The Heart & Hand
It’s Valentine’s Day so where better to review than lovable North Laine charmer the Heart and Hand? To my knowledge it’s the only pub in the city with Heart (or Hart) in its name so it’s a natural choice for the most
commercialised romantic day of the year.
At first glance you might think this isn’t the most obvious place to treat your sweetheart – there’s no kitchen for one thing so a candle lit dinner is out of the question – however this is a pub where you’ve really got to look beneath the surface to uncover its true charm. The interior is dated and looks very much like its not seen a paintbrush since the 70s, the carpet is one big smudge that offers no clue as to its original colour and about one in three of the stools are wobbly. But this is precisely why I think this pub is an absolute belter.
For me this is a true jewel of the North Laine, which tends to be a very popular area for both tourists and locals alike, but unlike many of its trendy nightspot neighbours the Heart and Hand somehow manages to come across as far less inviting to the unacquainted trying to judge it from the street. The stained glass windows make it impossible to see what’s going on inside for the casual passer-by and consequently in spite of its great location it’s rare you’ll find the place swamped with out-of-towners. For my mind this is unquestionably a good thing but having said that I’ve never found the place to be dead either, so don’t be worrying you could shuffle in and find yourself awkwardly alone.
The small bar normally has two well kept ales on the hand pumps and for as long as I can remember now they’ve been Dark Star American Pale Ale and Longman Long Blonde so I’m guessing they don’t rotate very often (and with brews of this calibre why change?) You’ll also find warming mulled wine and cider in the winter months alongside all the regular varieties of alcoholic concoctions you’d expect from a city centre boozer.
What really puts this pub on the map however, and what 9/10 Brightonians will tell you is its most notable feature, is the battered old jukebox at the back that’s filled with classic rock, mod and ska vinyls from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Whilst they do occasionally switch records in and out you can pretty much be sure of there being some Bowie, The Clash and Dylan to pick from and if it’s not on free play it costs just £1 for 5 tunes which is value not to be sniffed at. Do spare a thought for the bar staff before you excitedly queue up Green Onions however – you can guarantee you won’t be the first to have picked it on the day and likely you won’t be the last.
One final point worthy of note is that this pub is one of few in the city to be (as far as I can tell) untied to a brewery or pubco so its charms are all its own rather than having had a pre-approved identity thrust upon it. For such a pub to exist in such a cracking city centre location is quite the feat and I’ve no doubt its been subject to takeover attempts from the various chains who’ve bought up vast swathes of Brighton’s public houses over the years so it should be applauded for maintaining its independence.
The Heart and Hand is a wonderfully characterful pub that has always oozed with positive energy so I’d heartily recommend it to all those in search of a handily located old skool boozer with the kind of atmosphere you just can’t fake. It’s not one for families or feeding but if you’re looking for good beers and good vibes you really can’t go wrong.
At a glance
|Children welcome?||Not really|
|Bar games?||A selection of old board games|
|Garden?||No but there are a handful of tables on the street outside|
|Twitter?||No – I told you it was old skool|