[metaslider id=31942] Hidden around the back of the unassuming Blatchington Road and the not so unassuming Tesco in Hove, you’ll find The Urchin, which opened back in February. My friend and I were initially a little lost looking for this place as Google Maps told us there was a road that didn’t exist (as usual) but we soon found it. Easily overlooked at first, the modest exterior doesn’t give a hint to the culinary treasures that lie within. As we approach, I catch sight of the A-board outside, telling me that they stock 100 different beers. Things are going to get exciting.
The Urchin does minimalism very well with its clean interior. Muted grey is the colour of choice with a beautifully stripped wood floor and glass ball lights hanging from the ceiling on heavy ropes, echoing the oceanic theme of the menu.
Manager Nick greets us warmly and introduces us to the extensive beer menu. How do I choose? There are so many beers that the menu is even split into continents! Nick recommends we try a few beers throughout the meal. Starting on the lighter side of things, he brings us a Hitachino White Ale (£5.25) from Japan. The bottle alone is beautiful enough but the beer really is something special – it’s light and floral with lychee notes and has an aroma not unlike lilies. Even my friend – who isn’t usually a beer drinker – has soon emptied her glass.
We take our time with the menu as it all looks so delicious. There’s an ever-changing selection of seafood dishes which are reasonably priced, with starters not topping £9.50 and mains £12.50 (excluding the luxurious whole lobster at £29).
Whilst we decide, we are presented with an overflowing mini bucket of breads with oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. It’s some of the best bread I’ve ever had – deliciously soft with a delightful sourness. We are also treated to another beer, the yeasty Goose Island Urban Wheat Ale (£4.85), another light one with a nice fizz and a hoppy flavour.
Although I could have happily spent the evening on their beers alone, our starters soon arrive. I go for the Grilled Langoustines with Lime and Coriander Butter (£9.50) and my friend chooses the Salt and Pepper Squid with Soy and Ginger (£7). The langoustines are tender and sweet with a citrus tang. They come half-shelled, which makes them a task to eat, but I’m given a handy tool. Once I manage to prize them out, it’s a small achievement and well worth it. My friend’s squid is equally delicious with the light batter detracting nothing from the tenderness. The soy and ginger dip simply highlights the taste.
As we waited eagerly for the mains, another beer arrives in the form of the Siren Undercurrent Oatmeal Pale Ale (£4.95). With its smooth taste and yet another lychee undertone, it also has a slight pink tinge to it, which makes it feel rather special.
Soon we’re onto the mains. I go for a classic in the form of Moules Marinieres (£9.50) and my friend chose the Scallops with Pea Puree and Smoked Bacon (£12) along with a side of fries (£3) because we’re pretty hungry! My moules arrive in a copper type pan with a hinged lid, providing a useful place for a hand bowl and empty shells. It’s the biggest portion of mussels I’ve ever seen, but of course I’m not complaining. I’m a big fan of this classic dish and have tried it in several places across the city but this really is the best I’ve ever had. Every single mussel is cooked to perfection and some are huge compared to the ones I’ve previously encountered. The white wine and shallot sauce is luxurious, comforting and well seasoned. The chips were crispy yet fluffy and I had great pleasure in drowning a few in my Mariniere sauce. My friend’s scallops were beautifully presented in half shells, expertly cooked with a golden sheen and the pea puree and bacon added a salty yet sweet aspect, which worked together well.
The Urchin doesn’t do dessert but this was fine with us as we were more than satisfied. However they do offer a tempting cheese board, which comes with Cornish Yarg, Berkshire Wigmore, Stilton and Ash Pyramid (£8). Instead of dessert we opt for one more beer to share, one that caught my eye at the very beginning of the evening – Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch (£5.85), coming in at a hefty 8.3%. The strength doesn’t distract from the taste; it’s a complex Belgian-style IPA with pine, grapefruit and sweet malts.
We approach the end of our evening happily full and satisfied. As we leave we notice that there’s a large beer garden out the back, unfortunately it was a little chilly to venture out on this visit but I’m sure it would be the perfect place to sip beer in the summer.
The Urchin is a real find and a true hidden gem on a Hove backstreet, serving up delicious food and incredible beer with genuine passion and friendly service. I just can’t wait to go back and try even more of their beers, I wonder how long it’d take to get through them all?