Odds are that you’ve visited the North Laine pub, recently re-styled as the North Laine Brewhouse, before, whether in its spacious current incarnation or back in its days as gritty live music venue The Gloucester or The Barfly. It’s probably best known now for the tanks, pipes and pumps of the brewery behind the bar, where the city’s supplies of Laine’s beers come into being (the North Laine naturally has the widest array around of Laine’s beers on tap), but it’s the food menu we’re here to sample.
On Saturdays, the North Laine serves its Bottomless Brunches, so named because the bar will keep your accompanying drink (a choice of Bloody Mary or Mimosa) topped up throughout the day, within sensible licensing conditions (so customers who’ve topped up so often they’re too drunk to serve will find that there are legal limits to a limitless offer). It’s a flat-rate £15 for your brunch, which only really makes sense to your wallet if you’ve got the time and inclination to settle in for at least one or two leisurely drinks top-ups. With a short window to order in (11am-1pm), the bar recommends advance booking and on the bright weekend we pay our pre-arranged visit, all the other brunch tables have been reserved too.
There are three brunch options, which change fairly regularly, and we go for one Eggs Royale with a Mimosa and one Brewer’s Brunch with a Bloody Mary. The Eggs Royale has a very generous serving of smoked salmon on lightly toasted English muffin, topped by poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. All the flavours come through with none overpowering another and no extra seasoning is called for. The Mimosa itself is light and refreshing, the orange juice not too sweet and the Prosecco sparkling (our whole meal is accompanied by the sound of corks popping with lively regularity at the bar).
The Brewer’s Brunch is the heavier dish, with plenty of crisp back bacon and a delicious Cumberland sausage, sliced lengthways. Two fried eggs contain smooth, deep orange and flavoursome yolks, and are joined on the plate by some sweet button mushrooms, grilled tomato, and toasted sourdough bread plus a little baked bean pot. Again there’s plenty of seasoning, although we’re offered your traditional condiments too, and not a trace of grease. The Bloody Mary is thick and dark red and has a head-spinning kick of Brighton Hot Stuff sauce, especially as we’re offered an extra spicy one to start with. It’s a large glass too and after our first replenishment we can already feel ourselves filling up.
The North Laine is a chilled out space to get away from the rest of the Saturday afternoon shopping crowds and their Bottomless Brunch offers a fine excuse to head along for an hour or more with friends. The dishes we tried were balanced and very tasty, setting us up nicely for the day, even though a degree of professional responsibility and other commitments prevented us from taking full advantage of the Bottomless element. For diners of leisure, however, the rest of your Saturday pretty much sorts itself.
Disclaimer: We didn’t pay for our brunch, and the North Laine Brewhouse knew we were reviewing.