Named after the fella behind the Regency-style buildings that make up Kemptown, The Thomas Kemp is a cosy boozer, filled to the brim with charm and warmth.
It also happens to be the place I found myself one freezing December afternoon, post-beach walk with ice-cold fingers and a grumbling stomach. A quirky space filled with mismatched furniture and flooded with sunlight from the huge south-facing windows, it offered a welcome retreat from the bitter winds whooshing over the English Channel and through Brighton’s narrow streets. And when I saw the mouth-watering Sunday roast menu? Well, it would have been rude not to.
Already drooling at the sight of passing plates, my companion and I squeezed our chilled bones into a cosy nook under the armpit of a friendly full-sized knight (well, his armour anyway), warming our hands over a candle and ordering two tankards of mulled cider - so far, so... er medieval?
Warmed from the inside out by our citrus-infused sips, we grabbed two copies of the menu, our eyes simultaneously darting to the 3 for £10 sides section. Pigs in blankets, pork and apple stuffing and cauliflower cheese? It was the stuff of Sunday dreams. Remembering that we should probably order a main to accompany this golden trio (if for nothing else, we needed the plate space), my interest was piqued by the veggie offering of a halloumi, sweet potato, mushroom and spinach wellington (£13). My dining partner, an unshakable carnivore, opted for that day’s ‘guest roast’ - a garlic and rosemary leg of lamb, served with all the trimmings (£15.50).
Arriving at the speed of light, our hearty feast was soon sending plumes of steam high above the table, and attracting the attention of a nearby very good boy (this place is dog-friendly - as all proper pubs should be).
My plate arrived jam-packed with crispy roast potatoes, honey roasted carrots and parsnips, tender stem broccoli, kale, swede puree and red cabbage, putting my mum’s usually generous veggie offering to shame. The riot of colour (which was quickly doused in rich and thick gravy) was crowned with a golden wellington and a precariously balanced, larger-than-life Yorkshire pudding. Tackling the leaning tower of trimmings required some delicate knife and fork work - and that was before we had even got to the extra sides.
And the sides, oh boy the sides. Three perfectly salted pigs in blankets nestled into a trio of sage-infused stuffing balls, reminding me why I’ve been putting off watching those Netflix documentaries for quite so long. And, the pièce de résistance, a mound of cauliflower, drowning in a pool of mature cheddar, smoked applewood, stilton and parmesan sauce. Rich and indulgent to the max, it blew everything else out the water and had me questioning why this humble dish never quite managed to reach the same notoriety of its macaroni cousin.
Tackling as much of the mountain as I could manage, and then passing the rest over to my boyfriend (who is affectionately known as Dyson), it wasn’t long before the pudding menu came a calling.
It was a one sticky toffee pudding (£6), two spoons job. The perfect ration of rich to light, the bouncy sponge happily soaked up its surrounded toffee sauce leaving us just the right amount of ready to pop.
The DesignMyNight Digest
The Thomas Kemp feels a little like the pub version of a hot water bottle. Bursting with character, the food here is what good pub grub should be - unpretentious and perfectly formed. Head to this quirky spot on the right day and you’ll be greeted by a roaring fire and gang of friendly pups - Brighton boozers don’t get much better than that.