As a huge fan of American BBQ I was thrilled to read Jay Rayner’s recent glowing review of the food at The World’s End pub in Brighton, my hometown of London being somewhat oversaturated with disappointingly mediocre examples of this fine cuisine born in the heat and smoke of the South. So recently, when family duty saw me down in that corner of the world I hurried with unconcealed excitement to this unassuming little pub on the distant outskirts of Brighton’s central shopping district, ready for a feast of ribs, wings and slaw.
A little something called the bank holiday weekend conspired against me however, and when we rocked up early Sunday lunchtime (food served “12-‘til it runs out”) we were told by a weary server that much of the menu was sold out, including those famous ribs. Ah well, I said, save that for next time, what I’m REALLY craving now is some hot wings. But no, they’re not on the menu either, not ever in fact – how can you do American BBQ and not have wings? Aren’t sticky, BBQ- or hot sauce- glazed wings charred from the pit, succulent within, and served with their best-friend-in-bad-taste, blue cheese sauce, a key staple on any menu of this sort?! Apparently not here, a BBQ restaurant located in a cavernous dark wood-panelled pub catering largely (when we were there) to the football-watching locals. I desperately wanted to like it, being a big fan of anywhere I can curl up at 1pm with a pint and a book, but nowhere that shuts its windows and rolls down its shutters on a bright sunny day, just in order to improve the visibility of its three giant projector-screen televisions, is going to win with me, no matter how many leather sofas and walls of books it has.
Back to the food, and once we’d recovered from the ribs and chicken wing disappointments there was plenty to choose from that whetted the appetite and we eventually settled on a beef brisket bap and chilli-cheese hot dog, plus sides of fries and coleslaw. When it arrived it transpired that the ‘fries’ were in fact big chunky chips, just as one might have from any chippy on the pier (when I order fries I want FRIES dammit – American, thin-cut, FRIES) and the hot dog was actually a huge fat sausage of the Cumberland variety I suspect given how pungent it was with herbs. Neither item was at all unpleasant (the chips in fact were excellent), but also emphatically not what was expected or desired. The beef brisket was flavoursome and tender, a clear indicator of someone skilled at the grill, and the chilli on the hot dog was proper old-school: no namby pamby mince here, just huge chunks of slow-cooked meat and tender little pinto beans.
Sadly the good ended there, with everything else a bit of a letdown (again, not bad precisely, just not, well – not what you expect from somewhere Lord Rayner describes as the home of “real BBQ”). Everything cried out for sauce but all the condiments on offer – and let’s face it this kind of food is DESIGNED for condiments – were ridiculously vinegary: the ketchup, chipotle BBQ sauce, the ‘very hot’ chilli sauce (not hot), the jarred jalapenos, everything, right down to the otherwise fruity and flavourful sauce that accompanied my hot dog. I like acetic acid as much as the next person but I quickly felt my mouth pickling under the influence, and there was no doubt everything needed the lubrication – I suspect the otherwise tasty chilli had perhaps been stewing under a hot lamp since the beginning of the bank holiday.
Would I go back? Well yes, to try the ribs denied me on this occasion, but I won’t be making a special trip, and in all honesty I think for your American BBQ needs you’d be better off at Bodeans.
The World’s End Pub (http://www.bbqshack.co.uk)
2 main meals with sides and two drinks –£23.26.