PdV Burger, Pub de Vin

Burgers, like people, need to make a strong first impression. That initial appraisal, the slow sizing-up of the meal before you, can contribute a lot to the lasting memory of a meal. In the case of the PdV Burger at swanky public house Pub de Vin, my first impression was ‘Go home, you’re drunk.’ Barely held together by its skewer, the burger was lurching off to the side so violently it was about to take a fatal dip in the dainty little container of tomato relish sat beside it. For a simple reason – it was too god-damned big. We sat down for lunch in Pub de Vin just after midday on a Saturday, and thought we had stepped in to a morgue. The room was dingy and quiet. A middle-aged couple, whiling away their time over a newspaper and book, watched us sit down a few tables away from them and shortly after asked for their bill. Which was odd, as we’d already lowered our tones to stay consistent with the ambience.

It being a rather swanky establishment, we decided to order starters before our mains. I settled on garlic mushrooms on toast, which was generally pretty good, although exceptionally garlicky and a touch too much rocket for my tastes. My fiancé plumped for the smoked mackerel paté, which looked very decent indeed, prompting immediate food envy. But you’re not here for starters – you’re here to read about burgers, so let’s talk about the PdV burger in a little more detail.

The Burger

So, yes, the fact that the burger had collapsed off to the side in its transit from the kitchen to the table was a bit of a disappointment, curiously. The whole shebang had distended like an accordion, its ingredients isolated and laid bare. Even when I carefully reassembled everything, the PdV burger was absurdly big, far too chunky to pick up without wearing its innards down my Saturday best, or dislocating my jaw. I had to resort to cutlery, dissecting the burger piecemeal, with the unwelcome result of taking the odd mouthful of pure bun, or a large wet slice of tomato. A burger is intended to be bitten into, sampling everything it had to offer at once; eating the ingredients like this, the burger once again spreading itself over the plate, quickly became, dare I say it, a bit of a chore.

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That’s not to say that the ingredients were anything less than quality though, and you would hope so for the princely sum of £14.50. The patty was coarse, chunky and charred beautifully, the bacon fleshy and meaty. The gruyere, incredibly pungent when the platter was brought to the table, was curiously bland. Salad was plentiful and fresh, but no-one eats a burger for the green stuff. And, the homemade bun, taking its fair share of the blame for the bulk of the burger, was buttery and soft. But the whole failed to live up to the sum of its parts.

The Fries

Now, these were good. Ensconced in a metal cone propped up in a corner of the platter, these light, crispy fries were very tasty, and seemed to go on forever. The sheer quantity of them helped round out the value of what was essentially a very pricey burger and chips.

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Summary

Having heard great things about Pub de Vin’s big brother Hotel de Vin, I was expecting big things from this chain. Perhaps my expectations were too large, or perhaps the eerie quiet and sombre lighting inside dampened my spirits a little. The ingredients of the burger were undoubtedly of good quality, and the presentation of the meal could not be faulted, but the overall experience was disappointing, almost emasculating me with its size and reducing me to the shame of eating my burger with knife and fork. In general, the food here was good, evidenced in our starters and my fiancé’s club sandwich, but bistro burgers seem to suffer when subjected to the rules of fine dining. Give me a cheaper, dirtier, greasier burger any day of the week.

Price: £14.50 (includes fries)

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Hove Bank Sliders, The Hove Bank

During my recent stint in Farringdon, London on a freelance booking (sadly, burger-blogging is not my full-time job) I had the good fortune of coming across a quality boozer called The Slaughtered Lamb. Amongst their fare was a fairly extensive slider menu, and a deal allowing you to pick any three for the paltry sum of £6.50. Scarcely believing my luck, I ordered the cheese burger variant, a beef brisket number and a lamb one to round out the trio. And they were exceptional – all three comprising juicy meat and abundant sauces and being very well-proportioned, considering that amazing price. I regale you with this anecdote (illustrated by this slightly blurry photo) to demonstrate sliders done right. Because a week later, The Hove Bank showed how to do sliders horribly, horribly wrong.

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The beauties from The Slaughtered Lamb, Farringdon NOT The Hove Bank, Brighton.

Somewhat prophetically, I’d never even heard of The Hove Bank before and it wasn’t our first choice on a bitterly cold March lunchtime. But Hove Place, which I’ve heard good things about, turned us away because of our lack of a reservation, and Hove Kitchen only had their roast menu on offer. So we plumped for The Hove Bank, thinking a steak restaurant would do a good burger, or in this case, three little ones. Blind optimism, as it turned out.

The restaurant space itself is decent – exposed brick, high ceilings – but it felt soulless from the start. It wasn’t empty, but it was quiet. Perhaps our fellow diners had already been stunned into silence by the quality of the food. The music was turned down low too, making the atmosphere a fraction away from being a little eerie.

I ordered the sliders, even though my eyebrows were floating in the middle of my forehead at the price – £11.40. Plus an extra £1.00 for cheese. The fact that all three sliders were identical – beef patty and salad – was worrying, but I persevered, hoping to add a little variety in the fare I cover on these pages. Our server, a bubbly, nervous lady who confided to us that she was new, couldn’t tell me if chips were included in the price. If they weren’t, I said, I’d share my fiancé’s, already feeling a bit sullen that I was spending almost double for sliders than I had done a week before.

My mood was about to go south further still.

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The Sliders

I’ve never experienced this emotion when receiving restaurant food before, and I hopefully never will again. Embarrassment. I felt a little bit ashamed that I’d just ordered these miniscule, pretentious little morsels that appeared on a board in front of me, held together with wholly unnecessary wooden skewers. I felt an overwhelming urge to look at the server in disgust, to see if she shared my embarrassment, to see if there was any guilt etched on her face, to scream ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ I didn’t do any of this, of course, as I’m English. Far too polite for that.

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Instead I inspected what was before me. Patties a fraction bigger than a 50 pence piece, incinerated, lightly blushed with a rumour of melted cheese, and accompanied by enormous wedges of tomato. Each housed in a sesame bun that had been quartered. I can only imagine the fourth quarter had perhaps been tossed into a bin, or kept in a bag for the next poor mug who dared to order the same. Each slider, identical to the last, was a mixture of the burnt ashes of the meat and an overwhelming glob of tomato ketchup, undoubtedly from the bottle. The cheese didn’t have a prayer in the face of such overpowering flavours. The crispy onion rings promised on the menu were, in fact, just rings of raw red onion. Two mouthfuls, and each slider was gone, to be replaced by huge buyer’s remorse and an overwhelming urge to twist the knife on The Hove Bank when writing this review.

The Fries

Still positively starving after the travesty of those three sad little sliders, I attacked the fries with gusto, as they formed the bulk of my meal. Astonishingly, Hove Bank hadn’t managed to fuck them up, and I snaffled them down in angry, confused handfuls, again composing these venomous sentences in my mind as I ate, quietly fuming.

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Summary

This just won’t do, The Hove Bank (I find it bitterly ironic that, at the time of writing, Hove Bank’s homepage merely shows a ‘bad request’ error screen). Astronomically overpriced, laughably small, horribly burnt and comically put together, these sliders of yours are an insult to your customers. There are far better burgers being served in Brighton at a fraction of the price, prepared with skill and passion, that make a mockery of this half-arsed cash-grabbing effort. These need to be taken off the menu and entirely rethought from the ground up. I have no idea what the steaks are like in Hove Bank, but you can be damned sure I won’t be going back to try them. I’m embarrassed that I parted with £12.40 for such woefully inadequate food. Alongside the sliders on the menu are printed the words ‘unique to us’. All I can say is, thank fuck for that.

Avoid like the plague.

Price: £11.40 (+ £1.00 for cheese)

Rating: 1 out of 5