There have been whisperings around Brighton in recent weeks that we’ve reached “peak burger” in the city. With numerous burger outlets already dotting the map from Saltdean to the deepest corners of Hove – and the recent addition of a well-known American burger chain down at the Marina – it’s easy to see why so many of our locals have started to forgo the age-old tradition of burgers-as-pub-grub. There’s one that’s bucking the trend though: with Western Road’s The Temple Bar waving goodbye to Curry Leaf Café last month, there was an opening in their kitchen for something new, unexpected, different. Enter Lucky Beach.
On the surface, there’s not an awful lot different as you enter The Temple Bar; in fact, you may not even have realised until now that their kitchen has undergone a massive change since Lucky Beach launched there in November. That is, until you look at the menu. In true Lucky Beach style, everything is mouth-wateringly described (and as we find out later, even more tasty than they give it credit for), from their snacks and sharers all the way to their burger menu. We order Ox Cheek Nuggets (£4.75) and the Crispy Masala Squid (£6.75), which arrive quickly, and tuck in. Cooked to perfection, the softness of the squid is excellently complimented by the crispy tempura-like coating; its delicate masala flavouring nods to their predecessors at The Temple Bar. We declare in unison it’s the best squid we’ve ever eaten, and move on to the ox cheek, whose melt-in-your-mouth heaven and rich flavouring is probably only rivalled by eight-hour slow cooked beef. While the squid was certainly a hit, it’s these little nuggets – which remind us a lot of Dutch bitterballen – which I’ll be returning for to get me through the winter months.
Okay, so on to the burgers because, after all, this is what we came for. I’m instantly drawn to the Sussex Shorthorn (£8.75) – a dreamy combination of fig jam, toasted hazelnuts and little somethings called ‘pig candy’ and ‘ketchup leather’, immediately piquing my interest. My companion goes for the Burnt Padron & Halloumi Burger (£7.75), with the Blue Cheese & Bacon Fries on the side (£4.75, recommended by the bartender), and neither of us is disappointed in the slightest. Stacked and full of well-balanced flavours, I’m told by my cohort the halloumi is cooked flawlessly; the egg yolk oozing from the burger only adds to her delight. Conversely, the Sussex Shorthorn is bloody marvellous, the sweetness of the fig jam and ‘pig candy’ (aptly-named bacon, as it turns out) countering the savouriness of the burger and cheese effortlessly. The ketchup leather is something we’ll see popping up in burgers everywhere in coming months; gone forever are ketchup stains and splatters in favour of a concentrated gelatinous wafer of the red stuff. The burger comes pink in the middle – just the way I like it – but that may be something for those who prefer a well-done middle to consider. The fries are a pleasant surprise in that they’re not overloaded with salt, and we swear taste better and better the more we eat. However, our bellies are only so big, and we’ve eaten so much already that a heart-breaking amount of the bowl is leftover. All things considered, I’d recommend multiple visits.
While the food at Lucky Beach is a far cry from which I’d become accustomed to at my favourite Western Road hangout. If there’s anything Lucky Beach’s residency at The Temple Bar proves, it’s that the era of the burger is far from ‘over’ – and they’re closer to the top of the game than ever. This is the best food we’ve eaten for a really long time, and we’ll definitely be returning.
Lucky Beach has taken residence at The Temple Bar, 121 Western Road, BN1 2AD
Images by Ellie Talebian