I love having friends visit me in Brighton so I can show them the sights and have an excuse to go out for a nice meal. Unwind is going to be a busy weekend but I thought I would put together a list of some of my favourite eateries, pubs and some touristy sights which if you do have a spare moment you might want to try and squeeze into your visit.
First up DRINKING. I will start with the all important coffee, start the morning right, or pop in for a refuel during the day. And then pubs, according to mybrightonandhove.org Brighton has around 900 licensed premises ranging from trendy bars, huge chain pubs and thankfully lots of traditional independent pubs as well. Here are my top 5 places to get a coffee or a pint.
Looking for a morning boost before you hit the market place? Redroaster is a lovely independent coffee house and roastery. On St James Street (BN2 1RE) near the Old Steine this coffee house freshly roasts single origin coffee beans every week in small batches. If you enjoy good coffee don’t miss this place, it has a great atmosphere and is one of the hubs of Brighton city life.
2. Small Batch
Small Batch is something of a Brighton institution, you will find small batch coffee in many Brighton cafes but they also have several of their own where you can grab yourself a gourmet coffee. The two most centrally located are on Jubilee Street (BN1 1GE), near the library and their van which is right outside the train station. Grab a seat outside the Jubilee cafe and watch Brighton’s weird and wonderful residents go about their business.
3. Evening Star.
Near the station on Surrey Street (BN1 3PB) this is a craft beer pub, owned by Dark Star Brewing Co. a local Brighton brewery. Cosy, atmospheric and with an ever changing menu of craft beers and ciders this is a great place to try something new. The Evening Star is where I discovered my love of porter but if you’re not sure what to get the staff are very knowledgeable and are happy to help you find something to your taste. If you happen to be served by Dan (tall, dark hair) tell him I say hi.
4. Lord Nelson Inn.
On Trafalgar Street (BN1 4ED) the Lord Nelson is a Harveys pub. Harveys is a brewery based in the neighbouring town Lewes and has been brewing beer for over 200 years. It is certainly not the most atmospheric pub in Brighton but they have an odd but comfortable conservatory out the back and they serve great beer so it’s not all bad.
5. The Office
After something a bit stronger than beer? The Office is a gin pub and can be found on Sydney Street (BN1 4EN). Yes, you heard right, they have over 25 different gins of offer as well as cocktails. My personal recommendation would be to try the elderflower gin, so refreshing! I like this place especially because it still has a pub vibe, there is a lovely garden out the back and they have a delicious Thai menu if you’re feeling peckish.
Next up FOOD. There are an abundance of great cafes and restaurants in Brighton not to mention the pubs which also do amazing food, but here are my top 5.
Vegetarian cafe Iydea is a great shout for lunch. They serve fresh meals in a deli counter style, choose from various options to make up your plate or takeaway box. They have two locations, Kensington Gardens (BN1 4AL) in the heart of the North Laines and Western Road (BN1 2AA), just into Hove. Their focus is on fresh, natural, raw ingredients and everything I have ever eaten there has always tasted amazing.
You can’t come to the seaside and not at least think about eating fish and chips! As you can imagine there are lots of places to get fish and chips in Brighton but not all are good. Bankers is a traditional fish and chip restaurant/takeaway on Western Road and my personal favourite . It is a bit out of the way from Unwind but well worth the trek.
3. Burger Bros
This burger joint opened up in Brighton last year and took the place by storm. Their flavour combinations are indulgent and down right delicious. Located on North Road (BN1 1YE) they have a very small amount of seating inside, only a couple of seats in the window so your best bet would be to take your burger, find a nice spot to sit in the pavilion gardens and soak up the sunshine while you chow down.
Another new restaurant in town this time serving up Mexican street food on York Place (BN1 4GU). They have a great choice of burritos but my recommendation would be to go for the Mexican tapas. Three or four dishes between two does just fine and it’s very reasonably priced (for Brighton). They don’t take bookings for under ten people but I’ve never had to wait more than 15 minutes and if you do have to wait and their own bar is really busy they’ll send you into the next door bar and will come and get you when your table is ready. But be warned it’s an absinthe bar! Unfortunately this place is closed on Sundays.
Chilli Pickle is an Indian restaurant on Jubilee Street (BN1 1GE), just opposite the library. Serving up vibrant and exquisite Indian specialities they combine Indian ingredients with local produce. This restaurant is a bit more pricey than the others on this list but not over the top for the quality and the service you get.
And lastly just in case you have a spare moment away from the festival here are my top 5 TOURIST spots to visit.
1. The Pavilion
Brighton’s most famous landmark the Pavilion is an amazing building, the history of the architecture and what went on inside is fascinating . The ex-royal palace is now owned by Brighton council so you can take a tour inside and they have a very comprehensive audio guide. It is pricey (£10) but if you have the time and have any interest in that kind of thing I would wholeheartedly recommend going inside.
2. Snoopers Paradise
Snoopers Paradise on Kensington Gardens (BN1 4AL) and is made up of lots of individual stalls selling anything from antiques to retro paraphernalia as well as lots of bric-a-brac (i.e junk). This place is a treasure trove full of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered, just be careful not to get lost in there…
3. The ONCA Gallery
Standing for One Network for Conservation and the Arts this gallery is on St George’s Place (BN1 4GB). All of their exhibitions are themed on current conservation issues. It’s free to get in and at the moment the exhibition is called 100: A Making of Trees and looks to inspire the local community to think about trees in new ways.
4. The Beach
An obvious one but it still needs to be said. Brighton beach is a pebble beach and therefore much easier to come and go from without it feeling like its taken over your day. Take your lunch down there or grab an ice-cream and watch the waves come in without the hassle of everything getting sandy and believe it or not the pebbles are surprisingly comfortable to sit on.
5. The Pier
I really wanted to leave this one out but decided it should probably get a mention. The Pier is what it is, grimy and touristy and all there is on it are penny arcade games (mostly 10p nowadays) and a raucous fair ground at the end. However, don’t let me stop you if that’s your thing. There is a small space right at the very end you can slip into, to the right of the roller coaster, where you can look out to sea and try and ignore the sounds of the fun fair and teenagers behind you.
And there you have it. Of course there are lots more things to do and see, I have barely touched the surface. But these are the places I would personally recommend if you only have a limited time and with so much going on across the weekend it’s always nice to be able to head somewhere that has been endorsed, save you the energy for carrying all that yarn home.