Listed as one of the Top 10 Pubs in the UK by GQ, The Ginger Pig serves traditional food sourced from Sussex’s finest suppliers.
The sea is turquoise, the sky hazy in the heat, yet the acres of shingle are pretty much empty save for a brave woman striking out into the surf for a lunchtime dip. All I can hear are seagulls. And more seagulls.
Down the road, Brighton has fairground rides, bars filling with people and rollerbladers weaving through the tourists. All is sedate here in Hove, with its genteel 1930s crescents beyond the Regency seafront. But there’s nothing suburban about the Ginger Pig Bar and Restaurant, a minute from the seafront and highly acclaimed since it opened 11 years ago.
Part of the Gingerman Restaurant Group (with three other pubs and restaurants in the area), the gastropub is informal but with impressive attention to detail; toasted cheese sandwiches at lunch come with homemade Korean-style pickles. It’s the sort of place no one really wants to leave, which is handy since now there’s no need. In June, 11 new bedrooms were added – six on the first floor and another five in the attic above and all with the same decor and ethos as the pub itself. But there is a separate entrance, so guests feel reassuringly sealed off from the bar below.
In the bedrooms, all is sleep-inducing heritage slate grey, from skirting board to walls, doors and curtains. There are Cowshed toiletries in the bathroom, premixed cocktails in the minibar and Raffia beach bags with towels and mats.
Our first-floor room is spacious for a pub bedroom, with a kingsize bed for me and my husband and folding beds for our two daughters. There’s a freestanding egg-shaped bath, like a Barbara Hepworth sculpture, in one corner. It would be a waste to tuck this tub away in a bathroom, instead of soaking while watching the big wall-mounted TV and sipping a negroni. If I crane my neck, there’s a sliver of sea view from the back window. The others on my floor look spacious, too, the attic rooms a little more snug.
I’d be happy here in my towelling robe with another negroni, but supper beckons. The bar and dining room are teeming at 7.30pm. One Manchester City supporter sleeps on his friend’s shoulder (they beat Brighton & Hove Albion earlier) for the entire meal – his loss. I enjoy a homemade cucumber gin and a starter of crispy squid (£8.50), with just enough chew and extra zing from lime, mint and sour cream.
They don’t scrimp on the vegetarian options, but there are plenty of robust meat dishes from pork chop with rosti and black pudding (£18) to burger and dripping chips (£12.50). The oysters (£14 for six) are delicious. My polenta with roast chicory (£13) is a little stringy and bitter but the saffron potato beignet with ricotta (£14) is meltingly good. Both are eclipsed by my dessert: a riot of cheesecake, raspberry sauce, meringue and lemon curd (£8.50).
I disappoint my daughter the next morning at breakfast – “but mum, you promised me you were a vegetarian!” – when I order the sausage in a roll (£6). It’s worth falling off the wagon for. My daughter sticks to buttermilk pancakes, bananas and maple syrup (£6) and freshly squeezed orange juice (£4).
After sunning ourselves in the small patio garden, we take a last wander along the seafront. Once breakfast settles, there’s only one place for ice-cream: Marrocco’s, a seafront institution for almost 50 years. We detour back along Church Road, Hove’s main drag. It feels a bit like Stoke Newington: the bars, the beards, the property prices … until, look right and, ah, there’s the sea again, a strip of granite sparkle as a reminder that this is anywhere but London after all.
• Food and accommodation were provided by the Ginger Pig (doubles from £80 room only, 01273 736123, thegingerpigpub.com)
Ask a local
Alan Watson, manager, La Cave à Fromage cheese shop, Hove
For its amazing cuts of beef, and also great scotch eggs and pastries, have a look at Canham & Sons butchers on Church Road.
Stroll the shops and cafes along Church Road and, for an architectural treat, head to Palmeira Square – which has a great view, with the sea at the bottom and all those grand 19th-century houses at the top.
Burkitt’s cigar shop is an old-fashioned one-off. The guy who works there is one of the most highly qualified cigar specialists in the UK. Even if you don’t smoke them, the smell when you walk in is fantastic.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010