Review – Fishbowl
Fishbowl is a Brighton institution. Around since before time began, the well-established Drink In Brighton pub has been the home to many a beer: swift post-work pints, birthday celebrations and more often than not Fishbowl serves as an upbeat, lively boozer to gulp down a few beverages before hitting other clubs and bars. Fishbowl is a gateway to a debauched night out, but does this mean we should make Fishbowl a venue to line our stomachs?
We had visited early evening and it was the first time I’d been to Fishbowl and actually got a table, let alone been able to have conversation that didn’t involve yelling in someones ear-hole. They were playing Talking Heads on the PA – good music is always a winner with me – and I liked the rustic, square wooden tables and menu design. This, coupled with the fact they sold Brooklyn East India Pale Ale, meant I felt quietly at home.
Serving food that focusses predominantly on shack-style small plates, light bites and heartier options, the recently revamped menu is a confident step-away from the previous fish and chips concept. This dish is, of course, still available to order and allows you to take your pick between cod, plaice, haddock and scampi – all served with triple cooked chips and mushy or minted garden peas – for the reasonable price of £10.
The kitchen is headed up by Richie Monroe and Adam Doherty, and was it was the new dishes that they have introduced that caught my eye. We were lucky enough to be treated to a small helping of everything from the ‘small plates’ section. This included buffalo shrimp, salt and pepper squid, loaded potato skins, buffalo wings, crispy chicken tenders and jalapeño poppers, all priced at £5 each.
The food came hurtling out of the kitchen and was presented proudly. Personally, I can’t help but love the look of food presented in enamelware. Yes, it may seem a bit dated but I adore the simplicity of it. And it makes a welcome change from slate or wooden boards. Being a born and bred Brighton girl, perhaps also it’s the blue and white tone that draws me to it?
There were some great standouts from our sharing platter; lightly battered and lime drizzled squid were great, along with the buffalo wings – juicy and tender with a great kick to them – these two dishes really shone. The loaded potato skins – stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese, smoked bacon and a sprinkle of chive – were thick, soft and a good carb orientated option. My friend really enjoyed the breadcrumbed jalapeño poppers, where as I took more convincing that these would be worth ordering again.
Whilst there was certain highlights, there were also some room for improvement. In particular, the chicken tenders – which promised to be Southern Fried – were bone dry, over-cooked and under-seasoned. The buffalo shrimp was overly salty and didn’t pair well with the spicy dip.
Moving onto my second bottle of Brooklyn Lager, the main dish arrived. I had ordered the Fishbowl Shrimp Po’Boy Special – dressed fried shrimp, Louisiana style, served in a sub, with lettuce, tomato, pickles and house mayo – which came with triple cooked fries (£10), and my friend decided to be fairly traditional and order the Breaded Scampi with house tartar sauce, mushy peas and fries (£10).
Presentation-wise, it looked a bit chaotic. Chips were dropping off onto the table and the Po’Boy looked like it had been thrown together in seconds and I guess there aren’t many way to dress up scampi and chips.
The Po’Boy was a gargantuan beast and wrapping my mouth around the light, yet enjoyably chewy Flour Pot Bakery sub-roll took some effort. It was greeted with crunchy lettuce, juicy tomatoes, crunchy rounds of pickle and slathers of home-made mayonnaise. These were all great, however, the shrimp was (again) too salty and left me feeling disappointed. If Fishbowl lowered the salt content, this would have been a great Po’Boy – and a bargain at a tenner when paired with a large portion of fries.
The scampi and fries fairer slightly better; lightly breaded rounds of hot scampi coupled with a generous portion of fries, you can’t really go wrong. The tartar sauce would have benefitted from a touch more zing; more capers perhaps?
Overall, a decent selection of food, and ideal for lining the stomach before a boozy night on the pub, or an affordable quick bite to eat. The new menu shows promise and with fish all sustainably sourced and produce as local as Fishbowl can source it, I feel challenged to find fish orientated pub food that would compare. Worth a quick look, even just to share some small plates over a beer.
Fishbowl, 74 East Street, Brighton, BN1 1HQ
Claire’s food was complimentary, courtesy of Fishbowl and Drink In Brighton.