The Old Ship Hotel, Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 1NR.
(Oh dear thevenerablebede how misguided you are.) Whatever the history behind the great Old Ship Hotel, plus the Redz Bar and Brassiere, now it’s time for the real review. Having stayed the night on Friday and having had the choice of several restaurants to go to, I decided to take advantage of the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the Redz Bar and Brassiere. Despite having a huge function out towards the back of the restaurant, the restaurant seemed overstaffed (unless they employ them to stand in a line waiting…) The exquisite menu is not overpriced (like most things in Brighton) and cooked to perfection. I had the goose liver parfait (lots of!) and the steak (even more of!) and was quite full, so refrained from eating dessert. Not wanting to go back to our room, we decided to go into the bar area of Redz (which stays open till late if you’re a resident) and have a couple glasses of white wine. As they say in their brochure their wines are ‘superior’, but luckily the prices do not reflect this (the usual £5.50). I have to disagree with the former reviewer of Redz. Although Redz has quite obviously undergone a refurbishment, I did not see hoards of young people, hen nights or stag nights, just couples and a family enjoying a quiet, superbly presenting meal in relaxed surroundings. Considering the bar is directly opposite the famous Funky Budda and various other clubs (all in the seafront caves), the did not once see a bunch of rowdy revellers consider entering this prestigious brassiere. I would highly recommend Redz to people of any age who want a reasonably priced meal overlooking a wonderful sea view.
The Old Ship Hotel is surely the most historic hotel in Brighton. Perhaps that isn’t saying much. Brighton doesn’t, after all, have the great historical reputation. It is hardly up there with Stratford, York or Canterbury. But despite a potentially disappointing first glance, Brighton’s history is rich and varied and good chunk is embodied in the Old Ship Hotel. It’s time for a story and if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin. Are you ready children, are you? There once was a man called Nicholas Tettershall. He was the captain and owner of a small ship called the Suprise that harboured down the coast from Brighton at Shoreham. Not a great or a huge vessel but a living for a jobbing captain who carried passengers and cargo, especially coal, to Fecamp or maybe Dieppe. No doubt there was a touch of smuggling too. Sussex was a smuggling centre in the 17th Century. In early September 1651 a man who wanted a passage to France for two the next day at dawn approached Tettershall. Tettershall agreed for the sum of £60 to take the commission. Tettershall would have known that days previously the King, Charles II, had been beaten at the Battle of Worcester, and was on the run. What he didn’t know, until the King and his loyal companions presented themselves at the Surprise the next morning for their passage to France. Now Tettershall was no fool and he recognised the King and immediately raised the price to £200. The King readily agreed and was taken to France and safety from Cromwell’s armies. Thus Tettershall was assured his bit part in history. Now, I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t a history lesson, this is supposed to be a pub review. But please, dear readers, indulge me just a moment longer. There used to be two memorials, remembrances to our unusual hero. One is, and remains, his tombstone up on the hill in Brighton at St Nicholas’s Church. The other was the bar at the
Old Ship Hotel. It used to be called Tettershall’s Bar. Let me tell you why. We all know it now, but the King didn’t go to France and spend the rest of his days in exile. In 1660 there was a Restoration of the Stuart monarchy and Tettershall, who had incidentally renamed his craft the Royal escape, was rewarded by the King on his return to the throne. He was granted the rank of Captain in the navy and also given command of a ship. He, his wife and two children were also granted a pension of £100 a year for 99 years. The King also gave the Captain a ring as a momento. But it’s what he spent his new wealth on that is of interest to us: in 1671 he bought the Old Ship Inn on Brighton seafront. So it is only natural, in honour of Tettershall, that the bar bore his name. The punters liked it: I used to work there and tourists from all over the world would often ask about the name and they would always be fascinated by the name and the man. And depending how drunk I was, the story would be more and more embellished. I usually managed to get a drink out of it at the end. So when, last year, I noticed that the Old Ship was in the midst of a major refurb I was fairly pleased. Tettershall’s Bar was in for a new lease of life. It never occurred to me that they’d change the name. Perhaps the hotel is under new management; perhaps the management changed their mind,. I just don’t know. But when it reopened I discovered that the rather charming old bar that used to bear the Captain’s name had been totally removed. Gone was the wood panelling, the leather upholstery, and the faded grandeur of a nobler hotel age. Gone was boozy Michael from behind the bar, who would regale the regulars with his stories as he fixed the good, old-fashioned cocktails the Old Ship used to be famous for. Instead there was a pristine but rather soulless bar and…gasp..horror…brasserie. Called, of all things: Redz. R
edz? Redz? Where does this name come from? Some crap agency in Haywards Heath, no doubt. Or had Stalin once stayed the night? And what about the poor Captain? Why did the name have to go anyway? They could have kept it. Just called it Tettershall’s or Tett’s, that what we always used to call it in the hotel. I guess that’s my gripe. The name was important and they scrapped it. Apart from that the refurb isn’t so bad, I suppose. Imagine a fairly traditional seafront hotel and imagine what they might do to make it more trendy, to attract the young crowd, the hen nights and the stag parties, the clubbers and the bright young things of London down for the weekend. It’s light and airy with, you guessed it, a dash of red. The furniture is modern and not a patch on the old chesterfields. But it’s all so self-conscious and just a little too naff and the service is absolutely awful. I think what I am saying is don’t go there. If you want a taste of what Tettershall would have approved of, go for a drink in the Fortune of war right on the beach with all its fun nautical gear. If you want hotel grandeur then head for the Grand or better still the Metropole which is infinitely more classy. If you want trendy and modern, Brighton is bursting with trendy and modern, Redz is a nowhere place in a somewhere town. A place on the seafront where people go because they don’t know any better. You do, don’t go.