Last week I received a recommendation to check out a special little sandwich joint in the North Laines – Hells Kitchen (thanks Jim!) It’s been around since 1951 but I’ve never noticed it before. The exterior was previously an unassuming beige colour which didn’t stand out amongst the other vibrant retailers on Gardner Street.
But it’s just been taken over and revamped by a lovely Irish chap called Tristan. Now the exterior is more reminiscent of its name, with black and flame red theme running through the signage outside and the hip illustrated blackboard menus behind the counter.
When I visited, I ordered the ‘Pride’ sandwich (£4.50) on a mixed seed baguette and boy was it something special. The Pride is made up of rare roast British beef, heritage tomatoes and rocket with a dollop of horseradish (although I swapped out the horseradish on this visit and went for an English mustard). The beef was exquisite, tender and pink and mouthwatering. The heritage tomatoes lived up to their legacy too, juicy and sweet (not like your usual flavourless beef tomato). And the final ingredient, the garden rocket, was packed with a peppery punch.
When I popped down I was lucky enough to grab a quick chat with Tristan (the owner and new chef behind the deli). Tristan was clearly very passionate about the Deli and his menu and here’s what he had to say:
What’s the story behind Hells Kitchen?
Hells Kitchen is a Brighton institution, established in 1951. Passed down through three generations, the deli has always had a New York style influence with dishes remaining the same to this day. Including our famous Latkes, salt beef, spinach & feta rolls.
What makes it different from other sandwich shops in Brighton?
We don’t make sandwiches, we build them! We’re independent with a unique character. All our produce is fresh and made daily on-site in our kitchen. Our sandwiches are dedicated to and made by sandwich lovers. We’ve a good crew of staff who enjoy the buzz of the shop and it’s position in the heart of Brighton lanes. We also pride ourselves on ensuring no one leaves hungry.
You’ve recently taken over the place, what’s your background and what were you doing before?
Timing and a lot of hard work! I have been working as a chef since the tender age of 16, it’s taken me all over the world and I’ve working in some great & renowned kitchens. After having left London I landed in Brighton and became a valued customer and friend of Hells Kitchen, whilst Mick and his wife Donna were at the helm. Mick is Hells Kitchen’s third generation, the grandson of Debbs AKA Debb’s Deli.
I’ve always wanted to get me hands on the shop. It’s in such a great part of the town and it felt like the sort of shop I could put my mark on. I said to Mick, if he ever wanted to sell, he should keep me in mind.
Last year I was lecturing at Brighton City College and I’d also set up a catering & events company Secret Service Events which was growing steadily and I was in need of a production kitchen.
A serendipitous sandwich trip to Hells Kitchen ended with Mick and I shaking hands over a pint in the Dorset for me to take over in the September. I couldn’t believe it – and couldn’t wait to get in there!
What’s your favourite thing on the menu?
Food is about feelings. So I guess it depends on the day and mood, but I’m partial to a bacon & cheese latkes. If I’m up for some comfort food or feeling indulgent, ‘Sunshine Steve’. Or if salad box if in need of a detox.
What’s in the ‘Sunshine Steve’?
Chicken, bacon, pesto, avocado & sun blushed tomatoes – Indulgent, healthy and totally addictive!
Do you do a delivery service?
We do deliver locally. We’re looking into this more. If there’s demand, we’ll supply for sure.
What are your plans for the future? Anything exciting to look out for?
It’s been a very busy year for me. Year 1 of running Hells Kitchen, we’ve done a total refurbishment using local artists to give the place some fresh energy. We’ve kept our regular custom as well as attracting new customers. Outside catering is getting busier & busier for both Secret Service Events and Hells Kitchen. For the moment, I’m just working on keeping both businesses on track and making sure that we’re producing the food people want to eat. That will keep me busy enough for now!
If you’re a regular Pret goer, stop that and give Hells Kitchen a-go. For the same price you can build your own sandwich or salad box (yes they do that too!), support a local business and have a chat with a friendly bunch of foodies. It’s a no-brainer really.
PRICE: £4.50-£5 for a sandwich