I live in the Seven Dials area of Brighton and commute to London, so I walk past The Sussex Yeoman every day. It’s spitting distance from my house. It’s my local and a good local at that. So, it is with a heavy heart that I write this review.
We’ve been going to the Yeoman for years and have always thought the food was good. The Sunday roast is top-notch, with good quality meat, really good seasonal vegetables, and better than average roast potatoes (which seem to be strangely difficult for pub roasts to master). They also have more unusual options than your run of the mill public house. I’ve had delicious venison on a good many Sunday. However, you do pay through the nose. If memory serves, a roast will cost you between £11-13. So, you’re looking at about £40 for two if you want to have a couple of drinks and perhaps share a dessert. We’re in a pub, right? Well herein lies the problem. The Sussex Yeoman doesn’t know if it’s a pub or a restaurant. You walk in and all the tables are booked. Restaurant. But there are people sitting on your table. Pub. The menu prices range up to £20 a main. Restaurant. But you order everything, including your food, at the bar. Pub. Every single person is eating. There aren’t any “drinkers”. Restaurant again. Now, call me old-fashioned, but if I have to walk up to the bar and order food that costs around £15 a main, then it better be damned good.
Unfortunately, the last couple of times I’ve been to the Sussex Yeoman (twice last week) it hasn’t be damned good. In fact, it’s been distinctly average. And that don’t impress me much. On the most recent visit we took Sven’s ma and pa down in Brighton on their annual visit because we’ve taken them in the past and they’ve loved it. To be fair, we were all absolutely stuffed from scoffing a whole jar of my chilli chutney during the Grand National (which my horse won BTW – pocketed £50, yes!!) so we were eating for the love of the game rather than any actual need. We therefore sensibly decided to have mains and dessert, rather than attempt the whole hog. This also perhaps affected our choices, we all went for the cheaper options on the menu because we just weren’t very hungry. Perhaps if we’d had the steak (£16) or the bream (£20) we may have been more impressed. However, as it stood, we were all so nonplussed by our main courses that we ended up skipping dessert altogether. I’m not saying that the food was bad, as it wasn’t. It was fine. But you don’t want fine when you go out. Most of us can do better than fine at home. When you go out and spend £12-15 for a main in what is essentially a pub, you want excellent (I am aware that I’m repeating myself here, but I feel strongly about this!).
Here’s what we had:
Rob (Sven’s Dad) had the Elles Belles sausages with potato rosti, spring vegetables and brown onion gravy (£11). I believe the Elles Belle’s sausages are made on the premises (or at least by someone associated with the Yeoman) so I really commend them on that – they are proper artisan, like. However, despite their provenance Rob did not like them. I had a taste and thought they were good, so I guess it depends on your sausage preference. Rob said there were too “earthy” for him! Rob also reported that the rosti was good and the onion gravy was delicious.
Jenks (Sven’s Mum) had the Yeoman 10oz burger with Tremains cheddar, fries and a spring salad (£11.50). Her response to the burger was that it was nice, with nice bread, and nice chips. So it was all very “nice” then.
Sven had the Moules Mariniere (£11.50). He loves Moules Mariniere that boy – can barely stand for them to be on the menu and not order them, so he’s somewhat of an expert. The quality of the mussels was exceptional. They were large and silky and beautifully cooked – not a trace of grit or silt. However, he was disappointed by the mariniere sauce which was thin and not creamy enough for his liking. He said that my Moules Mariniere was better, which is nice (good husband).
I had the whole grilled mackerel with butter bean, chilli and sage salad and hand-cut chips (£12). The mackerel was actually really nice and had good lemon and thyme flavour coming through. However, the hand-cut fries were so crispy they felt carcinogenic; I really didn’t like them. The butter bean salad was nice, but the big problem was that none of the elements seemed to work together on the plate. I didn’t finish it (which is more that slightly unusual for me).
So, all in all a bit of a “blah” excursion to the Sussex Yeoman. However, I haven’t written it off altogether. I’m willing to believe that the chef just had a bad week and I’m hoping to goodness that it still delivers on its roast. I want the Yeoman to be excellent and it really should be (and has been in the past). However, I think it suffers from having a good reputation and a loyal clientele. It’s lost the drive to strive to be better, I think. I do so hope that it finds it again, because I want to keep eating there… it’s so beautifully close to my house.