7A New Road
0872 148 6350
Bar Valentino sits above the El Mexicano restaurant in Brighton city centre, next to the Theatre Royal. Apparently El Mexicano is the only authentic mexican restaurant in Brighton, so I was very intrigued as to what their bar was going to be like.
Early doors on a Saturday evening wasnít particularly busy, although itís a pretty small bar so all of the seats were taken. The first thing to note is that the mexican theme does not continue from the restaurant up to the bar. Instead the cocktail menu contains all the usual suspects and the dťcor is art-deco, and pretty shabby around the edges. I can imagine when it opened that this was a destination for cocktail drinkers, however as with many bars, the owners havenít kept up with the appearance of the place which is a shame.
The best thing about Bar Valentino is the views over the park from their balcony. Unfortunately all of the tables were taken when we arrived, but itís worth trying to get a table out there if itís warm enough.
So, the cocktail menu isnít particularly special or swish, although they have tried to add a number of unique creations to the list. I was determined to try one of these, but generally I found them to contain too many sweet ingredients or odd combinations of spiritsÖrum & gin, vodka & gin, vodka & rum Ė far too many strong spirits in a glass for me to be honest.
In the end I decided on a Negroni (my current vice), and my friend went for a Hunny Bunny (a bar original). Now free-pouring is ok by me, if itís in a busy bar and youíre rushed off your feet, plus if itís only one bottle at a time. The issues for me begin when the bartender aims to hold multiple bottles, and where time and time again one of the bottles doesnít reach the correct angle and rather than a pour you get a trickle! This was exactly what happened in Valeninos, and my poor negroni was far too heavy on the gin, and only had the teeniest of tiniest of splashes of campari in it. Please bartenders, if the bar is quiet, and youíre making classics such as a negroni, for godís sake use a jigger to get the ratios right! The finished article was drinkable to be fair, although it would be a terrible day when I couldnít drink a glass containing gin/vermouth/campari in any ratio to be honest!
The Hunny Bunny was served up to my friend in a martini glass. A mix of Krupnik honey vodka, raspberries, spiced rum, lime and cranberry juice it sounded quite nice (although I generally donít like honey). The first problem was that instead of using fresh raspberries the bartender had used funkin puree which rendered the drink very sweet, especially when combined with the honey vodka. The second problem was that there wasnít so much of a hint of rum, which begs the question why use it in the first place! That being said it was a perfectly nice drink, and I would imagine some would really enjoy it. But ultimately far too sweet for either of our palettes.
What you do get at Bar Valentino is really friendly and attentive service and a pretty good atmosphere. The cocktails are nothing special, but are very reasonably priced (especially so during happy hour). I can imagine having a great summers night here sat out on the balcony watching the world go by, however I might stick to G&Ts next time.
17 Atlingworth Street
01273 603 504
Blanch House sits in busy Kemp Town in Brighton. Itís a boutique hotel, with a restaurant and bar inside, and is situated down one of the quieter side streets off from St James Street. I took the opportunity to get out of the city and to the sea side during the August bank holiday. As it was my first trip to Brighton I did some research into the best bars beforehand, and Blanch House consistently came top of the pile and highly recommendedÖnot much to live up to then!
We arrived at Blanch House at about 9pm on the Saturday, and were shown to the bar by a lovely waitress (you have to buzz at the door to be let in). The bar area is fairly small, with seating along both sides of the room. This does have the advantage that no matter where youíre sitting you can see whatís going on at the bar, but it does also mean that the atmosphere is very much determined by the customers. I mention this, as Blanch House is predominantly a hotel cocktail bar, which means that there will be a siginifant number of suits here at any one time (especially those who have been dining at the restaurant). However during the two hours we spent in the bar, it wasnít too much of an issue, and such groups seemed to move on quickly.
The drinks menu is pretty long, and contains a dedicated cocktail section as well as the usual wines, spirits and beers e.t.c. There are a significant number of cocktails to choose from, although the list is split into sub-sections to help you. Blanch House has so many unique cocktails I could happily work my way through their menu for a number of visits without even getting to the classics! It therefore took us forever to finally settle on just two to start with, and we were already planning our subsequent rounds whilst ordering our first! Throughout the course of the night we sampled the wonderfully bitter Rhubarb and Artichoke Julep, a Truly Meadly Deeply, the potent A Rum Lot, a wonderfully spicy Pineapple and Chilli Mojito, and a Chiving Miss Daisy, which was particularly great. I finished the evening with a White Lady, as I like to have at least one classic when reviewing bars for comparative reasons.
The orders were taken at our table, either by the waitress or the bar staff themselves. It was nice to have the opportunity to speak to the bartenders, however at the time I felt like I was being talked at rather than with, which was a little annoying.
The drinks themselves stand out for me as some of the most original and interesting creations I have had in a while. There was a bit of a culture clash between what I expect bars to be like, and the one at Blanch House as the service was overly attentive, and the atmosphere quite stuffy at times. This may be because Iím not used to drinking in hotel bars, and the usual bars I drink in have a much more laid back atmosphere, but the attitude of the bartender when I tried to have a conversation with him about drinks really did annoy me quite a bit. However, thatís only one guy, and in fairness he was making us some amazing drinks. The prices are very reasonable for the quality of the drinks and I was really impressed with the creativeness behind the menu. Once I researched the place a little more and realised that the people behind the venture (Chris Edwardes and Amanda Blanch) have significant experience in the trade. The winners of multiple awards in the industry, these guys really do know their stuff and it shows. I will definitely be visiting Blanche House the next time Iím in Brighton