The Barley Mow
The Barley Mow is a cosy and traditional Kemptown pub with a lot of personality. Slightly worn and rustic looking, the place retains plenty of charm due to having clearly avoided any attempts at being refurbished for quite some years. You’ll not find any shiny chrome fittings or glitzy machinery here, and for many people this is a huge selling point. Although it would be unfair to go so far as to call the place run down, the Barley Mow certainly isn’t trying to be anything it’s not and regulars and new visitors alike can enjoy its old fashioned simplicity.
With a fairly limited inside space the pub can seem busy with relatively few people within and this helps create a warm and convivial atmosphere at all but the quietest of times. And when it is a bit more crowded you may find yourself having to share one of their larger tables, such as the self styled “sperm table” by the front door (so named for the ornamental sperm like carving in its wood) which always makes for a more “community” feel.
Having used the words rustic and traditional already I’ll come on to the Mow’s thoroughly decent daily menu. This is a small pub with big ideas when it comes to food and although it stops short of being a full on gastropub, the quality of dishes on offer is certainly a cut above your average pub kitchen fare. Classic steaks and burgers sit alongside a regularly changing chalkboard of specials including a variety of fresh fish and seafood dishes which are priced appropriately considering their high quality. A prime cut of steak with all the trimmings might leave you with little change from a £20 note however the meat really does speak for itself and there are plenty of less pricey options available as well.
And if you’re into your sweet treats you can round off your meal with a homemade dessert or pick from the extensive selection of retro sweets from the bar’s own classic tuckshop.
Ale fans are well catered for with three or four different bitters on rotation sitting alongside the regular stalwart of Harveys Sussex Best and they know what they’re doing in keeping it well. What’s more if you’re not sure which to choose you can enjoy a “bat of ale” which consists of three 1/3 pint glasses filled with your choice of any three ales on tap, and considering the landlord’s apparent strength in selecting fine ales this is a welcome offer worth taking advantage of.
Beyond great food and excellent beer the Barley Mow benefits from an extensive selection of board games. In fact I’d go so far as to say they have more games available than any other Brighton pub I know of. These games are everywhere, and whilst most may not be in the first flush of youth, with missing pieces and sticky taped dog eared edges, the fact they’ve see so much love only adds to their appeal. Classics like Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly sit alongside all manner of Top Trumps packs and noisier games like Connect 4, Buckaroo and Jenga, all adding to the extra dimension of fun that this pub is clearly keen to promote.
I’d also like to tip my hat to the Barley Mow’s resident sign writer as the blackboard out the front has a new jolly message every day of the year, never failing to raise a smile, and the fact that I’ve never seen the same quirky comment twice, despite passing by almost daily, is an impressive feat. It certainly injects a bit of personality and helps the place to stand out in what is a fairly crowded area for decent boozers.
A very fine pub indeed the only real let down for the Barley Mow is the wi-fi offering, which needs to be paid for. Therefore if you’re looking for a quiet spot in which to sit by yourself and surf the web I’d suggest giving the place a swerve and trying either the excellent Ground coffee shop over the road or perhaps the nearby Golden Cannon. [JANUARY 2016 UPDATE: The Mow now has free wi-fi for all!]
At a glance
|Children welcome?||Yes, during the day|
|Bar games?||Board games aplenty!|
|Garden?||Terrace at rear|