After last week’s dreary showing from Shelter Hall, I’ve scoured the Brighton coastline for a more suitable option for those seeking an alternative to the depressing fayre that we were greeted with, and, by the good fortune of a post-meal pint, we came upon the also newly refurbished Star and Garter.
Formerly known as Doctor Brighton’s and freshly decked out from the Farrow and Ball paint chart, this pastel-fronted boozer is only a stone’s throw from the sea and within comfortable walking distance from the city centre. In what appears to be another happy twist of fate, I was soon made aware that this was the new residence of Brighton meat-mongering stalwarts Burger Kult and so plans to dine were hastily arranged for the following afternoon.
Dominated by the bar’s impressive frontage, the pub itself shows little resemblance to its predecessor. From its azure walls and pillars to the beautiful tiling that lies next to the varnished floorboards and the glow of the lilac logo adorning the wall the pub appears to have found the Goldilocks niche of being both distinctive yet comfortable. Offering booths for intimate gatherings and open tables for those of a more social disposition in addition to outdoor seating there is ample space for punters be them two-legged or four. There has been no expense spared on the polish either, with the space showing an exemplary level of cleanliness throughout with gleaming tables and, if one snatches a glimpse of it, the kitchen too.
The staff were all exceptionally welcoming, lending an ear to our woeful travels (thanks Shelter Hall) and offering knowledgeable recommendations. Sadly, while craft beer is certainly available here, at the time of our visit there were no cask options. With that out of the way, what is available here appears to have been closely curated, my favourite of which is the Vault City (Edinburgh). This weighs in at a staggering 9% ABV and is only available in vessels up to schooner. Though not to everyone’s tastes, this is a truly impressive beer that showcases its fruitiness while balancing its sour style with a heaping helping of its heather honey (try saying this after three schooners) leading to a thoroughly enjoyable drinkable dessert experience.
Then, of course, comes the food. As I’ve stated before, Kenny, the founder of Burger Kult, has been doing this for seven years now and the menu drew my interest immediately. Describing themselves as a “specialist burger house” that professes to have harnessed “the dark art of the burger” there is no shortage of creativity nor local provenance here. Each item is a well-thought-out opus, decked -out with in-house-made sauces, artisanal cheeses and more adventurous accoutrements allowing for everything from numerous vegan options to those that epitomise the concept of a “dirty burger” with even German Bockwurst making an appearance within the ever-rotating choices.
My order was the “Black Spell”, consisting of ground chuck steak, maple bacon, St Giles Cheese, onion treacle relish and a mixed leaf salad alongside a portion of fries. Naturally, given the length of time that Burger Kult has been in operation, one would expect the fries to be perfect and Chef Kenny has no trouble delivering this. The burger itself utilises a demi-brioche bun which provides a balance between the richness of brioche and the firm stability of a classic bun, eliminating the dreaded soggy bottom. The chuck patty is thick and flavoursome with the oozing meltiness of the St Giles complimenting the maple bacon wonderfully.
Despite all this, though, what truly makes Burger Kult unique are its sauces. The Black Spell practically glistens from the bourbon barbecue dressing – this is where the venue’s strengths, much like the burger itself, really start to shine. Imagine then, the utter jubilation I felt as we were treated to a platter to try them out.
Expectations are always going to be high when a chef decides to offer anything named “Liquid Gold” but this, remarkably, doesn’t feel like an oversell at all. Every sauce here is house-made and we were guided through their flavour profiles – each is delicious in its own right ranging from the punchy horseradish and lime-based “swamp sauce” to the deliciously blasphemous bourbon-infused chilli jam “blood of Christ”.
Comparatively, dessert here is a relatively simple option taking the form of a brioche ‘donut’. A brioche bun transformed by virtue of black magic chef-ing into a crisp and sugary treat stuffed with ice-cream, I’ve returned to the venue a number of times since my first visit for the sake of procuring more of these. They are astoundingly good.
This is a pub that I struggle to critique. It manages to offer incredible food without the pretence of being a “gastropub”. It’s a top-quality establishment without the associated smugness while still offering a menu that changes on a weekly basis. Given the prime location, it is understandably not the cheapest meal in town – but as far as burger experiences go, the Star and Garter is ahead by a country mile.