February 19, 2015
by Matt Simmons
The Centurion at Sea;
Disclaimer: this article contains no shellfish puns.
A week ago I popped in on the guys at the site of the Urchin Pub, formerly the Bell, in Hove to see how production was coming along.
For those who don’t know (and you really should by now!) the Urchin is the genius outcome of the transformation of what was yet another, very standard Hove boozer.
Created by the guys behind the Brighton-famous Small Batch and Velo Café Empire, the Urchin is a craft beer pub that also happens to serve an extensive menu of reasonably priced, delicious, freshly sourced shellfish.
After learning about the concept from Manager Nick Jerrim, and seeing the labourers hard at work I was incredibly anticipative to see whether they would be ready to launch for their proposed date.
Upon returning on Monday for the soft opening it was great to see all the hard work and creative effort had paid off.
Reclaimed cages, rope and teak, all up-cycled create the ‘wharf’’ theme throughout the Urchin, as well cultivating the perfect setting for this shellfish serving venue. Old ship lighting from buoys and barges offer soft lighting, which adds to the warm atmosphere and Brighton Gin bottles corked with candles illuminate the tables, a subtle nod to the home-town distillery rumoured to be moving into their basement space. The pub quickly became buzzing and cosy, with all available space filling up with happy local punters curious to see what this unique venture right at the end of their road has to offer!
To the beer.
After being welcomed and squeezing through the crowds amassing, I found myself standing next to the 8ft something high craft beer cabinet. The Urchin’s other little USP, beside the shellfish, is that they boast a 100-strong variety of craft beers, direct from the growing number of craft beer breweries spreading across the world at this current moment in time. You might as well try the lot (they’re even starting a Centurion Club card with a prize once you have tried the entire selection; so you won’t just have an empty wallet and a beer gut when you make it through!).
Beer No. 1:
Raging Bitch Belgian style ale from Flying Dog Brewery
I have to say it was the bizarre artwork that drew me to this one, but I’m thankful it did. Weighing in at 8.4% this rose coloured ale comes in punching with strong floral flavours and a malty texture. However I did want to make it through the night and as it was barely 7pm, I’d have to lower the ABV on my next one so:
Beer No. 2:
Mosaic Zeus Apollo Pale Ale from Kernel Brewery
If you’re into your craft beer you will have heard of Kernel, they’re everywhere at the moment and for good reason. This beer hits you with a wall of citrus aromas before you even taste and delivers the same on the tongue. A lighter beer, with a sweetness that will stay with you for your next few rounds.
Beer No. 3:
Wild Goose Chase from Wild Beer Co.
These guys have an awesome range of crafts and are really worth checking out. The Wild Goose Chase was spotted off the ‘beer of the week’ board and rightly so. Made with gooseberry’s, hence the name, it has an initial tart, almost savoury, indication which develops into a fruity rich body, a definite winner. This one also sent the staff wild when ordered, seems to be a favourite across the board.
Whilst all this beer tasting was going on, sample plates of the shellfish menu were being passed around. All sourced from either Brighton or Cornwall we were presented with crab dumplings & tatties with soy or chilli-tartare dips and oysters with red wine and challot vinegar relish. It’s needless to say they were met with ravenous eyes and bellies. Who knew shellfish and craft beer would go together so well?
These guys. These guys knew.
On that third beer and final relish dripped oyster, plucked from it’s shell, my accomplices knocking back a Symonds Cider and a 330ml can of Beavertown Gamma Ray, we decided it was time to call it a night so we collected our things and our dignity, were bid farewell by the staff and headed off into the night. At 9pm.
I must give credit to staff who, even on the first day of opening seem to already have gelled as a team, with a bit of typical bar banter flying about behind draught taps and rows of empty glasses.
The Urchin is exactly what it set out to be, a friendly local where you can pop down for a great pint and some incredible shellfish, that won’t cost you a fortune (with a beer setting you back £4 and a main £10/12; they also serve wines and ciders). There is a large outdoor space which will be up and running for summer and with the incredible team behind the bar and in the kitchen, you’ll definitely see this venue pull in the loyal, cult following of hipsters and young professionals, families and regular punters that the Small Batch coffee houses have today.