Rupert Hohwieler 25/08/23
Your Brighton Guide | What to Eat, Drink & Do
Brighton is about as close as it gets to being the perfect London getaway.
In fact, any closer, and you’d barely be leaving London.
Only an hour’s train ride away, this seaside city is tough to beat on a sunny day – particularly if you’re sat down on the famous pebble beach with fish & chips and the seagulls soaring overhead and plotting their next ice cream abduction. A classic Brighton scene.
With a beach, thriving nightlife and art worlds, an enviable collection of restaurants, bars and cafés and some of coolest shopping districts in the UK, Brighton seems to have just about everything at its disposal. It mixes the getaway charm of a British seaside town with all the advantages that normally come with being a big metropolitan city.
From the 120-year-old pier to the Royal Pavilion, there’s plenty to do in Brighton, and plenty of places to stay, too, with luxury hotels on the seafront and downtown bohemian retreats. Whether you’re here for a day, a weekend… or maybe even longer, we’ve compiled a little guide on how to make the most of your trip to Brighton.
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The Grand Brighton
You can’t miss The Grand, standing there majestically on the seafront, as it has since 1864. It looks like a real-life Grand Budapest Hotel (no relation) with 201 rooms, all decorated in a swish art-deco style, while the restaurant, Cyan, pulls in punters from the outside with its classic British fare. Then you’ve a Victorian terrace for a three-tiered afternoon tea gazing over the promenade, and fancy cocktails in the luxurious gold and blue-hued bar (which also happens to have the occasional bout of live music). At the end of day, staying here is indeed a grand idea…
Details: 97-99 Kings Rd, BN1 2FW | Book here
Located on St George’s Terrace, within easy range of all the sought-after pubs and cafés and five minutes from the beach, Snooze describes itself as ‘Brighton’s funkiest hotel’ – and we’d like to see anywhere even try to knock it off its pedestal. The quirky rooms are all individually fitted with fun retro stylings, kitschy art, bold colours and even bolder decor choices (Suite 72 is a 70’s-themed penthouse hideaway with a zebra print bed, while room 1 is filled with bits and pieces from flea markets). Plus, you can text the owners to bring you cooked breakfast in bed. After that, you’ll want to snooze for real…
Details: 25 St George’s Terrace, BN2 1JJ | Book here
Drakes is a ‘glasses of champagne in a free-standing bathtub overlooking the ocean’ type of hotel. It’s fancy, and splashy, but well-worth the extra cash for lavish romantic getaways, or even for singletons who just want to live the good life. There’s every chance you might catch a star on your visit, as it’s a favourite for celebrities whenever they pass through. The 20 finely decorated rooms are all connected via two Georgian townhouses – if you can, the one to book is the signature 25sqm triple aspect room, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, the sea view and the bathtub for literally soaking it in – plus a gold telescope. For, uhh, more stargazing…
Details: 44 Marine Parade, BN2 1PE | Book here
Artist Residence Brighton
The rooms at Artist Residence truly are a work of art – each individually designed by a different artist. As with their other hip outposts around England, you can’t go wrong by booking in here: there’s the mandatory ping-pong table, garden terrace, all-day café and a bar downstairs (though you can order cocktails to your room, too). This boutique Brighton bolthole takes up two townhouses in Regency Square, and has the benefit of being a stone’s throw away from the beach, with some rooms even possessing a balcony overlooking that highly coveted sea view.
Details: 33 Regency Square, BN1 2GG | Book here
The Salt Room
Breathe in the ocean at The Salt Room. The sunny front terrace – shaded by a retractable awning when it gets too sunny – faces out right onto the pier, and the seafood is all locally-sourced and caught fresh on the day. As you’d imagine, these two attributes make it a popular spot, where diners lap up market fish and surfboards (grilled & steamed shellfish) cooked to perfection over coals, alongside setting-appropriate cocktails like a Seaside Americano made with Tidal rum and Sipello-infused strawberries. Salt Room won the ‘2017 Seafish UK Restaurant of the Year’ award, and it’s most definitely worth its salt…
Details: 106 Kings Rd, BN1 2FU | Book here
Food for Friends
Clean, green and mean (in the ‘excellent’ sense of the word), Food for Friends has been a happy hunting ground for plant-based eaters since 1981, producing their regularly changing menus with fresh and local vegetarian and vegan ingredients. Once the team have picked up what they believe to best seasonal produce, they go right ahead and transform them into all sorts of fabulously creative dishes, from pea and goats cheese-stuffed arancini balls to a Sri Lankan beetroot curry with spice-infused potato croquettes – and on the dessert side, an orange, fig and almond tart. It really is food for friends… even the ones who say they ‘only eat meat’.
Details: 17-18 Prince Albert St, BN1 1HF | Book here
From the same group behind The Salt Room, Burnt Orange is a brilliant Brighton restaurant that’s bagged Bib Gourmand status in consecutive years. It’s warmly lit and sleekly designed inside, while the outside features an equally inviting Mediterranean-styled courtyard, teeming with greenery and covered by a blue-and-white-striped awning. Food-wise every dish meets fire one way or the other, with the Experience Menu giving you a full rundown on what they’re doing; wood-fired flatbread with sesame brown butter, smoked lamb shoulder cigars, and flamed sea bream with basil yoghurt, to name a few…
Details: 59 Middle St, BN1 1AL | Book here
Believe us, it’s not unbearable eating in 64 Degrees. In fact, it’s actually incredibly pleasant. Chef Michael Bremner (a former Great British Menu finalist) is both showman and chef behind an open kitchen, performing for you and 19 other fortunate diners perched on yellow stools around the counter. His intricate tasting menus showcase the finest produce found in Sussex, through small plates and snacks that change on the daily, like red prawn carpaccio with watermelon rinds. Excellence to the highest degree…
Details: 53 Meeting House Lane, BN1 1HB | Book here
The Ginger Pig
The Ginger Pig is a glorious gastropub offering flawless modern British food – a lamb pie sided by gravy & mash, or a whole filleted Sussex mackerel with roast fennel and cherry tomatoes – plus top-tier roasts on Sundays. It also offers a comfy overnight stay upstairs in one of the 11 guesthouse rooms, where you can then slowly make your way back down to the dining room in the morning for things like a toasted bacon sandwich with emmental and onion jam, a massive full English with all the works and Turkish-style baked eggs – all supplemented by Bloody Maries made with bone-marrow infused vodka. If you wanted to go the whole hog…
Details: 3 Hove St, Hove, Brighton and Hove, Hove BN3 2TR | Book here
The Mash Tun
The Mash Tun is one of those institutions that nearly everyone in Brighton’s been to, and has some sort of story from it to tell – even if vaguely recollected and told slightly differently each time. While the ‘quiet night and one drink’ combo might be a stretch here – the nights are dominated by live music and parties – the ‘quiet day and a couple of sensible drinks’ pairing is easily done, when the atmosphere is toned down and punters make themselves at home upstairs on the roomy couches amongst the locally-commissioned art that hangs from the walls, or bolt outside to the star attraction: the front terrace, provided it’s the weather for it…
Details: 1 Church St, BN1 1UE | No bookings
Lion & Lobster
Inhabiting the unmissable (and appropriately lobster-coloured) building on the corner of Silwood Street, L&L is known around the town for being one of the oldest pubs in Brighton… as well as for its two-level roof terrace, multiple mazy floors, traditional pub stylings (darts, vintage photos), cosy furniture, sport screens, and when it’s all said and done, generally just being a rather nice spot to enjoy a pint. There’s about 15 of those on tap – ranging from lagers to cask ales and Stowford Press cider – and the food here is something to get excited about too, with a special shout out to the Sunday roasts.
Details: 24 Sillwood St, BN1 2PS | Book here
For cocktail sessions in Brighton, going Gungho is the responsible choice. It stands out on the Preston Street strip not just because of its green, neon-lit signage and the house music emanating from inside, but for its sustainable drink-making policies where repurposed ingredients, seasonal produce and preservation techniques are at the heart of owner and cocktail connoisseur Julian Barnett’s signature creations. Here you can sample numbers like a blackberry mousse-topped bramble made with foraged blackberries, or the melon sour that uses ‘hacked lemon juice’ (actually locally-foraged sea buckthorn). So you’ll always be drinking responsibly…
Details: 36 Preston St, BN1 2HP | Book here
The Palace Pier
Constructed by the Victorians way back in 1899, this 85-mile-long pier has survived multiple world wars, deadly storms and shipping accidents on its rise to becoming one of England’s most famous tourist attractions: the moral of the story being that you can’t keep a good pier down. It’s now synonymous with the city and walking up and down at least once is a Brighton must-do, and along the way you’ll encounter an arcade pavilion, fairground rides (including roller coasters and a haunted house), a helter skelter, candy floss stalls and yes, probably a couple of seagulls…
Details: Madeira Dr, Brighton BN2 1TW
Leif Christoph Gottwald/Unsplash
Fish & chips sat down on the pebbles here, fighting off seagulls with the ocean shimmering in front of you, is akin to having a baguette in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower when visiting Paris: it just has to be done. Along the seafront there’s also plenty of al-fresco bars lined up next to each other for sundowners, as well as seafood vendors slinging lobster rolls; ice cream parlours; the colourful beach huts past the i360 (a fencing sword-shaped observation tower with viewing deck vistas stretching over Brighton and the south coast); and even a few nightlife joints tucked away under the seafront’s railway arches for after the sun sets.
SEA LIFE Brighton
There’s something fishy about this grand Victorian building on the seafront. Built in 1872, it’s the longest-running aquarium in the world, housing tanks of exotic marine life amid impressive Gothic arches and marble columns. You’ll see 5,000 creatures across 250+ different species as you take a trip on a glass bottom boat gliding above turtles, wander through a humid rainforest populated by exotic frogs and watch an artificial coral reef – filled with Nemo and pals – transition from day to night, in what is the aquarium’s new £2.7 million star attraction.
Details: Marine Parade, BN2 1TB | Buy tickets here
Built as a seaside retreat for the Prince Regent, George IV, Brighton Pavilion has more than a whiff of the Taj Mahal about it due its staggering Indo-Saracenic architectural design. While it’s not quite a wonder of the world (yet), it’s still a sight to behold and for £17 you can explore the immaculately-kept Regency gardens and the opulent 19th century interiors, which in their time have housed both holidaying royals and wounded Indian soldiers during WWI.
Details: 4/5 Pavilion Buildings, BN1 1EE | Book tickets here
Brighton Toy & Model Museum
This grand old nostalgic museum represents adult toys. You know, the toys the over 50s might remember playing around with when they were young: vintage train sets, dolls’ houses… that sort of thing. They’ve crammed over 10,000 exhibits into four Victorian arches below Brighton Station (that have in earlier times acted as beer barrel storage for breweries and army offices during WWII), with a working 1930s train set, Pelham puppets, soft toys from some of the world’s most well-known toy manufacturers, and penny slot machines just a few of the highlights on display.
Details: 52-55 Trafalgar St, BN1 4EB
The Lanes are most visitors’ first point of call when it comes to going shopping in Brighton; a labyrinth of pedestrianised alleyways lined with colourful buildings that house pubs, restaurants and shops slinging fudge, books, jewellery, antiques, and even exclusively rubber ducks.
Meanwhile, Snoopers Paradise in Kensington Gardens is an eclectic emporium with nearly 100 flea market stalls of vintage clothing and bric-a-brac to peruse. You should be able to find at least one tweed jacket to your tastes there. In North Laine, Era is your place for intriguing pieces of upcycled mid-century furniture, while a quick ice cream stop at Gelato Gusto never hurts. And Brighton, being a city of musical heritage, also boasts loads of cool record stores with Resident Music and The Wax Factor two local-approved venues for serious disc-browsing.
No one drinks more coffee in the UK than the Brightonians; it’s a city that runs on the fumes of roasters. And considering the options they have at their disposal, we don’t really blame them. Stoney Point (serving Monmouth brews, homemade bakes and brunch dishes), Bond Street Coffee (for ethically-traded, single origin brews roasted locally by Horsham Coffee Roaster), Twin Pines (high quality coffee away from the downtown areas) and Pelicano (third wave industrial vibes and vegan cakes) are some of your best independent options for a speciality cup – and maybe a sit-down too…
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