Blind Busker75-77 Church Road
Tel: +44 (0)1273 749110
Guide price: £17
Cuisine types: PUBS/BARS | BRITISH
A smiling maitre’d just inside the entrance was the first hint at the Blind Busker's intention to be regarded as an eating establishment as much as a pub. In it's former incarnation as the Hog's Head, I suspect that this place would have housed a completely different kind of punter to the mixed, mainly 30-something crowd I see chattering at the bar and surrounding tables enjoying a mid-week bevy and bite to eat. Positioned nearer the Brighton end of Church Road, with a clutch of tables outside I can see this place becoming a popular haunt for lunches and evening meals al fresco as the summer approaches.
The press release sent to VB before our visit described the establishment as having a home-like feel with a warm and welcoming ambience. The interior is described as spacious and relaxing with an upscale feel. To me it looks like a fairly typical and generic Brighton re-vamp, though not in the least bit offensive. There's the funky retro printed wallpaper, the comfy leather sofas (upscale?), hardwood floors and various lamps (that'll be the 'home from home' bit then). The atmosphere was definitely relaxed and just on the right side of busy for a Wednesday night.
Kat, the Busker's manager is clearly excited about her new venture. Having only been open for a couple of weeks (she took the place over from the Hog's Head three weeks before it ceased trading), she told us that already the customers have transformed as much as the décor with about 90% of the former crowd having dispersed into the Hove ether after discovering the pool table had been shipped out. Though I suspect that the wallpaper and canvas art would have had just as much effect… It definitely has more of a feminine touch, and Kat was keen to point out that she sees this as the kind of place a woman can comfortably come to alone – or with a group of girlfriends.
After being shown to the requested non-smoking table by our waitress, I was pleased to see that the area was fairly secluded from the main part of the pub. The menu is fairly standard pub fare, with some unexpected specials thrown into the mix. The obligatory steak and ale pies and lasagna appear alongside grilled swordfish steak, and goat's cheese, red pepper and thyme crostini. I plummed for the chicken satay and crispy Thai salad (£3.50) to start while Ian went for the asparagus soup (£3.00).
Spoilt for choice with the wine list, we went for a New Zealand sauvignon blanc (£3.55 per glass). Almost all of the wines were available in 175ml and 250ml glasses, as well as by the bottle. There is also an extensive list of beers on offer and a few cocktails if you fancy.
Seemingly quicker than you can say '…and how was your day darling?'” the starters arrived. The satay was good - tender chicken with a crispy bite smothered in a rich sauce, though I must say I was somewhat confused by the Thai salad - a mound of red onion, carrot and red cabbage, with not a hint of fresh coriander or galangal to be seen, pleasant though it was. Ian's soup was a winner, thick, hearty and very fresh tasting.
The main courses were substantial to say the least. My Aberdeen Angus Steak burger (£6.95) was delicious. Served in a toasted focaccia bun with mixed leaves and homemade coleslaw, the only thing that could have been improved were the rather canteen-style chips, plentiful though they were – it would have been nice to see some chunky home-made skin-on efforts there.
Ian's Lamb casserole with dumplings served with cracked black pepper mash (£7.40) again hit the spot. The lamb tender, root vegetables flavorsome and dumplings surrounded by a rich gravy made him a very happy man indeed. The garlic bread we ordered (£2.00) proved to be a generously portioned and totally unnecessary accompaniment (but we did our best to finish them off anyway). Nice to see garlic bread served with rocket salad drizzled in a balsamic dressing – perfect for mopping up in.
Also on the menu was a choice of five platters for sharing (£6 - £10) which I made a mental note to bring my girlfriends in to try out. Antipasti, Tapas, mixed grilled skewers to name a few all sounded very tempting.
We ended the meal sharing a sublime chocolate brownie and vanilla ice cream dessert(£3)– again, a very standard pub offering but boy was it done well. Moist, gooey and not scalding hot, I would come back to the Busker just for this alone.
The good, hearty, and reasonably priced food and relaxed atmosphere at the Blind Busker should ensure consistent regulars. It's truly a crossover pub, setting out to appeal to a varied but essentially local crowd or to coin Kat's phrase 'town local' (as opposed to city centre); I think this place will do well, and as we headed off to relieve the babysitter - so to speak - I was already mentally planning when I could return to sample those brownies again.
Breakfast is served daily between 9-11am and lunch and dinner between 11am – 10pm, specials change monthly.
March 2006Guide price £17