The Elgin is clearly a locals’ favourite: most tables were either reserved or already full by 6pm on a Tuesday. Downstairs is like a classy mate’s living room with slouchy sofas, ultra friendly staff and ad hoc vintage furnishings. It even does table service and there are lots of coat hooks in thoughtful places, which is always a sign of a good pub. Upstairs is more candlelit, with old-school tables and huge windows. Knowledgeable bar staff were hosting a wine tasting on the table next to us for punters having a wedding there soon, and they were just as informed about the food and seasonal ingredients, too.
The menu combines pub comfort food (signature cheeseburger, steak, cheese platter) with foodie flourishes like locally supplied meats, milk and cream from Northiam Dairy, and a sprinkling of fancy ingredients like sumac, cultured butter and pink peppercorns. This is the kind of pub where you order chips but they’re triple-fried and come with chorizo ketchup.
Everything we ate was on-point, kicking off with grown-up bar snacks of gordal olives and sardines on toast. Small plates made for easy sharing, like the crisp salt cod croquettes, or ricotta gnudi beautifully presented in a heavy earthenware dish with grilled peas, smoked garlic dressing and a satisfyingly wobbly egg yolk. For mains, vegetarian wellington was stuffed with smoky aubergines, courgette and fennel seeds wrapped in buttery homemade pastry. A side of grilled hispi cabbage was gargantuan, but the petticoat leafy layers were charred and sweet with a harissa kick. To finish, Pump Street chocolate mousse was dense and dark, without being heavy – more like a whipped ganache – and served with a scoop of bright white, milk ice cream, like a sophisticated Mini Milk that cut through the chocolate. The Elgin is everything a serious gastropub should be: warm and welcoming, with food you’d come back for.