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Brighton Beer Blog Visit The Signalman, Brighton

A descriptive, beer-by-beer account of our visit…

Date: Monday 18th April

Beer: Lost Pier Deckchair Cruiser

 

The Signalman Brighton, unmissable as you dismount Southwards from London Road station, has been a regular of mine for a few years now and I guess for that reason I’ve neglected to look at it with review in mind.
But with things now settled down post covid it’s worth giving a bit of airtime to a solid pub that has loads going for it, but arguably has more potential than it’s showing.

 

We ended up here on this visit after a long sunny walk back from town looking for a place to rest and eat, and given that many places we tried to get food weren’t even open, or weren’t opening their kitchens on a bank holiday Monday, we were overjoyed to find that the Signalman was open for drink and grub.

The pub is split into 2 main rooms, both with charming, bedded-in interior. Decor includes but isn’t limited to; an elaborate corinthian columned bar, large framed mirrors, a wall of books and games, cabinets of trinkets, pictures of locomotives, further pictures on the ceiling, a couple of old oars and 2 TV screens, one of them massive, which show a whole host of sporting entertainment.

We often come here to watch rugby or football and the atmosphere for big matches is unrivalled locally and often we’ve only just crammed in.

Couple this with not 1 but 2 excellent garden areas, though only one of them ever seems to be used, and you have the ingredients for a great pub. I caveat that faux grass is in abundance and I’ve learned recently that some of my followers are a bit allergic to this.

The main garden is a little leafy, has plenty of heated booths and lots of picnic benches. It’s a total suntrap, shielded from much of the breeze as it’s sunk behind some solid walls.

 

It’s brilliant to see so many local brewers championed here beyond the Laines beers, which are here due to the Laines Pub Co. ownership. I spotted Gun and 360 on cask and Lost Pier and Bedlam’s Wilde on keg. Big Hug is also here quite regularly.

I ordered a Lost Pier Deckchair Cruiser lager which is a deep and hazy, golden-amber Helles styled beer. Loads of flavour and a wonderful balance of zingy bitterness and malty mouthfeel. The chaps at the BRZN tap-room down the road from here rave about it and keep it on tap for good reason.

My wife ordered a white wine spritz and I happened to notice it was flat within seconds so after asking for some soda in a glass to check, I suggested they renew the gas because it was definitely gone but no one had noticed. My beer glass was also noticeably dirty around the top, not something a beer connoisseur should accept, but I let it slide having already chosen my one awkward subject for this visit to the bar.

 

The menu is a typical pub grub menu and so you don’t begrudge it being a bit beige, with burger, baguettes and loaded fries the main focus.

It’s hard to know what to order here as the kitchen feels like it’s changed on a regular basis since covid lifted. This has made The Signalman Brighton somewhere you just can’t reliably know what you’re ordering each visit. Given the price of things, £15 for a burger and fries, £10 for loaded fries and £8 for small plates, it can make ordering food here a costly gamble.

We ordered a Duck loaded fries but 10-15 minutes after ordering we were told they weren’t actually available so switched to beef. We realised later that table ordering to the garden is still in operation here, should you like to make use of it. Few places are still running this covid policy but the hybrid system seems to be working alright here.

The beef loaded fries were fine, nothing special, and very greasy with a cheddar cheese that seemed fatty and little else. The sauce was supposed to be BBQ flavour but it tasted like a standard gravy and the beef was again fine but underwhelming. When compared to the loaded fries The Prestonville served until recently, or the vegan loaded fries at the Worlds End, or even just cheesy chips at the Argyle, this just can’t compete at this price level, and I’m afraid the standard in the area is just too high these days for kitchens to be charging £10 when the quality does not match the price. I think we would have paid £6-7 happily, but in the £10 price bracket, where’s the effort?

In the end I wished I’d ordered a burger as they looked pretty formidable when the table next to us got theirs, though I can’t speak to the flavour that day, previous burgers eaten here months back have again been fine and filling, but not something to keep you coming back like the ones at The Argyle Arms.

On this experience The Signalman sorely needs a kitchen to do something well, reliably, and do it long-term, because, for me, not since the days Kitgum ran the kitchen here (who else remembers those wonderfully different Sunday roasts?) has this pub had a decent food reputation.

 

Final point is on service, despite the many times I’ve been here I rarely recognise the bar staff, nor they me. I’ve met incredibly friendly bar staff here over the years who I don’t see now, others just seem to be going through the motions. I wouldn’t call service here unfriendly, but you don’t feel they go out of their way to be friendly, and for a local community pub that seems a shame.

I want to love this pub so badly and I want it to care enough about me as a customer to win me over as a regular.

I love coming to watch sport here, whether for the packed atmosphere during a World Cup or to just watch cricket with a pint.
It has pretty decent local craft options for being out on the fringes of town as well, and yet it seems to keep falling short of its potential for a seeming lack of effort or attention to detail.

It can have a lovely calm or busy and banterous atmosphere depending on when you visit, but I put that down more to the community location and the punters that visit than the effort of staff and management.

Maybe complacency is at play here? Because The Signalman Brighton is so popular that you often can’t walk in and expect to find a table on a Friday or Saturday night so who am I to suggest anything is going wrong here…

So my internal battle with The Signalman Brighton has concluded, that to be at peace and enjoy this pub I need to stop looking at it with a reviewer’s eyes, admit I’ll never be regular enough to be in the clique, ignore any flat soda or dirty glasses, and just never gamble on the food.

1 Comment

  1. D Vee

    Just read the review and 100% in agreement on virtually every point (never had a dirty glass fortunately!). We love it but rarely ever go for food now as it’s too risky at the prices they charge. The roast used to be decent then it really went downhill fast! We piled in one Saturday with our family, 5+small child, as we’d struggled to find anywhere actually doing good that day for some reason. We asked if they were serving food as the sign said out front and the girl behind the bar said yes. We ordered drinks and sat down with a menu, chose and returned to the bar…to be told by the really rude guy at the bar (fortunately no longer there!) they weren’t doing food at all, and “she shouldn’t have said yes, she’s new so you can’t expect her to know!”

    To be fair, there were a few times that guy did stuff on shift towards other staff members that made me want to pull him to one side and tell him to actually be pleasant to people…

    Also, downing pints on shift to prove to customers how quickly you can, ain’t a good look…

    Reply

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Date: Monday 18th April

Beer: Lost Pier Deckchair Cruiser

 

The Signalman Brighton, unmissable as you dismount Southwards from London Road station, has been a regular of mine for a few years now and I guess for that reason I’ve neglected to look at it with review in mind.
But with things now settled down post covid it’s worth giving a bit of airtime to a solid pub that has loads going for it, but arguably has more potential than it’s showing.

 

We ended up here on this visit after a long sunny walk back from town looking for a place to rest and eat, and given that many places we tried to get food weren’t even open, or weren’t opening their kitchens on a bank holiday Monday, we were overjoyed to find that the Signalman was open for drink and grub.

The pub is split into 2 main rooms, both with charming, bedded-in interior. Decor includes but isn’t limited to; an elaborate corinthian columned bar, large framed mirrors, a wall of books and games, cabinets of trinkets, pictures of locomotives, further pictures on the ceiling, a couple of old oars and 2 TV screens, one of them massive, which show a whole host of sporting entertainment.

We often come here to watch rugby or football and the atmosphere for big matches is unrivalled locally and often we’ve only just crammed in.

Couple this with not 1 but 2 excellent garden areas, though only one of them ever seems to be used, and you have the ingredients for a great pub. I caveat that faux grass is in abundance and I’ve learned recently that some of my followers are a bit allergic to this.

The main garden is a little leafy, has plenty of heated booths and lots of picnic benches. It’s a total suntrap, shielded from much of the breeze as it’s sunk behind some solid walls.

 

It’s brilliant to see so many local brewers championed here beyond the Laines beers, which are here due to the Laines Pub Co. ownership. I spotted Gun and 360 on cask and Lost Pier and Bedlam’s Wilde on keg. Big Hug is also here quite regularly.

I ordered a Lost Pier Deckchair Cruiser lager which is a deep and hazy, golden-amber Helles styled beer. Loads of flavour and a wonderful balance of zingy bitterness and malty mouthfeel. The chaps at the BRZN tap-room down the road from here rave about it and keep it on tap for good reason.

My wife ordered a white wine spritz and I happened to notice it was flat within seconds so after asking for some soda in a glass to check, I suggested they renew the gas because it was definitely gone but no one had noticed. My beer glass was also noticeably dirty around the top, not something a beer connoisseur should accept, but I let it slide having already chosen my one awkward subject for this visit to the bar.

 

The menu is a typical pub grub menu and so you don’t begrudge it being a bit beige, with burger, baguettes and loaded fries the main focus.

It’s hard to know what to order here as the kitchen feels like it’s changed on a regular basis since covid lifted. This has made The Signalman Brighton somewhere you just can’t reliably know what you’re ordering each visit. Given the price of things, £15 for a burger and fries, £10 for loaded fries and £8 for small plates, it can make ordering food here a costly gamble.

We ordered a Duck loaded fries but 10-15 minutes after ordering we were told they weren’t actually available so switched to beef. We realised later that table ordering to the garden is still in operation here, should you like to make use of it. Few places are still running this covid policy but the hybrid system seems to be working alright here.

The beef loaded fries were fine, nothing special, and very greasy with a cheddar cheese that seemed fatty and little else. The sauce was supposed to be BBQ flavour but it tasted like a standard gravy and the beef was again fine but underwhelming. When compared to the loaded fries The Prestonville served until recently, or the vegan loaded fries at the Worlds End, or even just cheesy chips at the Argyle, this just can’t compete at this price level, and I’m afraid the standard in the area is just too high these days for kitchens to be charging £10 when the quality does not match the price. I think we would have paid £6-7 happily, but in the £10 price bracket, where’s the effort?

In the end I wished I’d ordered a burger as they looked pretty formidable when the table next to us got theirs, though I can’t speak to the flavour that day, previous burgers eaten here months back have again been fine and filling, but not something to keep you coming back like the ones at The Argyle Arms.

On this experience The Signalman sorely needs a kitchen to do something well, reliably, and do it long-term, because, for me, not since the days Kitgum ran the kitchen here (who else remembers those exciting and brilliant Sunday roasts?) has this pub had a decent food reputation.

 

Final point is on service, despite the many times I’ve been here I rarely recognise the bar staff, nor they me. I’ve met incredibly friendly bar staff here over the years who I don’t see now, others just seem to be going through the motions. I wouldn’t call service here unfriendly, but you don’t feel they go out of their way to be friendly, and for a local community pub that seems a shame.

I want to love this pub so badly and I want it to care enough about me as a customer to win me over as a regular.

I love coming to watch sport here, whether for the packed atmosphere during a World Cup or to just watch cricket with a pint.
It has pretty decent local craft options for being out on the fringes of town as well, and yet it seems to keep falling short of its potential for a seeming lack of effort or attention to detail.

It can have a lovely calm or busy and banterous atmosphere depending on when you visit, but I put that down more to the community location and the punters that visit than the effort of staff and management.

Maybe complacency is at play here? Because The Signalman Brighton is so popular that you often can’t walk in and expect to find a table on a Friday or Saturday night so who am I to suggest anything is going wrong here…

So my internal battle with The Signalman Brighton has concluded, that to be at peace and enjoy this pub I need to stop looking at it with a reviewer’s eyes, admit I’ll never be regular enough to be in the clique, ignore any flat soda or dirty glasses, and just never gamble on the food.

1 Comment

  1. D Vee

    Just read the review and 100% in agreement on virtually every point (never had a dirty glass fortunately!). We love it but rarely ever go for food now as it’s too risky at the prices they charge. The roast used to be decent then it really went downhill fast! We piled in one Saturday with our family, 5+small child, as we’d struggled to find anywhere actually doing good that day for some reason. We asked if they were serving food as the sign said out front and the girl behind the bar said yes. We ordered drinks and sat down with a menu, chose and returned to the bar…to be told by the really rude guy at the bar (fortunately no longer there!) they weren’t doing food at all, and “she shouldn’t have said yes, she’s new so you can’t expect her to know!”

    To be fair, there were a few times that guy did stuff on shift towards other staff members that made me want to pull him to one side and tell him to actually be pleasant to people…

    Also, downing pints on shift to prove to customers how quickly you can, ain’t a good look…

    Reply

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Your email address will not be published.