The Constant Service review

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Making my personal debut into the world of legal drinking in the last few years, I find myself going to gastropub after gastropub with the same uncanny feeling of a polished yet rustic, laid-back yet formal service. It’s really quite confusing. Everyone seems to be pumping out food, expensive and in some cases, slightly unfitting.

I walked into The Constant Service on an unassuming Wednesday evening expecting much the same. Instead I was greeted by jovial bar staff, regulars chatting away at the bar and most importantly, a hugely cosy and welcoming vibe. One of the first things to strike me was the bar. No overflowing shelves of various liquors that nobody ever orders – instead, a large proportion of them contain vinyl records, flanking the bar. There are signs dotted around advertising ‘bring your own record’ nights. This, to me, induced a slight grin, as the focus here is clearly to keep customers grooving to a soundtrack they actually enjoy.

My companion and I hit the bar and ordered a beer each. It felt only right in such a gem of a boozer to grab a lager while my partner, a Lewes man, ordered a pint of Harveys ale. We then turned our attention to the menu – a short piece of literature with a charming caricature of head chef, Tom. The pies are quite clearly his speciality. As I was lucky enough to catch the man himself in person, I got to find out that he’s a local chap, making local food and enjoying the popularity of his brainchild. Having spent much of the last 20 years in the area and very much enjoying the transition from regular customer to bar staff then on, again, to setting up the kitchen, Tom has clearly put his stamp on this traditionally British pub. The same can definitely be said about general manager, Jane, who has worked closely with her head chef to create a menu and relaxed environment that will agree with anyone.

Once we place our orders, we sit back and take in the understated scenery. Our pies arrive promptly and we’re in heaven. I order the ‘Mumbo Gumbo’, consisting of spiced fish, king prawns and chicken cooked to perfection in a Cajun-style tomato sauce. We’re given the choice of gravy as we order and mine is the red onion gravy (V), setting off the particular flavours of each component. The slight spice and succulent seafood compliment one another perfectly and with such high-rising pastry, I’m in for a treat. My dining partner opts for the ‘Lewes Cowboy’ which is a traditional steak and (Harveys) ale pie. As it’s a classic meat pie, he goes for the rich and strongly flavoured ‘mighty meaty’ gravy. As a slight food thief, I can indeed confirm that the gravy went seriously well with the pie.

All of Big Tom’s pies are served with a choice of creamy mash and steamed greens and are priced very fairly at £7.95 (they even have ‘pie and a pint’ nights on Mondays for just a tenner!). With such hearty portions and a great selection of proper session booze, The Constant Service is a watering hole for anyone that wants a proper British pub experience.

Somehow we manage to get ourselves out to the beer garden. Desperate for some fresh air and a general breather after the fabulous Big Tom’s Kitchen experience, we plonk ourselves down in one of the two booths in the quaint little garden. I feel myself slip into a food-induced funk with some soft reggae playing from the outdoor speakers.

The Constant Service is at 96 Islingword Road, Brighton, BN2 2SJ

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