When I think ‘better half’, I usually assume it’s just a phrase used to refer to somebody’s partner, especially if said partner is just a bit nicer or well adjusted. But if you really think about it, it’s quite a broad term. In terms of Hove ‘s The Better Half pub, it’s more of a nod to the quite unique, united yet competitive, nature of our city. Brighton is known for the buzzing nightlife, while Hove has always been to me more of a laid-back enjoy-an-afternoon sort of place. Different but equal, I’d say, but a name that gets you thinking.
Walking into a pub during an average weekday afternoon, the chances are there’ll be just a handful of diners, and a sprinkling of one-pint-wonders. After its regeneration from The Red Lion, this Hove watering hole has blossomed into life over the last few months. Hearing great things about the décor and fine selection of drinks, soft and otherwise, we eagerly enter on a day with flashes of torrential rain, happy to find safety inside.
From the second we entered, the keen eye landlord Simon has for creating a sleek and artistic, yet warm and inviting, aesthetic is evident. The walls, a shade of green, are complimented by running greys, browns and metallics throughout the interior. These seamlessly match the exterior of the building, giving a strong sense of the brand Simon has created. One thing really taking our attention is the perfectly polished metal bar top, maintained fantastically well by attentive staff. Our eyes flick around the entrance to the establishment, taking in all manner of sights including fresh flowers adorning the windowsills and tables, and portraits stretching up onto the ceiling. And what portraits they are: Victorian-esque, with the gold of The Better Half’s theme outlining them, some with the geometric pattern running through the pub and some with song lyrics and sayings. The colours combine to create a relaxed and comfortable environment, which is clean and effortless. I even spot Leo, Simon’s gorgeous dog, waiting patiently near the entrance to the kitchen, enjoying the smells wafting out of there almost as much as I am!
We get ourselves acquainted with the long ‘L’-shaped bar, ordering a pint of Grolsch (£4.20) and a pint of Thistly Cross cider (£4.20). We then take a seat in a light and spacious booth-like table, with a soft, brown leather banquette parallel to one side. We’re both happy to be served classic brews, which I personally consider to be on the higher end of the spectrum. Then we begin a lovely chat with Simon who tells us he’s delighted to have “good beers, nice wines and fantastic, friendly staff”. We find out the establishment entertains all walks of life: from the retired to students, it caters for all. Introduced to a regular customer by the name of Jack, he assures us it’s not just this particular afternoon which has a fantastic foot-tapping soundtrack, but in general he tells me: “the music is mint!”
Having the menu quietly tempt us with luxurious sounding yet affordable delights, we turn our attention to this fully stocked list of treats. Sectioned off into their own respective favourable halves, we debate between testing out the general mains or ‘The Burger Half’. The à la carte winning out, I go for a spectacular chargrilled salmon fillet (£10.95) on a bed of Niçoise salad with juicy cherry tomatoes and fine green beans. A poached egg, cooked precisely and seasoned perfectly is balanced on top of the fillet. I was originally unsure about having fish and egg together in this way, but decided to take the risk. It certainly paid off; resulting in one of the best fish dishes I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in a long time. My colleague went for a spicy beef salad (points to both of us for being so healthy, thank you very much) at £9.95, it was accompanied by sesame and soy dressing. The meat is cooked to accentuate the fullest flavour possible and served with delightful complimentary ingredients, including fresh lime, spring onions and peppers, with chillies bringing a subtle heat to the dish.
As the intermittent rain from that day seemed to have stopped just as we ordered, we enjoyed our meals whilst the sun escaped the cloud cover and shone down through the window onto our table – I couldn’t imagine enjoying a Wednesday afternoon more. To quote one of the more tongue-in-cheek portraits decorating the walls, “let’s drink to that”.