What's it like at The Urchin in Hove
PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 January 2020
Copyright Renny Whitehead All Rights Reserved
We find a tantalising combination of tradition and innovation at The Urchin in Hove
Finding the perfect name for a pub or restaurant can't be easy, but the clever folk at The Urchin, with its tantalising combination of the strange and the familiar, have hit the nail on the head.
A golden glow spills out onto the pavement of a quiet street in Hove as we push open the door and squeeze our way into the packed bar. In the next room, thick swags of rope are suspended over a collection of wooden tables and chairs, the only obvious nod to the pub's nautical theme.
The regular menu is reasonably short but there's also a specials board, which changes on a weekly basis, although some popular dishes are kept on for longer. There are a couple of veggie options, but everything else is shellfish, the majority of which comes from Fish Galore, a supplier based in Hove. There's craft beer aplenty and Larrikin, the pub's craft beer, is brewed on-site with plans for more varieties to be available on tap in the near future.
Clams with IPA and garlic (£8) are served in a copper cataplana, a clam-shaped pot originating from Portugal. The lid is opened to reveal a cluster of half-opened shells in a light broth. Never is seafood happier than when smothered in garlic, so these clams are utterly content. The only thing missing is some bread to mop up the sauce. My companion makes her request and soft, chewy slices appear almost before she's finished her sentence.
A delicate tangle of pale orange-pink langoustine (£10.50) with dill, lime and a well-dressed salad transports me to the wild banks of Lake Vänern in Sweden. Every carefully extracted morsel of meat fills my lungs with cool lake air.
Another special and another cataplana, this time hiding a pile of tender coconut laksa mussels (£12). A warming Asian soup known for its restorative powers, this version is fragrant with Thai basil, bright with fresh tomato and utterly soul-soothing.
The banana blossom pakora taco (£12) is a new experience for me and one I strongly recommend. Banana blossom is the tear-shaped flower that grows at the base of a cluster of bananas. It has a flaky texture that bears an uncanny resemblance to fish and a subtle flavour similar to a very under-ripe banana. Here, the flower 'fillet' has been cloaked in a smoky pakora batter and sits on a soft taco with a zesty slaw and hot green chilli sauce.
Dessert is a Patrón Cafe (coffee tequila) panna cotta at £4. It's rich, creamy and kicks like a mule.
This is casual dining at its best: reassuringly simple but with just enough surprises to keep you coming back for more.
See more of Laura Paton's reviews at scribblinginthekitchen.wordpress.com