Let’s face it, the Martha Gunn pub, on Upper Lewes Road, used to be a rough-looking boozer. Of course, my eyes might have deceived me — I never actually went inside. Its shabby façade might have concealed a bohemian paradise populated by dandy thespians discussing the RSC’s latest interpretation of Titus Andronicus. But I doubt it. It really was a rough-looking boozer.
And, despite its recent refurb, it seems the place is still struggling to shake off that dodgy rep. “We get customers coming in whose taxi driver has said ‘The Martha Gunn? Why do you wanna go there? You don’t wanna go there!'” The Pickled Kitchen’s owners tell me when I get chatting to them on a warm spring Sunday afternoon.
I first encountered The Pickled Kitchen two years ago, when they were doing food at the Park Crescent pub, around the corner. I’m not sure if they actually were pickled in the kitchen, but I was impressed by the quality and variety of what was coming out of it: flaming Portuguese sausage, fish mezze, Polish apple cake. My sort of menu.
They’re still offering the same Polish/Portuguese hybrid today, but on Sundays it’s roasts all the way. I do enjoy a roast, although I’ve often considered their Sunday ubiquitousness a shame. I guess (like most things that are a shame these days) that’s down to market forces. Mind you, when you get a roast like The Pickled Kitchen’s… you tend to forget about that halloumi salad you were hankering after.
I know the pictures I’ve taken here are magnified by perspective, but check them out… that’s an epic plate of food by anyone’s standards. I had half a chicken marinated in garlic and thyme, while my friend had the seared rare topside of beef with a hat of parsnip crisps perched on top. We had to wait a while, but when they arrived those plates were hotter than Arizona roof tiles — always a good sign. As for the taste — the pictures do a better job of conveying that than I ever could.
Friends who live nearby told me to book because the place is always at capacity on Sundays, but it wasn’t actually that full, apart from two large groups in one corner. This, though, was likely because it was marathon day and the tail end of the warmest, sunniest weekend of the year so far.
Oh, I should mention the wine. Unfortunately, there were only two whites to pick from. And as one of them was a Kiwi Sauv Blanc (read about my problem with those here), it was a case of Pino Grigio or, erm… the highway. Not the most adventurous choice then, but it was decent enough, with a pleasant, clean pear and apple freshness.
So… despite the Mont Blanc-sized portions we emerged undefeated. Luckily a comfy sofa within wobbling distance of our table helped us to ride out the meat coma. We sank into it like it was a rehab centre for detoxing post-roasters.
Sure the competition is fierce, but I can’t think of a pub roast that tops this in Brighton and Hove right now.
See thepickledkitchen.co.uk for details.
Home page image by Emma Gutteridge.