Think of Brighton and you think of E. Stop sniggering at the back. E for excess. E for environmental, eco hippy chic. E for for eccentric, English egalitarianism… look it up. What can I say? We’re a bunch of Green voting, fair trade, vegan loving, accept you for whatever floats your boat, all inclusive, politically active little deviants. With that in mind, here’s my list of the most Brighton of Brighton bars, restaurants and cafes.
Rarely am I lost for words, but Bom Banes is everything that you want to find in a Brighton café. Great food, warm and friendly service and more quirks than a quirky thing on a quirky day in Quirksville. Secret cinema nights, music, poetry readings and book launches. You want it, you go it. But more than that there are secrets within the very fabric of the tables.. Aesop’s Tables, Tablerone, TurnTable, Twenty-Seven Chimes Table to name but a few. I don’t want to say more as it’ll spoil the surprise. But be prepared for the unexpected. A great place to spend time with friends, throw caution to the wind and don’t look up what’s scheduled for the evening, just reserve a table and dive in to the culture. After all, you’re in Brighton. Embrace the quirks. Oh and don’t chat through the cinema screenings, no one likes a “talker.”
Brighton is a beautiful city and has appeared in many a film but perhaps it’s most famous cinematic adventure is Quadrophenia. Based on the Mod and Rocker beach brawls of the 60s, there are a number of Brighton institutions that appear in the cult movie and the Regency Restaurant is one of the most iconic. Situated on the sea front, this is as quintessentially Brighton as you can possibly get. Fish and chips, Mods and Rockers, Quadrophenia, sea view, Regency gentility setting. Every box is ticked and ticked again. Is it the best fish and chips in the City? Who knows. But if you’re a tourist to the City and on a tight timescale you can do a lot worse than settle down with a large cod and chips and imagine what it was like to trade punches over clothes and music whilst taking a selfie. Because, you know, kids of today, such rebels.
OK so ultimately it’s a cinema but this is a cinema that opened in 1910 and was not only Brighton’s first cinema but one of the first in the country. With the addition of the cabaret legs in 1991, it has been greeting visitors with akimbo abandon ever since. So yes, of course you can see an indepent film or two but more than that, the great little gem of a balcony affords a wonderful, low key place to have a glass of wine or home baked cake. If you do venture in to watch a film, you can do it with a Brighton gin in hand but my top tip? Once the main attraction has started, you will have the balcony to yourself and can watch the sun set in a truly unique and romantic setting. Feel like going the whole hog? You can propose on the balcony and then hire the entire place for your wedding.
All towns have a great independent music venue and Brighton is home to many but the Latest Music Bar ranks in my top 10 because of one of their many fun and unique nights, the Catalyst Club. Established in 2004, the Catalyst Club is a monthly Brighton event that pays tribute to the old traditions of French Salon, debating societies and Gentleman’s Clubs. Talks have ranged from the exotic and erotic topics of Marmite to the history of the Martini. From the suffragettes to Spartans. From demonology to bum reading. You get the idea. This is Brighton at its’ most Brightony. It’s most eccentric and most inclusive. Come one, come all, engage in debate. Have a drink and pretend it’s all in the name of culture and self-improvement. Buy your ticket in advance and introduce yourself to the genial host, Dr Bramwell. As author of the Cheeky Guide to Brighton, if you’re lucky, he’ll share some of his Brighton secrets.
Let’s talk eco. More than that, let’s talk extraordinary food in a classic North Laine setting. Let’s talk Silo. With it’s “reduce, reuse, share, repeat” mantra, Silo is a zero-waste restaurant. Yip, let that sink in for a moment. Zero waste. They use every element of every ingredient in the most unusual and creative ways. But this is no brown rice and mung bean, tie-dye hostelry. This is urban chic with a menu that delights and entertains in the most satisfying and sophisticated way. Settle down with a blood pudding starter, follow up with huss, cauliflower and samphire and sate yourself, oh so completely, with a sunflower seed sorbet and frozen strawberry dessert. Wine pairings are offered or why not try out one of their fermented brews? So yes, think Brighton, think extreme eco warriors. Just now, you can think of them in a ground-breaking, post-industrialist, available for private hire setting with a menu that will tug on your heart strings as well as put an extra tick in your “I’m more ethically conscious than you” column. Sorted.
Pubs. Boozers. Alcoholic dens of inequity and depravity. We’ve got all the bases covered in Brighton but The Yellow Book is a relatively new addition to our imbibing scene that has a delightful point of difference; steampunk. For the uninitiated, steampunk is a genre that straddles high Victorian gothic romance with a soupcon of sci-fi and nods to time travel. Think corsets and old fashioned goggles. Leather knee high boots and pocket watches that double as personal teleportation devices. They have a good selection of all your liquid needs but it’s the weird and wonderful bands that play as well as their excellent selection of board games for their regular Monday games night, that I highly recommend. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a Cornwall folk version of Rage Against the Machine’s, “Bullet in your head.” And they have a copy of Cards Against Humanity to enjoy. Yes, all your Christmas’ have come at once.
Keep calm, it’s not what you think. Unless you think it’s a vegan café with a couple of different sites in Brighton and further afield, that serves, amongst other things, delicious vegan friendly doughnuts. And frankly, if that is what you think when you hear the words “The Loving Hut” and “Brighton”, then you need to get out more. This is a cheap and cheerful place that will meet all of your dietary needs. My personal favourite location is the one on The Level. It means that whilst I shovel raw orange chocolate cake in to my face, I can watch the super cool and trendy practice their half pipes at the skateboarding park. To be fair, I have no idea what a half-pipe is. Worth a trip any day of the week, but Sunday’s mean a huge vegan roast with all the trimmings. Treat yourself and perhaps blast out some Avril Lavigne. I’m pretty sure that the skater boys would appreciate it.
Fancy indulging your inner radical? Ready to show your best anarchist side? Good for you. I’m sure that there’s somewhere in Brighton you can do just that. However, if you are simply keen to connect with socially minded activists, then why not pop on down to The Cowley Club and do just that at this members-run co-operative. It hosts a bookshop, cookery classes, frequent talks and lectures and supports the under-represented on a host of topics such as free and informal English lessons. The bar opens in the evenings, usually after 7pm and whilst it’s most definitely not somewhere for an avant garde cocktail with a rehydrated pea foam chaser, it will offer you the chance to really make an impact in this beautiful City. Membership is a pound. So go on, do something different and join the revolution… whilst eating some hearty vegetarian fayre, reading about activism for social change and wearing an ethically sourced t-shirt.
So in the profound and enlightening words of the great Shamen, “E’s are good. E’s are good.” Enjoy.
Thank you to contributor Kerry, who is a neighbour of a Bake Off contestant and the niece of a rock and roll legend. She surrounds herself with glamorous people so she can sit in her pjs and eat cake. Buy her fab book here