So much more than sea views, peeling stucco and hen parties, Brighton is a seaside town with year-round appeal. Discriminating Brightonian Richard Hutt is our guide to the best it offers.
A ray of light from a hole in the wall on the otherwise unlovely London Road, Sunbirds offers culinary adventurers delightful (Kurdish) meze platters and exotic desserts, including many that are gluten-free and vegan – but no less delicious for that.
Mr Wolfe operates from a modishly bare, sunny spot in the Regency-era Montpelier neighbourhood and features a winning combo of well-made coffee (drawn from Monmouth Street beans) and sumptuous cakes (the work of Mrs Wolfe). Antipodeans will appreciate the home-made Lamingtons.
The Heart and Hand
Brighton, per Keith Waterhouse has the air of a town that is perpetually helping the police with their inquiries. Hang around in a proper North Laine (NB the Laine is singular) boozer for a sense of what he was getting at. There may be better pubs in town, but none can touch the Heart for a proper bohemian vibe and what may be the greatest jukebox in the free world best enjoyed over a pint of Harveys.
Good fish and chips are harder to find by the seaside than you might think which is why a hike down the London Road to Bardsley’s is recommended. Four generations of the family have served top quality fare since 1926, including the option of grilled fish in the unlikely event you would come this far and leave without batter.
Maroccos is the reason Brightonians turn right when they reach the seafront; their home-made gelato has been enlivening promenade strolls since 1969. On sunny days the queue stretches round the block and hungry children stare balefully at your melting Stracciatella as you join the passeggiatta back east.
The Undercliff Walk connects Brighton Marina to pretty seaside village Rottingdean – home to Rudyard Kipling, until author-spotting charabanc tours drove him deeper into Sussex. Halfway along the walk (or cycle) lies the beach locals favour when the town beaches get too rammed part sand, with a friendly tea room and winkle-picking/rock-pooling at low tide.
Duke of Yorks Picturehouse
Arguably Britain’s oldest cinema, The Duke is a perfectly intact single-screen picture house and a lovely place to watch a film over a Dark Star beer and a cake from Sticky Fingers. Programming runs to standard arthouse fare, plus the odd classic midnight matinee and kid-friendly weekend morning shows.
In the shadow of the railway viaduct and to the soundtrack of trains rumbling their way to Lewes, Pizza 500 features Italian pizza made by actual Italians who know that the quality of the crust comes before the novelty of the toppings. A rotating selection of home-made gelato too, including winners like caramelised pine nut.
Under the arches between the piers, the Smokehouse is a genuine Brighton institution and the best value lunch on the front. Jack and Linda Mills smoke locally sourced fish over oak and applewood and serve it hot and simple in sandwiches to take away. Ideal for a picnic on the stones.
Unithai Oriental Market
At the back of an Asian mini-mart in Hove is a genuine secret a few tables and chairs (at least one of which you may have to share) a short menu, slow and sometimes begrudging service and the most authentically delicious Thai food this side of London.
St. Anns Well Gardens
The prettiest park in town and a genuine alternative to the beach on sunny days, St. Anns Well is Hampstead Heath in miniature – featuring a myriad of leafy nooks and crannies and a cracking park café. It occupies the site of a Victorian pleasure garden, where entertainments ran to a monkey house, a hermit in a cave and a film studio credited as the birthplace of editing.