The past few years have seen some of the city’s more neglected pubs and venues transformed into craft beer-pumping, niche food-serving hotspots all striving to exude their own personalities through a wall of unintentionally collective identity.
We’ve had the Hare and Hounds, The Joker and more recently the Hope and Ruin, but it was towards the newest of these new kids on the block that we directed our attention last night. Dead Wax Social is the replacement of Bond Street’s Riki Tik, which closed its doors in April to relocate to a more appropriate seafront location.
On entry to the bar and restaurant, which promotes itself as a venue for those who are ‘done with digital’, we are greeted by hundreds of vinyl LPs stacked along the wall. For a vinyl collector such as myself, this is a welcome sight, and even more so as they are actually played instead of just displayed as a pretentious, retro prop.
One of the unique selling points of this place is its vow never to play music digitally; the soundtrack to your session will be provided exclusively by vinyl. Customers are encouraged to bring their own records to adorn the decks, and there is even a listening booth if you want to sit back and enjoy the music, perhaps appealing to those who don’t have a record player of their own at home.
We peruse the drinks list at the front bar, which serves bottled craft beer as well as your usual wines, beers and spirits, and I am delighted to see that they serve my favourite, Einstok White (£4.50) an Icelandic lager that I grew to love during a recent trip to Reykjavik. My colleague orders a gin and tonic, and the wonderfully welcoming staff recommend Brighton Gin served with its trademark wedge of orange, in a gesture that hints to their ‘keep it local’ ethos.
Manager Jack then leads us up steps, past walls plastered in framed music-themed photographs, into the main restaurant and back bar. The restaurant’s concrete walls are spray painted with the logos of scores of Brighton-based labels and record shops, who often visit Dead Wax to spin their records of an evening.
The rear wall of the bar is studded with taps, eight of these producing craft beers of local and foreign origin. A blackboard above displays their names and details, and anything we can’t ascertain from their description is without request relayed to us by the clearly passionate Jack. He even shows us the cellar where the craft beers are stored in key kegs before being served by the half pint or schooner.
Then on to the food. In order to try a variety we order three pizzas from the Pressing Plant Pizza kitchen, a small corner of the restaurant containing a pizza oven, clearly and reassuringly visible to customers. One question that springs to mind as we wait for our pizza is why pizza, when the majority of the other revamped venues in town have gone for more uncommon cuisines such as chicken wings or Mexican.
As Jack explains, he had an original plan to serve New York deli-style sandwiches at Dead Wax, but scrapped this idea after deciding that “beer and pizza just marry up so well together.”
And these are not just any old pizzas. In keeping with the theme, they are made on either 7” or 12” bases, a subtle detail which should make any vinyl lover smile. Made from a unique sourdough recipe meticulously perfected at nearby Flour Pot bakery, the bases deliver a delicate crunch as well as a smooth softness that you don’t experience in authentic Italian pizza. Vegan and vegetarian options are available, but a gluten free option is still being perfected; for now, all you coeliacs will just have to subsist on their gluten free Van Bulck lager.
As 7pm arrives, the first crowds of the evening begin to stream in and we leave on the promise that we will come back soon. Unlike so many of these promises, we really mean it. A great range of beers, impressive food at affordable prices and a music concept that’s not just a novelty but actually works, Dead Wax Social seems like the perfect place to enjoy an evening with friends. You’ll just have to agree on what to listen to.
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