Last week was half term here in Manchester and so at my daughters suggestion, as she’s quite obsessed with a few Brighton vloggers, we headed south for a few days to see what all the fuss about this metropolis by the sea was?
First things first, I’ve got to mention our accommodation, which was absolutely fantastic. Right opposite the sea, a little way out of Brighton centre, opposite the Marina, but that was no bad thing, for the trade off of those sea views and the sound of seagulls every morning. We booked the apartment, which was housed in a beautiful Regency terrace, through AirBnB. We were AirBnB virgins and I was a little apprehensive as I’d heard varying stories of peoples experiences, not all good. After our 100% successful experience I’m now fully converted but think it’s still important to ask lots of questions of your host before you book, check out the area and the distance from the place you want to be and look at the reviews. Our host Alex, answered all my questions immediately, provided his phone number so that I could contact him on arrival or during our stay and was really helpful throughout.
The apartment had beautiful styling throughout, all salvaged items and layers of linens and sheepskins strewn everywhere, very clean and extremely cosy. It also had the added bonus of a private garden square, which was available to residents of the terrace only and had a secret tunnel leading to the sea front, thought to be the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.
Before our trip, I asked a few Instagram friends who live in Brighton for their recommendations of places to go, shop and eat and both Ellie & Co, who also writes a fabulous blog about Brighton which you can read here, & KateHillStylist were brilliant, giving me so much information between them, that was all fantastic. As I’m coeliac Kate sent me a link to a blog post by Becky Excell which listed 33 places to eat from cakes to pizza, Japanese, Mexican, Sunday Roasts, you name it, it was on the list and I would recommend anybody visiting Brighton to print off this list as well, as it was invaluable to me. In fact Brighton is the best place I’ve ever visited for it’s wide range of gluten free and vegan options. Most of the pubs and bars had gluten free craft beers and The Walrus pub on Ship Street in the town centre, even had Gluten free beer on draft, so I had my first pint in years.
First on my list of eateries to try was The Farm Tavern in Hove where we pre booked Sunday lunch before our arrival , which was lucky as this small but perfectly formed pub, was packed to the rafters, not surprisingly after sampling the food? It was probably one of the best Sunday roasts I’ve had for a long time, all gluten free, gravy, yorkshire puddings, the lot and then every pudding on the menu was also GF, sticky toffee pudding, salted caramel chocolate pudding and spiced rhubarb crumble. The staff and the atmosphere couldn’t have been friendlier. As the sun set, the lovely pink haired land lady (how very Brighton!) came round chatting to every guest and lighting candles on the tables, making sure everything was to our satisfaction, the perfect host.
Our other firm favourite establishment, which quickly became our local favourite for breakfast, was Marmalade in Kemptown. This cafe was just around the back of our apartment and we all immediately loved it on entering. It was once an old shop, that has been gently stripped back to reveal the old plaster walls, which have been left unadorned except for magazine tears of recipes which are plastered on one corner as you entered. Original Victorian tiles are laid on the floor and mismatched wooden tables and chairs, complete the salvaged style of the decor. The food is all home made and is delicious, from freshly baked bread and bagels to home made pies and sausage rolls, cakes and pastries and the best coffee. I’ve since realised that Marmalade is a bit of a Brighton institution and we were just very lucky to have had this cafe in our neighbourhood.
A quick mention as well about some of the pubs, which are everywhere. Brighton seems to have a pub culture much more than a bar culture, which I really liked, it reminded me very much of London. Our locals in Kemptown were The Thomas Kemp, beware no under 18’s are allowed in after 9.00pm unless you are dining and The Barley Mow, which serves pie and mash, gluten free choices available again obviously, this is Brighton, & they will also order you pizzas from the take away across the road Pizza Face, again GF options available and they are delivered straight to your table in brown cardboard boxes whilst you finish your game of connect 4 or scrabble!
On our last evening we decided to try La Choza Mexican restaurant. I can’t say that Mexcian is a real favourite of mine, it all tastes quite similar to me and it’s just the texture of the recepticles that you choose to hold your filling in that changes the meal? But it’s some where the kids wanted to eat and so we went. How wrong I was proved at La Choza, again the food was amazing, the atmosphere and the colours of this vibrant restaurant, brought a little bit of Mexico to Brighton. I guess I’ve just never had good Mexican food until now?
If your preferred choice of shopping is vintage, Brighton is the place for you. There are so many vintage clothes shops and antique emporiums that there are too many to mention but some of the ones we visited that I can recommend are listed here.
Snoopers Paradise is in North Laine and is a massive two storey building made up of different traders, selling everything and anything you could imagine. Prepare to spend a couple of hours in here.
The Brighton Flea Market on Upper St James Street in Kemptown is a smaller version of snoopers Paradise, again a very worthy place to visit with some great furniture. There are also regular flea markets and vintage markets, mostly over the weekend, which we unfortunately missed but worth checking out by all accounts? There are lots of individual vintage clothes shops in kemptown that we visited, too many to name but the range of goods and the prices were really cheap compared to Manchester and London.
North Laine was probably my favourite area of Brighton for shopping. It reminded me very much of Portabello Road or Camden, lots of hippy style shops, lovely independent interior shops such as the Lavender room and Abode and just a fantastic buzzy atmosphere. There’s also a really cool independent cinema called Dukes at Komedia where you can watch a film whilst sitting in a comfy sofa while you sip prosecco, how very Brighton. That’s definitely one for another visit?
On our last morning we revisited Hove which is really now an extension of Brighton and at the opposite end of the promenade to the Marina. Hove is home to one of the interior shops I’ve dreamed about visiting for longer than I can remember, iGigi which is a masterclass in Wabasabi style or gently faded distressed furniture and objects, all beautifully visually merchandised. Upstairs is a cafe and along the road is an iGigi clothes shop. The ladies who own the shop Alex and Zoe have their own book published showcasing their style, should you not be able to make the pilgrimage to the shop. A life Less Ordinary is one of my favourite books and is available here.
Another beautiful shop in Hove which Kate recommend I visit was Florian, which at first appears to be just a florist but inside amongst the plants & flowers are strewn vintage nic nacs and pieces of beautiful furniture. Across the road from Florian is Salvage cafe, another visual delight of antique and industrial salvaged style to browse whilst you sip your beverage of choice.
Brighton now has a special place in all of our hearts and we all agreed we will definitely return. Our family is made up of myself & Mr B, our 22 year old son George and daughter Amber, who is 15 and we were all equally smitten with Brighton. There literally is something here for everyone. I think it’s one of the most diverse, interesting and exciting places I’ve visited for a long time, the people are eccentric, open minded and above all very friendly and the colourfulness of the town perfectly mirrors the personality of it’s residents. I think I’m a bit in love with Brighton!
From Hove we drove to Charleston, the home of the Bloomsbury group, which is a place I’ve wanted to visit for many many years and is only about 15 miles from Brighton. It was so amazing, that it deserves a dedicated blog post of its own which I will save for another time.