Review – The Pickled Kitchen at the Park Crescent
The Park Crescent is a proper boozer – laid-back and rough round the edges with innate charm and character. It’s also somewhere you wouldn’t know existed unless it was your local, being on a residential street just off Lewes Road.
When we dropped by on a busy Saturday evening, a band was setting up, a young family were just finishing their food and pints, dogs snoozed under tables and the staff had a relaxed, familiar way with the punters. The barman apologised for everything being “a little hectic”; I reassured him that the hubbub of happy pub-goers is one of my favourite things.
All of this makes the Park Crescent the perfect base for the Pickled Kitchen, run by Ania Ramowska. This Portuguese chef (married to a Polish guy, hence the name) is a real grafter, cooking hard in the tiny pub kitchen, while also being mother to two small kids. She’s genuine, friendly and humble, eager to please her customers and mightily confident in her cooking.
Menu and food
Her menu features interpretations of pub classics, the food is honest, simple and packed with flavour. Admirably, she sources all her ingredients from the nearby Open Market or London Road, and there’s even Brighton Gin behind the bar.
Chourico assado (£7.50) is an obvious nod to Ania’s heritage, a spicy sausage that we grilled ourselves at the table in a traditional terracotta Portuguese dish, the flames, aroma and sizzle making heads turn. Sliced, then eaten with toasted baguette and the juiciest olives, this was original, fun and more than evocative of summer holidays.
Twice-cooked pulled pork came in a pillowy, glazed brioche bun – honestly one of the best I’ve had – with cheddar and grilled apple. A tart sauerkraut slaw paired nicely with the apple to cut through the rich meat and melted cheese, while strips of crackling were lovely dipped into a little jar of relish. All this plus skinny fries and onion rings for a tenner is an absolute bargain.
Everything is homemade, from the buns to the relish, and I really admire the effort Ania puts into her food, when so many pub kitchens cut corners for a quick buck (though she did admit that due to space restrictions, chips have to be bought in).
Across the table, the warm fish mezze (a special at £14) looked great: pan-fried salmon and panga (or river cobbler), grilled king prawns and breaded whitebait with minted pea puree and fries. We were a little confused by a jug of melted butter on the side. Presumably it was pouring over the fish, but wasn’t necessary, the fish being cooked perfectly and not at all dry. Grilled vine tomatoes and homemade tartare sauce were accompaniment enough.
The “revamped cheeseboard” (£9.50), easily enough to serve four, was pretty as a picture. Five cheeses, grapes, apples, pears, walnuts, two homemade relishes, prunes and crackers were scattered with cress and presented beautifully on a long board. The Polish apple cake looked inviting too but I didn’t fancy being carried home.
I love what the Pickled Kitchen is doing: pub fare with heart, cooked by people who care, who really want you to enjoy your food. The pub itself isn’t the prettiest, smartest or hippest, but who cares – it’s friendly, honest and real. I can’t wait to go back.
The Park Crescent, 39 Park Crescent Terrace, BN2 3HE – 01273 604993
First published in the Brighton & Hove Independent on 15th May 2015