An Insider’s Guide to the North Laine

(Originally for WeLoveBrighton.com)

“A visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of future happiness” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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So, firstly – what’s the difference between the lanes and laines? Anyone?

I’m probably teaching grandma how to suck eggs but, hey, in case there’s anyone out there who’s a bit cloudy on the difference (and, in fairness, it is a bit of a head-melt), here’s an overview:

The lanes are the quaint little passageways that live between North Street, East Street and Ship Street. This, according to ‘Brighton; A Very Peculiar History’ is the oldest part of our beloved city. What used to be a fisherman’s hang-out is now a popular spot for some of Brighton’s best bars, eateries and shops. If you stroll along the lanes at night, pretty fairy lights dot the alleyways and you’ll feel like you’ve accidentally slipped into Neverland, well that’s how I feel after a drink!

The Laines, however, refer to something else. In Medieval times, the surrounding downs and fields were divided into five Laines: North, West, East, Little and Hilly. The North Laine, our current area of focus, sits in that special place between the railway station and North Street.

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We may as well begin our journey at the station.

Once the barriers have eaten your ticket, exit right and curve around so you end up walking under the bridge and downhill into Trafalgar StreetBanksy has been known to make an appearance along this stretch and a famous piece of his, adorning The Prince Albert pub, was removed and sold recently; even minus a Banksy, the surrounding brickwork is usually donned with impressive graffiti art.

Half-way down this strip, you’ll find a gem of a café. HelmSton, described as serving “friendly folk food”, is a delight. My nearest and dearest Brighton buddies all shouted out this place when I asked for suggestions… and they were spot on. The food is delicious; fresh and healthy, as well as being vegan / veggie (and pretty much every-dietary-intolerance) friendly. As I sat waiting for my food, I heard a lady in the queue say to the waitress: “I love this place, it’s so cute… such good vibes“. I hadn’t even mentioned I was writing an article: says it all really.

Turning south into Sydney Street, you’ll be graced with an abundance of vintage markets and leather shops.

There’s no other place I’d rather be based than the North Laine; the creative vibes here are like nowhere else,” commented Posh Totty’s Alice Rivers Cripps as I scouted around her original hand-stamped, personalised jewellery shop. “There are so many independent shops and this really draws people in. It’s such a great curation of independent design and I think shoppers really value that. Brighton is a creative town, full of makers.

Once you’ve shopped yourself silly, refuel on a snack at the Flour Pot Bakery, and wash down the yumminess with a drink at The Office. You’ll barely have to move between the two; my kind of indulgence!

North Laine

Next stop Kensington Gardens.

But first, be sure you pop into Molly’s Vintage on the corner of Tidy Street.

There such a great selection of vintage clothing in Brighton and the real epicentre of all this is the North Laine, where the vintage scene is thriving,” said owner Molly Bray. “It’s a joy to have such a wonderful community of customers and neighbours, who share my love of vintage, right on my doorstep! The incredible variety of independent, creative businesses is what keeps the North Laine such an exciting and unusual area.

North Laine

There are vintage shops a’plenty in this part of town. Beyond Retro usually gets its fair share of attention (as well it should; it’s wicked) but definitely check out the smaller stores, like Molly’s in Sydney and All About Aud in Trafalgar.

If you end up in Kensington Gardens; it’s always rammed so be prepared for the crowds. This street is home to some truly wonderful eateries: Iydea and Wai Kika Moo Kau being two of the most yummy veggie joints my taste-buds have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Try the tofu in Wai Kika; as a fully-fledged meat-eater, I was initially hesitant but the friendly waiter said he’d refund me if I didn’t like it… and, low and behold, he kept the money.

Prior to moving to Brighton two years ago, you’d NEVER see me in a veggie or vegan café. How things have changed… “

It’s along this stretch that you’ll also find the famous Snoopers Paradise; well worth hunting through for anything and everything, and make sure you dress up and take a pic of yourselves in the photo booth!

North Laine

Just down from Snoopers is Resident Records, which has recently expanded and is definitely worth a look. These guys also sell tickets to live music gigs in and around Brighton.

Brighton is the perfect place to visit for a spot of record shopping as we are lucky enough to still have a wealth of record shops, selling both new and second hand,” said Resident’s Natasha Youngs. “We are amongst a whole host of independent, interesting & individual businesses who collectively make Brighton a really exciting & vibrant place to shop”.

At the end of Kensington, you’ll see Brighton’s much-loved Infinity Foods: the UK’s leading wholesale distributors of organic and natural foods. If you’ve spent most of your life avoiding the kitchen (like me), then you’ll be amazed at the array of veg in there – I’ve been introduced to vegetables I never knew existed. Infinity: a whole new world. Shining, shimmering, splendid.

Parallel to Kensington Gardens is Upper Gardner Street.

This is quieter than its busy neighbour and the street is lined with independent markets and stalls. You’ll also find Silo situated here; a restaurant, coffee shop, bakery and brewery that was conceived from a desire to innovate the food industry whilst demonstrating respect for the environment and our bodies. All the furniture is upcycled and they enforce a zero waste policy. If that isn’t hip enough for you, the menu of this truly sustainable food business is exquisite. I practically dribbled over my dish.

Mosey on over to Gardner street.

Here you can enjoy the pleasure of making friends with Rolf from the Muppets – Rolf is a master pianist and he also gives out free hugs. What else do you need in life?

North Laine

In Gardner, you’ll also be serenaded by bird-song as (in)famous local Tim Bat aka Birdyman walks around selling bird whistles, and at the far side of the street there’s usually a live band / musical duo.

This street is also home to Komedia; Brighton’s premier live entertainment venue presents one of the largest, most diverse arts and entertainment programmes in the UK. “We love our home in the centre of the North Laine,” said Emily Coleman from Komedia. “It’s the perfect location, as well a friendly, welcoming and vibrant… a lot like us!

 Finally, it’s well worth mentioning the arts and culture hotspot that is situated towards the end of the North Laine.

If you haven’t visited the Royal Pavilion, then you haven’t lived… in Brighton. As a theatre buff, I’d also recommend you catch a show at the 208 year old Theatre Royal Brighton. As well as being recognised as the South Coast’s premiere venue, this is one of the oldest working theatres in the country.

In summary: Brighton’s North Laine is home to many creative creatures – musicians, artists, independent businesses and the residents themselves. The people in this part of town are so friendly; smiles will greet you left, right and centre! Visit the North Laine and you’ll have your pick of delicious cafes, cosy pubs, bustling bars, quirky shops and hotspots. There’s something for everyone in this part of town.

– See more at: http://www.welovebrighton.com/best-of-brighton/north-laine-brighton/#sthash.gvniHLra.dpuf

64 Degrees, Brighton

Best. Food. Ever.

Those three words should sum it up but I wouldn’t be much of a blogger if I left it at that.

You’ll find 64 Degrees tucked away on Meeting House Lane. According to the couple propped up on the bar next to us, this restaurant used to be a sandwich shop in a former life. That’s how small it is. The waiting staff – a happy bunch, all of whom possess sparkly eyes and genuine smiles – will relieve you of any chunky baggage / garments, so you should be able to squeeze your way to your table. (This might be a struggle by the end of the meal though).

Chef Michael Bremner’s philosophy is that “the food rules, the kitchen is the heart of the restaurant, the chefs are its lifeblood and centre of all the action”. And so they are… 

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Not only were his team of chefs the epitome of professional, but they were also extremely charming . On the rare occasion I find myself in a kitchen, it’s a case of sweat and tears… sometimes blood… and many profanities (and that’s making a Pot Noodle). But these guys were as cool as cucumbers. They’re calm, good looking and, by God, they can cook. I might go back and ask one to marry me. Don’t mind which one.

Bremner’s menu features a selection of small plates and sharing dishes. We ordered the ‘chump, courgette, yogurt, flageolet’ (with little idea as to what that actually meant – but hey, life’s about trying new things and embracing the unknown, right?). It was lamb. Not just any lamb. The best goddamn lamb known to man. It was so good, I forgot to take a photo of it.

Then we went for the ‘wings, kimchi, blue cheese’… 

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The picture doesn’t do it justice. The chicken melted in our mouths and the sauce… well, I would gladly bathe in it. (No idea what that white / terracotta leaf thing is… but it was crispy and delicious, so I devoured it anyway). 

Just as we started to feel spoiled, the ‘scallop, celery, onion’ dish arrived. We got three scallops each and we savored each bite. Delicious.

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To tick the carb box, we ordered ‘potato knödel, cabbage, smoked butter’… NEVER has red cabbage tasted so good. I mean, what do they do to it?? It’s cabbage. But it’s not. It’s so much more. 

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And the potatoes…? Well, for those who don’t speak / eat German (it’s a German dish, the umlaut might have given it away), imagine the best croquette potato you’ve ever had and multiply it by a million.

In the words of Homer Simpson: arrrrrrrhhh… can’t talk…. eating…… 

This place is due to celebrate it’s one year birthday next month, so you should go and celebrate with them. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had anything so damn good in my mouth. 

Andina London & Loungelover (Shoreditch)

For someone who claims to be a culture craving chica, my limited – no, non-existent – experience of Peruvian cuisine may shock some of you. In fact, up until a few days ago when my uber-generous friend took my out for a belated birthday treat, the word ‘Peruvian’ had never made its way to my mouth, despite the fact I’m jetting off to Peru in October. I think that’s what they call a ‘hashtag fail’. And, good Lord, I’ve been missing out!

The folks at Andina recommend three tapas dishes per person, so we went for a selection of nibbles (thick cut chips and crunchy corn) and a couple of causas CAUS’A we had to (sorry). The chicken and avocado causa was divine, and the salmon tartare said ‘ta ta’ as soon as the fork reached my tongue. We double dropped quinoa in the form of a burger and a dumpling. This modern Picanteria only serves the best of Andean cooking – the soul food of Peru – so you can nibble away knowing you’re indulging on the healthiest of the yummies. The food was absolutely DELISH and I was pretty close to slapping etiquette in the face, just so I could lick up the remnants of the huancaina sauce (where chili meets cheese).

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Common decency totally went out the window when my Pisco Sour came along – it demanded a good ole slurping. The cocktails were just… *dribble*. I’m totally living on Pisco when I’m in Peru – I’ll be “pisced” a lot, but who cares? The Malbec, as you might expect from a South American hotspot, was rich and spicy. If the gorgeous grub and drool-worthy drinks weren’t enough, the restaurant features art work by Peru’s best artists, so you can satisfy all your senses in one fair swoop to Shoreditch.

After dinner, determined to embrace Friday night for all it was worth, we headed to Loungelover. Gotta love that lounge. The waitress looked like she’d wandered out of Britain’s Next Top Model and the barmen had flirting down to a fine art. Don’t be surprised if they wink as they top up your Espresso Martini by a cheeky (and probably extra) shot of vodka. For seconds, we opted for a Peruvian Princess. She was a cheeky minx and it was this last cocktail that saw the collapse of my jaw line, legs and liver, so I sent my Princess butt back to Brighton.

All in all, a great night – thank you, Victoria!

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

I have wonderful friends. Two of my nearest and dearest decided to spoil me rotten for my birthday treat. As a surprise, they took me to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London. This place has 2 Michelin Stars, it’s won an array of awards and it’s been voted number 7 out of the 50 Best Restaurants IN THE WORLD. Yeah, my friends are the bomb… And so is this restaurant.

For starters, you can take your pick from snails, foie gras, octopus, frog’s legs, chicken oysters and more. We plunged straight into the main. I ordered Powdered Duck Breast (smoked confit fennel and umbles) – I didn’t know what half the ingredients were but, by God, it tasted good.

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The dish was first invented in 1670! It’s weird to think of people eating the same thing all those years ago but it’s definitely survived for a reason. In fact, it’s one of the best things I have ever had the pleasure of putting into my mouth! The girls ordered the Hereford Ribeye which came with mushroom ketchup and triple cooked chips. Who knew you could cook chips three times over?! Well, Heston did and Heston does. And once you try them, you’ll be playing with the hob and every cooking utensil you own to try and match the effect. But you’ll probably fail.

And the party in our mouths didn’t stop there… time for dessert! We were all lured in by the Tipsy Cake. A traditional pud in 1810 apparently. This was served with spit roast pineapple and lashings of booze, hence “tipsy”. So juicy, so tipsy.

The atmosphere was great too. The waiting staff were really friendly and uber professional (although I guess that’s what you’d expect from a Michelin Star restaurant). And, as someone who doesn’t often dine with the elite (I may have been to one of the best 50 restaurants on Brick Lane but not in the world!), I actually felt really comfortable. You’d think the place would be full of snobs, but you’d be wrong. Everyone was chilled out; just enjoying the ambiance and the food.

I’ve always loved Heston – I watch his TV show “Fantastical Food”. You know, the one with the pub made out of pie and the giant Christmas pudding? You can tell Heston’s passion for food has been injected into his Dinner menu and I’d definitely recommend it.

Cheers!

Fashion Wars: Brighton vs London

[For WeLoveBrighton.com]

London Fashion Week has been and gone and as designers and stylists up and down the country set the fashion trends for the latter half of 2014, us guys at WeLoveBrighton.com thought it prudent to interview a few fashion folk about their take on current styles in order to figure out how our beloved city’s fashion scene differs from the capital’s… And what with Brighton Fashion Week on the way in June (the Summer’s nearly here, gang!), we thought we’d share a few hints and tips from the experts for any budding fashionistas out there!

So what buzz words do our panel of dreamy designers use to describe Brighton’s fashion scene? Here goes…

“Artistic”, “Bohemian”, “Creative”, “Eccentric”, “Eclectic, “Experimental”
“Festive”, “Free”, “Individual”, “Vibrant”, “Vintage”, “Vintage”

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The Emperor’s Old Clothes, a Brighton based clothing brand, believe “Brighton is full of creatives with a real eye for vintage tailoring, individual taste & flair”. Brighton born & bred designer, Gabrielle Vary states that “there is a real sense of anything goes” here. In agreement, Clare and Mary Burgess, sisters and co-founders of Brighton based label, AlliumB.com, say that “Brighton has an anything goes vibe and creative feel” and Sara Rhys, a metalsmith, applied artist and jewellery designer from Hove, believes that “Brighton’s such a tolerant place where it’s really possible to be and wear whatever you fancy.” …And it’s not just the Brightonians that are biggin’ up our city – London stylist, Stephen Kelly notes that Brighton is home to a “real artistic melting pot” thanks to an abundance of creative types.

London, on the other hand, has been described with the following adjectives:

“Ahead”, “Bold”, “Cool”, “Diverse”, “Forward-thinking”, “Fun”
“Glitzy”, “Hipster”, “Influential”, “International”, “Modern”, “Urban”

Stephen-Kelly-gqKelly states that “London is at the forefront of ideas and creativity across the Globe” and that the capital’s“streets have the most diverse styles, trends and individuality of anywhere across the world”. Nodding his head in agreement is Senior Designer and denim extraordinaire from DC Shoes, Niklas Vila Karpe. Jet-setting around the globe as part of his job (lucky thing!), Vila Karpe knows enough to know that his city’s mix of “old and new, fast trends and staple brands” is what keeps London ahead of the game. And it seems Brighton agrees. Founder and director of Vagabond Couture, Karen Vagabond concurs and states that the capital’s “glitzy, urban, cool” trends are thanks to “a great mix of cultures/sub cultures”Allium B states that“London is one of the international fashion capitals of the world.”

So who does it better: Brighton or London? “London, oh please…” declares Niklas Vila Karpe, “…more brands, more movement, more excitement!”, whereas TheEmperorsOldClothes.co.uk argues that Brighton is the gold medallist when it comes to“creativity, character and charm”. Perhaps the less biased of the bunch is Allium B who believe both Cities deserve equal praise for their individual style but notes that “London does high end designer brilliantly, whereas Brighton is great for individual style.”

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With Brighton Fashion Week mere months away, how can wannabe fashion designers get their fashionable feet on the first rung of the ladder? Well, in terms of inspiration, the general consensus is look around! Vagabondcouture.com isn’t alone in believing that “inspiration is everywhere”and Gabrielle Vary, states that for her, “nature plays a big part in designing”. Vary loves that “in Brighton you can be on the South Downs one minute, in the middle of nowhere in complete isolation, and then be in a vibrant and busy city the next…” So since us lot are lucky enough to live by the coast, there’s ample ways of getting the creative juices flowing – soak in the buzz of the city and the serenity of the beach for a start. Likewise, Sara Rhys often gets inspiration from the world around her and when designing jewellery for her own label, sara-rhys.co.uk, she looks out for the “the little, often overlooked details in life”. Encapsulating all these ideas is Allium B who offers the following advice to budding designers: “Look at the people around you and at nature and the changing seasons – your next great idea can come from anywhere – be an observer!”

For those keen to get out into the world of fashion, Londoner Stephen Kelly and Brightonian Karen Graves, both recent attendees of London Fashion Week, suggest you should take networking seriously. In my book, there’s nothing like a bit of schmoozing to get yourself noticed… and, on that note, I went to London Fashion Week and got to meet palmer//harding who gave us the scoop on this year’s Autumn / Winter fashion trends; here they are telling us about it…

[Click here to view London Fashion Week Video]

palmer//harding are one example of a successful fashion brand and our panel of experts think highly of their style, including Gabrielle Vary who loves “the idea of a twist on a classic”Allium B who state the dreamy duo “have a great directional twist on a what can be perceived as a conventional classic garment”, Stephen Kelly who thinkspalmer//harding’s simple yet clever concept “… is a great nucleus for a brand”, and Karen Graves who loves “the innovative treatment” and states that “it’s a great makeover of a tired and type cast garment into something new, exciting and ultimately wearable.”

So if you want to show off your creations on a catwalk or as part of exhibition, what better place to start than June’s Brighton Fashion Week? Details can be found here: www.brightonfashionweek.com and look out for more on We Love Brighton nearer the time!

Image 1: Fashion by Gabrielle Vary
Image 2:  Stylist Stephen Kelly from blog.nigelclare.com
Image 3: Fashion by Allium B

MEATLiquor – Brighton

Since I’ve already covered MEATLiquor, London – https://josuthers.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/meatliquor/ – I figured I should give Brighton’s version a bash.

First up? Liquor. Two of us had the Pink Flamengo, and the braver of our trio opted for Game Over. And the latter pretty much did what it said on the tankard.

Here’s the menu (page 2 for meat, page 4 for cocktails).  http://www.meatliquor.com/?attachment_id=153

Next up? Grub. And yep, the menu is pretty much identical to the capital’s counterpart. One Cheeseburger, one Buffalo Chicken Burger, and one Mushroom Cheesesteak, please. We shared a couple of portions of Fries and tucked into to a tray of Buffalo Wings, while we smothered our faces in meaty goodness.

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I know the clue’s in the name but if you’re a vegetarian (I know there are a few of you in Brighton), you’ll have one only option. The Halloumi & Mushroom Burger. If you’re a pescapallion, you’ll have two to choose from – H&M Burger or the Fish Sandwich. Needless to say, it’s not Veggie-friendly.

We’re not animals, I assure you, but there is no sophisticated way of eating at MEATLiquor. The food is served on trays. You don’t get cutlery. And grease will end up everywhere; perhaps in your ear holes but all over your mouth at the very least. It’s messy. But don’t worry; you get a whole kitchen roll. And you’ll need it.

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Brighton’s MEAT is – in a word – “trippy”. The LDN ML is like popping into Sweeney Todd’s for tea… but the south coastal version is much more psychedelic and, from what I’ve learned from observing Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a bit like an acid trip. Some of you may have to eat in cages. For those afraid of clowns, caution is advised. The rest of you may end up propped up on stools, crammed onto a table that’s way too small and way too high for comfort… but who cares because it’s trendy and hip!

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A cocktail & a main meal (you won’t be hungry afterwards) will cost you around £20. Yes, you could get the same burger from one of those vans that await on those dank & dark clubbing corners (come on, we’ve all been there) – but again, the price accounts for the cool factor. Yes, it is a bit gimmicky, as are all these pop-up-no-you-can’t-book-in-advance restaurants… but it’ll make for a fun night out if you can cope with a dollop of pretentious on the side of your meat.

Burger and Lobster

First things first: if you go to this restaurant, do not get the burger. Get the lobster. #ThatIsAll.

But it isn’t. All. Here’s more… 

So my bestie and I tried out the new city branch of Burger and Lobster (http://www.burgerandlobster.com/). It’s another ‘trendy’ eatery, aka no booking system; just turn up as early as possible and hope you get a table before you pass out. We only had to wait 20 minutes (we arrived around 6.30pm) and both the barman and wine were pleasant so this made for a good start. 

You get two options. Guess what they are? Yup. Burger. Or. Lobster. Simples. You pay £20 for a standard meal so we went for the lobster (of course!).

Here’s a pic of Larry & Lawrence post-grill:

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Ok, now I feel bad & am plagued by guilt monkeys. 

Over it.

Right, so yeah – pretty damn good. We went for grilled lobster (which is the popular option) but you can go for boiled if you like your lobster a bit fishier – apparently it tastes more like the sea that way. The beasts are served with chips and a mega lush salad… and a dippy thing (garlic butter, I think, but not entirely sure). 

Our waiter was an absolute darling and the atmosphere was pretty cool. I’d definitely recommend this place. 

WARNING: if you’ve never eaten lobster before, patience is required. I nearly stabbed myself on several occasions. The table was a battleground. The lobster won.