So I headed off to Brighton on business…. but business doesn’t take up all day thankfully, so I had the evening, the night, and the Saturday to enjoy what it has to offer…. what is there to do for the lightly adventurous of heart?
Brighton was recently selected by Totally Money as one of the top five most cultured cities in Britain. The judges were swung by the fame of the city as a destination for anyone with a love of modern or alternative art.
Another study by relocation company, MoveHub, named Brighton as the world’s ‘most hipster’ city, with 37 vegan restaurants, 125 coffee shops, and nine record stores per every 100,000 people.
Of course, there are the standard offerings you will find on TripAdviser…. But I wasn’t interested in those. I was choosing from the following:
- No 27 – only five rooms in this boutique hotel in a nineteenth century building
- Artists’ Residence Brighton which describes itself as ‘creative, bohemian, and downright eccentric’. But the Pelirocco trumps it for sure on the eccentricity scales.
- Where I went, the really TRULY eccentric Pelirocco, a rock-themed hotel whose 19 rooms are given a regular refresh by an enthusiastic room designer who I met at the bar. My single room had a Rough Trade (a group of independent record shops which opened in the seventies) theme. I can also vouch for the breakfast – a poached egg on spinach toast, cooked to perfection.
- If you are a vegetarian, try Terre à Terre, and once ensconced choose a Terre à Verre, a six-dish selection plus a glass of organic wine.
- For inventive seafood, try English’s. Or alternatively The Little Fish Market, run by Duncan Ray, formerly of The Fat Duck.
- For an imaginative take on afternoon tea, try The Salt Room. Or for a traditional English tea, go to Blackbird Tea Rooms.
- For a coffee and a free-play juke box in a sixties’ diner try Rock Ola.
- For tapas go to Circo by Señor Buddha, Spanish-asian small plates.
- For gourmet burgers…Burger Brothers are something of a local legend.
- The Chilli Pickle serves southern Indian cuisine on railway trays.
- Not feeling all that adventurous? 64 Degrees has twice won ‘Best Restaurant in Brighton’ awards, and Michael Notman-Watt who works there has just won Sussex Young Chef of the Year.
- Or try Britain’s favourite street food – fish and chips on the beach.
- Look through the list of winners of the top twenty best restaurants in Brighton.
- Try Bincho Yakatori – just around the corner from my hotel. I met Peter Marshall, editor of Chef magazine there, and we both agreed that the cauliflower tempura was the best we’d ever tasted…I’ve attempted to replicate it at home, but never even nearly succeeded. They have an excellent selection of saki there. It’s an informal place, known by locals for its excellence, so often full to bursting.
Activities for foodies
- Book a place on a VIB (very independent Brighton) food tour.
- Go to the top of the British Airways i360 tower – the world’s tallest moving observation tower. Head for the Nyetimber Sky Bar – and try the Nyetimber, some of the best English sparkling wine.
- If it’s a simple ice cream you’re after, go to Jon Adams’ Gelato Gusto. The owner tired of his commute, remembered fondly childhood visits to an ice cream parlour in Catalonia, and took himself off to study at the Gelato University in Bologna. Armed with his new-found knowledge he opened Gelato Gusto in the centre of Brighton. Try a G&T sorbeto, or a richer sea-salt caramel.
- Chocaholics should visit the first Choccywoccydoodah shop. Co-founder, Christine Taylor recalls that the day before they opened in 1994 they tried to make the shop look eye-catching, but they didn’t have enough stock, ‘probably because we’d eaten it all’. They went into a mania of baking and ‘as we became ever more delirious, so did the cakes; great pillars of tumbling chocolate’. The shop is a rococo cake masterpiece!
- If it’s cheese you’re interested in, buy some Brighton Blue – a semi-soft, mellow, fragrant cheese and a Bronze award winner in 2012. A very good place to buy this is at a wholesale warehouse called The Cheese Man, which has just opened a counter for the public. Brighton Blue (made by High Weald Dairy) is one of the 250 odd cheeses they stock. Fascinating place!
- More interested in alcohol? Try Brighton Gin – made for ‘free thinkers and good time girls and boys everywhere’.
Slightly eccentric shops
- There are antique shops in the famous ‘Lanes’ area near the Pavilion, one of them is particularly eccentric – try Mark Hawkins’ shop, The Lanes Armoury. Interviewed in The Telegraph Hawkins explains:
“Comparing a Japanese sword to a European sword of any era is the same as comparing the finest Ferrari one could imagine to a 50-year-old Austin Cambridge with a broken gearbox”
And he explains that he and his brother have specialised in Japanese weaponry as well as trading all kinds of other curiosities such as wild west pistols, cap badges and even a Royal Navy cannon. You might also find some unusual war related books there.
- Weapons don’t float your boat? Eric Danot set up his bonsai emporium, Bonsai-Ko when he didn’t make it as a film star. “People are often surprised to learn that ‘bonsai’ is the name of the technique, not the plant, and they don’t have to be trees: I have bonsai fuschia, sage, rosemary, ivy….” Danot explains in The Telegraph. “…when the stem is still slender, they have had their branches pruned nd tied back with wire to give them the twisted shape often taken by older branches on full-sized trees. Once you’ve done that the stem won’t grow any wider”.
- Perhaps you are of a more practical turn of mind? If so, you are bound to find something of use at Utility. Owner, Martha Tiffin explains (again in The Telegraph) that they began stocking “things we all had that we’d nicked from our parents because they didn’t break. Why would you replace that ancient spud peeler if it still does what it’s meant to?”. The focus of the shop is on products designed from the turn of the century to the fifties.
When to go
This is England remember, so to get anything like seaside-worthy temperatures go in the very crucible of summer – July – when the temperature should be about 21°C.
What to read
Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock is an obvious choice. It’s about a teenager moving through Brighton’s criminal world in the 1930s.
- Have a look through the latest Sussex Food and Drink award-winners.
- Go to Wobblegate cider, and buy some Brighton Rocks cider.
- Visit Eggs to Apples – the village farm shop at Hurst Green, housed in a vast chestnut-clad barn.
- There’s a fishmonger in Hove run by a fisherman’s co-op, called Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales.
- The Little Fish Market, fish restaurant in Hove – offers food, according to Kathryn Flett in The Daily Telegraph, “perfectly and delicately realised, with unexpectedly happy juxtapositions (wine-wise too) beautifully presented.”
- As a happy contrast to the ‘hipsterness’ of Brighton, you could visit The Shepherd & Dog, a 14th century pub in the pretty hamlet of Fulking.
- In a former Augustinian friary in Rye you will find The Monastery, the storehouse of the antique dealer Alex MacArthur who specialises in grand, oversized architectural pieces. She is open by appointment only, contact her on alexmacarthur.co.uk, 07931 765488.
Rough Trade artiste, Joan As Police Woman – with Holy City.