Back in 1973 a club opened in New York that that was to become one of the most legendary music venues in history. Named the “Country, BlueGrass, and Blues” or CBGB for short, the club became known for a much different style of music than that it was named after. Quickly establishing itself as a Punk and New Wave venue and later a hardcore and rock venue it was one of the most exciting and iconic buildings in the underground scene.
Why am I telling you this in the food column of a Brighton newspaper? Good question. Well there is a pub in Brighton that has taken the CBGB as its inspiration. The East Street Tap has been around 6 months now having replaced the Fish Bowl that had a decent run there. Bringing a taste of New York craft beer bars to the city, and harking back to one of the most exciting and influential music scenes in recent history seems a big ask.
Situated opposite the Bison Beer bottle shop the bar is well placed in terms of attracting craft beer drinkers through its doors. They pay tribute to their local neighbours by stocking Bison Beer’s Beast Street IPA on the taps alongside several other craft beers from both local and not so local brewers – New York and the Eastern Seaboard feature strongly. They also have bottle fridges that are well stocked with a wealth of craft beers. With three cask ales on at any given time usually from Dark Star, The Laine Brewery and Brighton Bier and ciders as well they are keeping their options open.
In keeping with current craft pub interior trends it is a mix of exposed brick, neon strip lighting and cages which you may or may not like. A smattering of gig posters and stickers both old and new are a reference to the CGBG theme and the music is mostly in keeping with the bands that made that venue so famous – this I do approve of.
The original CGBG café served classic New York pizza, this is not the case at the EST. Burgers, wraps and sandwiches are the order of the day. I scan the menu and decide to go for a burger as these are said to be the chef’s speciality and settle on the one that comes with 8 hour Dr Pepper slow cooked brisket and a beetroot relish. Ali briefly flirts with the wraps and burritos before deciding on the Cajun chicken burger.
We both start with a pint of Brooklyn IPA which at 5% is a fairly reserved for a craft IPA. I find it to be a crisp and dry offering that is not as in your face as some other craft IPA’s which I like.
Our food arrives and it looks pretty good, our side of monster onion rings is exactly that, and the portion sizes are generous. My burger is a little overdone as the meat is slightly dry and I prefer it a little pink, but I know there are some issues around that. It has a good meaty flavour with the stringy yet soft brisket adding further beefiness. I don’t get as much of the sweet Dr Pepper flavour as I was expecting and the beetroot relish adds an occasional sweet yet earthy edge. As burgers go it is pretty good and it goes well with my pint of Harpoon IPA.
Ali’s Cajun chicken burger proves to be a slippery customer with the guacamole, roasted peppers and cheese affecting the integrity of the bun. He points out this is not so much an issue as these are all the tasty extras that make it an enjoyable eat, he submits to cutlery which is probably a good idea.
Of the extras our onion rings are impressively large and the batter is crisp with a slither of sweet onion within. The standard and sweet potato fries are quite heavily seasoned which I like, but some might find a little much if they pay more attention to their sodium intake. Both are crisp and enjoyable without a limp chip in sight.
We leave feeling full and go our separate ways. I’m not sure that I really experienced the best that the East Street Tap has to offer. As a late night venue, it is open till 3am weeknights and 4am weekends, with DJ’s every night this is the sort of place that probably comes to life when people like me are tucked up in bed. The food is decent beer drinking fayre which could soak up even the most potent imperial stout or heavily hopped Double IPA. The East Street Tap is the sort of place that when combined with a craft beer of choice and friends to match it would not disappoint.
74 East St
This review first appeared in the September 9th edition of the Brighton and Hove Independent. I had been invited to review and the meal was complementary. This has no bearing on the outcome of the review.