Before summer made a last-ditch effort to appear this year, giving us a few blissful days of 79 degree weather, we had a more normal southern English autumn of sun and showers. Mr Lemur and I decided to take a popular local walk along the base of the sea cliffs from Brighton to Rottingdean. It’s easy to forget what a beautiful place I live in, and this walk was the perfect reminder. Plus, we had an ulterior motive: we’d heard that a regular looking pub in nearby Rottingdean had a Jamaican chef who made really good Caribbean food. Clearly, this was a necessary research excursion…
We set out from Brighton Marina, which is not beautiful at all but a hideous Thatcherite development, but as soon as you leave the Marina behind there are surfers and dramatic views. The walk started off like this:
Unfortunately, half an hour in, it looked more like this:
A hilariously torrential downpour hit about half way along the walkway, and as you can see, there’s really no shelter. Some people doubled back to seek refuge in a cafe area but we Scots are made of sterner stuff. If it rains, I’ll get wet has long been my anti-umbrella mantra because, really, if you come from the West of Scotland, you’d be signing up to a permanent umbrella attachment and that’s just annoying. Here we got pretty well soaked but then the sun came back and the dark sky against the white cliffs was really very dramatic. Still, I’m sure we wouldn’t have had such problems in Montego Bay…
When we got to the Queen Victoria pub, I have to say it was kind of unprepossessing. The exterior is nice but inside, I got a bit of a Slaughtered Lamb feel from the locals. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever waited longer to be served at a bar, and there was only one punter before me. I swear the bartender was thinking up ways to slow things down: she went out and came back with a teapot, then away again for the cup, then again for the milk and again for the spoon. When the customer asked for lemon in it, I almost cried. Anyway, we finally got our food: jerk chicken with plantains and rice for me, chicken and spinach curry for Mr Lemur.
The jerk chicken was good but not great. I don’t know if the chef is toning it down for the white people (which, let’s face it, would make sense around here) but it lacked both scotch bonnet heat and allspice warmth. You can see from the colour of the bird here, I think, that it’s not quite right. However, the sweet scotch bonnet BBQ sauce that came on the side was delicious and had a good heat on it. I smothered the whole dish with it and was quite the happy bunny. Also, I had fried plantains which are always a good thing.
Mr Lemur had this curry, which was very tasty but also a bit on the mild side. The chef was wandering round the bar and we said hello. He seemed super nice and I think these little pockets of non-traditional pub food are absolutely to be encouraged. However, I have two suggestions for the Queen Victoria:
1) Have more faith in your diners and step up the Caribbean flavours. British people like a bit of spice and I think there’s an audience out there for proper Jamaican food. Give us some dumplings, some curry goat, or some escovitch fish. The food is nice but I want a bit more to become a return customer.
2) Shape up the service. I know it’s not a restaurant or even a gastropub, and I know I’m probably being all American in expecting any kind of good service, but for real. One poor waiter almost dropped a plate of curry en route to a table, spilling some on the floor, and then he tried to give it to the customer! If you want to attract people who’re coming for the food, you have to make the experience a little more pleasurable.
I’m sounding a bit negative, perhaps because I’d high expectations, but I don’t want to slate the place too much. The food was nice and a welcome change from pub roasts on a Sunday afternoon. If you’re in the neighbourhood, the Queen Victoria is worth checking out.
Queen Victoria pub, 54 High St, Rottingdean, BN2 7HF