I often find that by the time Sunday appears I’ve used up all my little grey cells during the week and can think of absolutely nothing that I want to do. More often than not, my indecision means that I lay horizontally for most of the morning before drifting to the nearest pub serving a roast, feasting, then it’s off to reacquaint myself with the sofa for the rest of the day. However, one Sunday, things were radically different as I was treated to Matchday Hospitality for an Albion V Newcastle game. As much as I love the rowdy excitement of the football crowds post-match (especially if the result has gone our way), it was really nice catching a nearly empty train up to the Amex Stadium due to us being a good couple of hours before kick-off.
We weaved our way to the east entrance and entered the rather lovely Goldstone Restaurant which had a naturally friendly atmosphere and lovely minimalist décor. In pride of place were black and white canvasses of heroic Brighton players through the years which really solidified not only how far the team had come but how deserving of their Premier League place they were. We were presented with a glass of Ridgeview – a personal favourite of mine – and sat down to survey the menu. Millie, our lovely server, came and enquired if we had chosen from the Meat, Fish and Vegetable sharing platters and also if we wanted anything more to drink as selected soft drinks, beers and wines are all included within the price.
Being meat-lovers, of the most obsessive variety, we went for the meat option of charcuterie, buffalo mozzarella and marinated olives and being far from teetotal we chose a bottle of Spanish white. The platter arrived and was fantastic; juicy large olives, creamy mozzarella, smoky chorizo and delectable slices of salami and Serrano. These were quickly gobbled up and washed down with the light and easy-drinking white.
Continuing our meaty theme, and because I find it nigh on impossible to turn down steak when it is offered to me I chose a 170g rib eye which was accompanied by huge portions of sautéed potatoes, tender stem broccoli, green beans, tomatoes and béarnaise sauce. The steak was melt in the mouth gorgeous and the crispy potatoes and perfectly cooked greens created a fantastically well-rounded meal. Sipping my wine and surveying the excitable pre-game buzz in the restaurant I realised I should channel the spirit of the team’s monumental rise into the Premier League and order dessert. Okay, okay I didn’t actually need much persuading when I looked at the menu and saw that they had a cherry sundae with amaretto on the menu. It was absolutely phenomenal; silky and sweet Sussex ice cream with whole cherries and a pipette of amaretto to wantonly pour over it all. Sitting back contentedly it was with surprise that I noticed the presence of Alan Mullery, legendary player for multiple teams and manager of Albion between 76’ and 81’. His charismatic chatter and invitation of questions from the room was a fantastic interlude before the big game, especially as nerves were clearly getting the better of most of us.
The wonderfully enthusiastic Ian – Commercial Executive at the club – came over and asked us our predictions, and while we knew that the team had been on a difficult run there was certainly a quiet optimism in the room. After ordering our drinks for half-time we made our way to the great seats pretty much in the centre of the Lower East Stand. The game kicked off and it was very much end to end stuff with Brighton seeming happy to play on the break. At half time there was a tense yet hopeful atmosphere as we retreated to the restaurant to quickly consume our pre-ordered drinks. Once back to our seats we didn’t have to wait long for a goal as a dextrous volley from striker Tomer Hemed secured a one goal lead much to the frenzied delight of the Albion fans.
The second half was without a doubt an uneasy one for the home team as a composed Newcastle side remained seemingly unshaken, however Brighton held their nerve and served up a one- nil win to a jubilant crowd. We practically skipped back to the restaurant and were greeted again by our friendly server Millie asking if we wanted some more drinks. Feeling more than a little celebratory we ordered a bottle of plummy and fruity red and chatted excitedly about what was a very important win for Brighton. When the result is a good one I think it is hard to capture a better sense of unity than that created by the fans of a football team and this was no exception. Thinking that the day couldn’t possibly get any better I actually managed to get a photo with the man of the match Hemed, and I’m sure his eardrums are still tingling from my over-excited screeching. It is hard not to be intensely pleased with a day that combines excellent food, unlimited drinks, fantastic service and a game of football. I’ve had some brilliant days out recently but I can’t think of a single one that tops my Matchday Hospitality experience at the Albion.