Review – The Hampton

I have always had a very on-off love affair with The Hampton on Upper North Street. For now, though, the romance is firmly back on, thanks in part to a revamped menu and kitchen from The Heart & Soul Food Co.

Operating since last December, The Heart & Soul Food Co serve home-cooked Southern-style American food. Think filling the void where Momma Cherrie’s left and you are halfway there.

Leonie Jani – the head chef who has cooked in kitchens across the world, including Australia and Spain – is keen to show her passion for sharing plates and has constructed a concept menu that emphasises this.

Choose from soul food classics such as glazed ribs, buffalo wings, jumbo shrimp, pulled pork, corn on the cob, and sweet-potato wedges, all available as side orders or mains. The Hampton is a great pub to socialise with friends in, making the sharing concept ideal.

Presented in a mixture of terracotta tapas-style dishes, wooden boards and bowls, ordering a platter was the ideal way to sample The Hampton’s food menu. The honey bourbon ribs (£6) were practically melting off the bone and had a well-balanced sticky and sweet sauce. The half-rack was wonderfully tender and a standout of the meal.

Half-rack of ribs and pulled pork at The Hampton.

Half-rack of ribs and pulled pork at The Hampton.

Other meat dishes also fared well: the buffalo wings (£5) come doused in a great homemade peri-peri sauce, awash with flecks of red chilli; the wings had both crispy skin and succulent flesh. I loved the richness and beefiness of the brisket chilli con carne (£6) and the slow-roasted pulled pork (£6) had a touch of sweetness and really melted in the mouth.

Served slightly warm, the jumbo shrimp (£7.50) were butterflied and swimming in a zesty chilli, coriander, and lime dressing. Ordering a seafood dish gave some balance to the sharing plates – and it would be great to see other fish and seafood options available.

The mac ’n’ cheese (£5.50) is made using smoked cheddar, which gives it a really deep flavour, and the portion size was gigantic – both big ticks in my book. We also tried The Heart & Soul’s rice and black-eyed beans (£2.50), which were good; the coleslaw (£2), however, suffered a major mayonnaise overload and tasted slightly too acidic.

Brisket chilli and mac n cheese.

Brisket chilli, jumbo prawns and mac n cheese.

Leonie also makes a selection of sauces (£1), including blue cheese, chipotle mayo, and a ranch dressing – all of which were excellent, especially the blue cheese.

The Heart & Soul Food Co and The Hampton have worked hard to bring some alternative pub dining to the Montpelier area of Brighton and I predict that their soul food menu will be a success.

A lot of pubs are trying their luck with smoked meats and sharing plates. But The Hampton has got it spot on.

The Hampton, 57 Upper North Street, Brighton, BN1 3FH

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Originally printed in the Brighton & Hove Independent Friday 20th February 2015