On a recent Friday evening, wanting a break from your average Brighton and Hove gastro pub, a friend and I turned our attention to Brighton’s Scandinavian corner of Little East Street. Providing a fully themed experience, The Northern Lights boasts a lively and loyal crowd with authentic nods to the owners’ roots. From outside, the bustling seating area and illuminated blue woodenframed windows are enough to draw anyone in from the chilly evenings that set in when the sun disappears. Approaching the threshold into what feels like another world, the sign outside gives any visitor a teaser of what’s to come. The Northern Lights’ mantra is stated simply with an afterthought at the end: ‘Thor prayer meetings held monthly’ with a helpful instruction below that still, gently reminding punters, ‘please bring your own ABBA CDs’.
Greeted by friendly faces (don’t stereotype, not all of them are tall and blond), we’re led upstairs. On a bench seat in the middle of the floor, we’ve got a fantastic view of the pub. An eclectic mash of all walks of life gives The Northern Lights a vibrant atmosphere and a laid-back ambience. The lovely owner Pauliina’s son looks after us and with a charming smile Jasu talks us through the menu. We’re told that the kitchen and table service (upstairs only) run right through until midnight so there’s no sense in rushing. A great start to the evening. We scan the menu and select a house cured classic gravadlax starter (£5.95), complimented by pickled cucumbers and Hovmästars dressing (a Swedish mustard sauce) with rye bread.
The gravadlax itself is prepared carefully – that much is evident from the first bite: moist, tender and perfectly flavoursome. We’re also tempted by a sharing platter with a fantastically inviting name: the Viking’s Best Friend (£10.50). This is a porkbased platter featuring honey glazed ham, ham hock terrine and meatballs (the latter being the hot element and tasting divinely rich). It comes with a selection of cheeses all with unique flavours tying in nicely with the meats; a Danish blue, Jarlsberg and goat’s cheese. As suggested by the nod to the Vikings, we felt like we’d eaten enough for four rather than two. Odin help anybody that would undertake this platter alone. The well-rounded menu also has a gluten free, vegetarian and vegan guide, in keeping with the prominent sense of inclusion that The Northern Lights maintains. If you can handle it, you can even ‘make it mega’ for £1.50 on certain dishes.
As I’m sure most people in the city are aware, the Scandinavian drinks menu is quite something at this pub. We started with an Icelandic pale ale called Einstök and a lemon and ginger fruit cider by the name of älska (pronounced elska) by The Swedish Cider Company. Jasu upholds his duty as host and recommends us some of the house’s most popular shots, and who are we to say no? Infused with the flavour of Nordic berries, wild tea and Minttu Peppermint, we are quite merry and in full swing of what the pub is all about. If you want great food and service and the chance to continue your night with lively music without breaking the bank, look no further.
Words by Freya Hughes