Review – RYBKA Brighton if it’s good enough for Bald & Bankrupt, Johnny FD and the Mac Master…

Rybka (the fish likes to swim), 41 Meeting House Lane Brighton, England, BN1 1HB, United Kingdom.

The initially rather cryptic sounding name actually stems from the Polish phrase “rybka lubi pływać”, referring to the tradition of eating pickled fish alongside a frozen vodka chaser. This is, admittedly, a bit of an interesting premise for somewhere that is serving a traditional British staple; fish and chips. Interesting, however, does not begin to describe this restaurant; serving the deep-fried treat amongst a number of Polish-inspired articles.

My first thoughts upon entering the venue were that it seemed exceptionally busy for your average fish and chip shop, which in fairness, to the untrained eye, this business masquerades as. Despite it being a Thursday evening, tables were full and conversation was lively. The sound system played alternative rock from the likes of The Cure, the atmosphere definitely suggested very casual dining and the menu itself held the artful simplicity that is a tell-tale sign of a good fish and chip shop. 

Rybka

There is, however, one glaring difference between this menu and that of your average seafront chippy and that is the “Rybka Spesh”, the dish from which the restaurant took its name. Naturally, I made great haste to try it whilst waiting for the rest of the Sussex.News crew to arrive resulting in me being able to sink two in the space it had taken for anyone to join me. Consisting of a single marinated pickled herring on a skewer and the obligatory frozen vodka chaser, the Spesh is a homage to the homeland of one of the owners. For those curious, the innate fishiness of the herring is considerably muted by the pickling solution. The vodka (English, if you were wondering) on the other hand went down as smooth as milk, the chilled temperature muting the burn that is synonymous with the beverage.

Their arrival was of course punctuated by a glance at the beverage menu, and Rybka did not pull any punches here. This is the first chippy I have been to that has offered cocktails in addition to the first that has a range of kegged craft beers. With my dear readers in mind, I thought it only right that I were to try both. The espresso martini chosen by one of my companions was velvet smooth, my blood and sand equally so, both crammed so full of flavour that you momentarily forget you are in a fish bar. The beers are lovely; locally-sourced, (Bedlam, Little Creatures), well kept and frankly a better option than what is served in a number of pubs in the same area. 

Espresso Martini

With our numerous libations in hand, we decided to make our selections for dinner. As fish and chips can really only be judged by the quality of, well, the fish and chips, a hake supper was my choice, with another member of the crew selecting the deep-fried halloumi. The supper itself here is a thing of beauty. The chips are sous-vied before double frying, leading to a perfectly crisp chip with the innards remaining fluffy and tender. The batter for the fish is made hourly and is particularly light, allowing the fish itself to shine through and the whole meal to not be overly stodgy (a normal concern of mine whenever I choose to eat chip-shop food). Our hake was also served alongside a very agreeable curry sauce; thick, saporous and reminiscent of what is served in a good Chinese takeaway. Again, in the interest of research, I felt obligated to pilfer a chunk of halloumi which of course did not disappoint.

Chips!

Each member found great satisfaction within the meal, and yet Rybka had one last surprise in store. Above the dining area lies a small bar that hosts regular events, moonlighting as a music venue after the kitchen itself has closed. A fantastic use of the space provided by the building and something that seemed immensely popular with locals as there were in fact no seats remaining by the time we arrived. The building offers pleasant acoustics and the talented performers were a wonderful end to what was a sumptuous and substantial meal.

Overall, there was a unanimous decision amongst the crew that Rybka offers something beyond that of a simple fish bar, providing superior quality food and sustainably caught fish alongside high-quality drinks that are too often overlooked in the industry. With its convenient central location within the Brighton Lanes, this makes for one of the best choices in town should one be seeking sustenance or entertainment.

Written by @TheMintonEatsSussex.News reviewer

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