Special Dispatch: Divalls, Brighton
3 Terminus Road
Brighton BN1 3PD
01273 776 277
by Des Ayuno
****DIVALLS HAS NOW CLOSED****
Divalls, with the tattiest facade in Brighton and a wheels-akimbo wheelchair blocking the door, exuded the appeal of the depressingly familiar – like recognising faces in your local dole queue, or Kathy Burke in Nil by Mouth. The Scot, irritable and silent after an early morning rail replacement bus, on which Italian ladies in leopard-print Lycra screeched at each other over gangs of shrill 13-year-olds, snapped back to life, whispered “fantastic” and bounded inside.
Inside, every surface was covered in blistered veneer-effect laminate, except for the creepy flesh-coloured Formica tabletops. A toothless, aggressive OAP in a pinny took orders at the till, flanked by sepia photographs of an eye-rolling pug and a framed portrait of Arthur Lowe. The rest of the customers, mostly scraggly kids, drank tall glasses of milk and hid fags from the waitress, cos she knew their mums. Pale yellow, proudly non-free-range eggs and vinegary tinned mushrooms were more authentic set pieces than detractions from the star of the show – the bubble. It was churned out in an elaborate system that may yet entice Henry Ford to burst joyously out of his grave. Industrial quantities of mash and cabbage were packed into rows of giant Tupperware which shuffled slowly from kitchen-floor left to kitchen-floor right to griddle, where a giant cake of the stuff rested, the soft back edge replenished periodically from the tubs and, over the course of hours, nudged inexorably to the crispy front, there to be lopped off in six-inch squares and served. Even the Scot, not a bubble fan, was transfixed, as though regarding assembly-line production for the first time. I was entranced by its velvety soft, buttery centre and fine, crunchy surface. Truly, it is worth a trip to Brighton, life-shortening journey and all, for this delicacy alone.