13) for main.
My partner decided to go a little off-piste choosing a Thai style chilli squid (£6.50) to start followed by a seared tuna steak burger (£13.50).
The starters arrived in good time and both were immediately appealing to the eye. My aglio puttanesca, which is stretched pizza dough topped with tomato, olives, capers, anchovies and garlic, was the sort of starter most would share. With a generous serving of lightly risen dough topped with all those classic sweet and salty toppings – which although basic – I enjoyed each piece.
The chilli squid was a vibrant mix of tender squid, colourful salad leaves and stir fried vegetables.
There was a pleasing amount of heat that balanced well with the flavours and did not overpower the rest of the dish. The serving was again very generous and could have passed as a light lunch for many.
After what was a very good start I was very much looking forward to my main. The Lahmacan calzone pizza was stuffed with spiced lamb, tomato and parsley which, while admittedly unconventional, was very pleasant. The undoubted star was the quality of the dough. It had a beautiful colour and was mildly sweet and slightly charred; not to mention being beautifully soft.
The burger was a solid offering with the tuna steak being well proportioned and encompassed in a lightly toasted brioche bun. With a number of sides and a caper and dill mayo the burger was a complete meal.
The only criticisms were that the chips had been slightly overdone and the tuna steak was more cooked than seared in my opinion.
We finished by sharing a chocolate brownie with hot, white chocolate sauce and chocolate ice-cream (£6).
We were both already very full from the previous courses and the dessert went down despite this. While unlikely to win any awards it was a decent end to what was an enjoyable meal.
The Stoneham Pub and Pizzeria is a lively family friendly pub that serves up good quality pub grub.
I was very impressed with the quality of the pizzas, with the dough being some of the nicest I have had in a while. This is definitely worth a look in for an inexpensive and satisfying meal and given its size would be ideal for larger groups as well.
The Stoneham Pub
153 Portland Road Hove, BN3 5QJ
This review first appeared in the Brighton and Hove Independent on March 18th.