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Brighton Beer Blog reviews the Dover Castle Brighton

Here’s a beer-by-beer account of our visit…

Date: Sunday 8th August (revisited Saturday 20th November)

Beers:
Shepherd Neame IPA, Hürlimann Swiss Lager

 

You’ve probably spotted that this review of The Dover Castle Brighton spans a couple of visits – and necessarily so, as I simply couldn’t write this up fairly without first trying their highly recommended burgers.

Back in August, after a couple of drinks and roast dinner at The Greys, my friends and I trundled the short distance up Southover Street to a destination that a couple of them had been banging on about for a while – two reasons being, the mind-blowing burgers they had here once and the random cat theme of the place. In fact they kept referring to it as the ‘cat pub’ as they couldn’t remember the name! As neither of us were joining up the dots on where exactly they meant, today we were going to locate it once and for all and see if the ‘cat pub’ monicker was deserved.

 

The Dover Castle is another of Southover Street’s many corner pubs, and with this one being Shepherd Neame licensed, the drinks available can be expected to include the offerings of this old and established Kentish brewery – tipples like Spitfire and Whitstable Bay as well as some unique options I haven’t seen elsewhere in Brighton, such as Samuel Adams and Hürlimann lager. The landlord couldn’t tell me why the pub is called the Dover Castle; I wondered if it was because of the Kent connection and that it’s up a hill, but he did say he’d ask some of his regulars and get back to me.

Like almost every pub I’ve wandered into in 2021, the Dover Castle Brighton has undergone a lockdown refresh. The walls are now a bright but calming azure blue and the ceilings a pebble grey. I had a bit of a snoop round but I couldn’t see the cat theme at all. The barmaid in August didn’t know much about it, but when I visited again more recently the landlord passionately told us about how every year in May the pub essentially becomes a dedicated feline-focused art gallery. Not only that but there are cat-themed quizzes and all sorts of other moggy related things going on; even the landlord’s cat makes an appearance. All proceeds go towards the Lost Cats of Brighton charity. So my friends weren’t making it up after all…

Outside of May, the decor is minimal, elegant and simple: a massive mirror on one wall, books crammed into pretty much any available recess above the bar, some canvases showcasing arty snaps. There’s also room for some humour, such as the quirky, out-of-place statement piece: a birdcage with some seashells hanging inside, not sure what the statement is though..?

The floorspace here is ample and set out open-plan like a big lounge. The dark wood floor, large carpets, high ceiling and big communal tables in the windows – which are nicely bathed in the sun’s rays when it deigns to make an appearance – help to make this large space feel warm, bright and relaxing. There’s also a piano and a fireplace. The music playing on the November visit was a proggy, electro rock playlist that moved about the decades, really tranquil. This pub is just as relaxed, warm and inviting a haven in the winter months as it was in the summer.

There’s a small conservatory space to the rear, which offers somewhere a little different to settle into, plus a good-sized yard out the back which is brightened up with some foliage. It offers plenty of seating at tables and some under-cover alcoves. A decent-sized garden space is not something that all the pubs on Southover Street can boast. The Dover Castle Brighotn caters extremely well for large groups without getting cramped, in pubs like the Geese down the road it can suddenly feel pretty crammed if too many large groups walk in; here there is plenty of space between tables, a decent yard and lots of room to breathe.

 

On our November revisit we finally got to try the famed burgers by Jason Bear. I ordered a classic cheeseburger and my wife sampled one of the veggie options. There are two vegan burgers and a veggie option on the menu, each with a different style and core filling, which I think shows some real consideration, offering variety to those going meat-free and not just a token option. You can even swap your brioche bun for a gluten free or vegan bun.

My meat burger was tall, stuffed full of salad, really thick slices of pickle, sauces and a proper big meat patty. As per my usual burger-eating process, this quickly collapsed into a mess. Perhaps it wasn’t the most flavoursome beef I’d had in a pub recently, but the burger was incredibly satisfying. Amy’s panko crumb fried aubergine and blue cheese burger was also a hit, chocked full of salad and strong blue cheese. She’s looking forward to trying the bourbon BBQ bean burger next time – in fact we both are.

The burgers are a really reasonable £11–13 and come with accompanying sides, including sweet potato fries and salad – both of which were generous portions and not just an afterthought. We rounded things off with some halloumi fries, which came with an amazing BBQ sauce. I like my halloumi a bit soft and squelchy; these went dry quite quickly, but they were still fantastic.

 

I washed this down with a couple of beers, the first being a Hürlimann lager, Swiss according the clip. This was really decent, crisp with lovely freshness and enough flavour to give it some character. After that I wanted something with a little more body, but didn’t fancy paying £6 for Neck Oil (I really despair at how popular and overpriced this beer is). Luckily I spotted bottles of Shepherd Neame’s classic IPA in the fridge. This is crisp and delivers coppery-bronze bitterness along with burnt caramel and malt-loaf sweetness which compete nicely on your tongue. At 6.1% it’s a beer you can take your sweet time over, in fact I’d recommend it in such a chilled pub as this. With tranquil music playing in the background and a few pints in you, it’s the perfect setting to be lulled into gentle afternoon inebrience.​

On both visits, whether as a large group, or my wife and I, we found our visit to the Dover Castle Brighton to be an incredibly relaxed affair and we wouldn’t hesitate to come back again and again, particularly as landlord was telling us that the pub is finally starting to lay on some entertainment again post COVID, in the form of quizzes, DJs, live bands and Sunday jazz sessions.

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Date: Sunday 8th August (revisited Saturday 20th November)

Beers:
Shepherd Neame IPA, Hürlimann Swiss Lager

 

You’ve probably spotted that this review of The Dover Castle Brighton spans a couple of visits – and necessarily so, as I simply couldn’t write this up fairly without first trying their highly recommended burgers. Back in August, after a couple of drinks and roast dinner at The Greys, my friends and I trundled the short distance up Southover Street to a destination that a couple of them had been banging on about for a while – two reasons being, the mind-blowing burgers they had here once and the random cat theme of the place. In fact they kept referring to it as the ‘cat pub’ as they couldn’t remember the name! As neither of us were joining up the dots on where exactly they meant, today we were going to locate it once and for all and see if the ‘cat pub’ monicker was deserved.

 

The Dover Castle is another of Southover Street’s many corner pubs, and with this one being Shepherd Neame licensed, the drinks available can be expected to include the offerings of this old and established Kentish brewery – tipples like Spitfire and Whitstable Bay as well as some unique options I haven’t seen elsewhere in Brighton, such as Samuel Adams and Hürlimann lager. The landlord couldn’t tell me why the pub is called the Dover Castle; I wondered if it was because of the Kent connection and that it’s up a hill, but he did say he’d ask some of his regulars and get back to me.

Like almost every pub I’ve wandered into in 2021, the Dover Castle Brighton has undergone a lockdown refresh. The walls are now a bright but calming azure blue and the ceilings a pebble grey. I had a bit of a snoop round but I couldn’t see the cat theme at all. The barmaid in August didn’t know much about it, but when I visited again more recently the landlord passionately told us about how every year in May the pub essentially becomes a dedicated feline-focused art gallery. Not only that but there are cat-themed quizzes and all sorts of other moggy related things going on; even the landlord’s cat makes an appearance. All proceeds go towards the Lost Cats of Brighton charity. So my friends weren’t making it up after all…

Outside of May, the decor is minimal, elegant and simple: a massive mirror on one wall, books crammed into pretty much any available recess above the bar, some canvases showcasing arty snaps. There’s also room for some humour, such as the quirky, out-of-place statement piece: a birdcage with some seashells hanging inside, not sure what the statement is though..?

The floorspace here is ample and set out open-plan like a big lounge. The dark wood floor, large carpets, high ceiling and big communal tables in the windows – which are nicely bathed in the sun’s rays when it deigns to make an appearance – help to make this large space feel warm, bright and relaxing. There’s also a piano and a fireplace. The music playing on the November visit was a proggy, electro rock playlist that moved about the decades, really tranquil. This pub is just as relaxed, warm and inviting a haven in the winter months as it was in the summer.

There’s a small conservatory space to the rear, which offers somewhere a little different to settle into, plus a good-sized yard out the back which is brightened up with some foliage. It offers plenty of seating at tables and some under-cover alcoves. A decent-sized garden space is not something that all the pubs on Southover Street can boast. The Dover Castle Brighotn caters extremely well for large groups without getting cramped, in pubs like the Geese down the road it can suddenly feel pretty crammed if too many large groups walk in; here there is plenty of space between tables, a decent yard and lots of room to breathe.

 

On our November revisit we finally got to try the famed burgers by Jason Bear. I ordered a classic cheeseburger and my wife sampled one of the veggie options. There are two vegan burgers and a veggie option on the menu, each with a different style and core filling, which I think shows some real consideration, offering variety to those going meat-free and not just a token option. You can even swap your brioche bun for a gluten free or vegan bun.

My meat burger was tall, stuffed full of salad, really thick slices of pickle, sauces and a proper big meat patty. As per my usual burger-eating process, this quickly collapsed into a mess. Perhaps it wasn’t the most flavoursome beef I’d had in a pub recently, but the burger was incredibly satisfying. Amy’s panko crumb fried aubergine and blue cheese burger was also a hit, chocked full of salad and strong blue cheese. She’s looking forward to trying the bourbon BBQ bean burger next time – in fact we both are.

The burgers are a really reasonable £11–13 and come with accompanying sides, including sweet potato fries and salad – both of which were generous portions and not just an afterthought. We rounded things off with some halloumi fries, which came with an amazing BBQ sauce. I like my halloumi a bit soft and squelchy; these went dry quite quickly, but they were still fantastic.

 

I washed this down with a couple of beers, the first being a Hürlimann lager, Swiss according the clip. This was really decent, crisp with lovely freshness and enough flavour to give it some character. After that I wanted something with a little more body, but didn’t fancy paying £6 for Neck Oil (I really despair at how popular and overpriced this beer is). Luckily I spotted bottles of Shepherd Neame’s classic IPA in the fridge. This is crisp and delivers coppery-bronze bitterness along with burnt caramel and malt-loaf sweetness which compete nicely on your tongue. At 6.1% it’s a beer you can take your sweet time over, in fact I’d recommend it in such a chilled pub as this. With tranquil music playing in the background and a few pints in you, it’s the perfect setting to be lulled into gentle afternoon inebrience.​

On both visits, whether as a large group, or my wife and I, we found our visit to the Dover Castle Brighton to be an incredibly relaxed affair and we wouldn’t hesitate to come back again and again, particularly as landlord was telling us that the pub is finally starting to lay on some entertainment again post COVID, in the form of quizzes, DJs, live bands and Sunday jazz sessions.

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