The Idealist

Insider City Guide: Shopping in Brighton

Over the years, Brighton’s romance with the silver screen has made it something, well, bigger than the touristic coastal town that your generic tour guide would figure it as being. Think of the legendary Quadrophenia, or The Young Victoria, The Boat that Rocked, The End of the Affair, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging or the iconic Brighton Rock. Each film paints the town with slightly different strokes, but nevertheless shows Brighton’s capacity to reinvent and stay current as cultural hub from one generation to the next. And frankly, the Brighton of real-life certainly does not lack any of the character seen in its depictions by both Hollywood and indie British studios. Whether you find yourself nestled in the labyrinthine flea markets of the Bohemian North Laine district, lost in the boutiques of designers and taste makers, or even simply walking through the town’s historic seafront, Brighton truly does pack it all.

An artist’s city, boutiques embedded throughout Brighton’s artsy lanes offer quirky and inspiring options for your home just as much as they do your wardrobe. We’ve shortlisted a couple of our favourites along with some of the city’s most renowned restaurants and hotels so that you’re well and truly set- whenever you feel the need to be beside the seaside.

The Papillon Shop

Since opening its doors in 2009, The Papillon Shop has become a must for lovers of intriguing and stylish interiors. Situated at the heart of Brighton’s Lanes, the shop stocks everything from furniture to home décor to lighting and perfumery. The brand was the brainchild of co-founders Stephen and Andrew, who have sourced their thought-provoking and unique pieces from all over the world. The Papillon Shop have got the giddy alchemy of fragrance building down to an art-form, which can be experienced in full splendour at their emporium, right in Brighton’s beating heart.

Three Angels

Just off the seafront, at No. 5 Hove Street, you’ll find Three Angels. This popular boutique stocks original French furniture, chandeliers, beds, mirrors, and quite possibly anything else you could need to inject a rustic, old-world sense of sophistication to your home. Many of the shop’s pieces are gorgeously antiqued and would make for a gorgeous addition to a country-styled home or a counterpoint to the clean lines of a metropolitan London apartment. Packing all sorts of curiosities, it’s highly likely you won’t be leaving empty handed.

Mister Smith

In their own words, Mister Smith are ‘here to make your home sing’ – and with the eclectic range of wallpaper, fabric and flooring options available, we’re confident your home will be hitting all the right notes. Situated at No. 23 New Road, Mister Smith is only a short walk away from the famous Pavilion. Mister Smith offers an encyclopaedic array of prints ranging from trendy florals, luxurious plain tones to angular geometric designs; you’re bound to find something that fits your home perfectly, giving it that lift and new life you’ve long been craving for it.

IO Gallery

The IO Gallery has been a feature of the Brighton art scene for the past twenty years. In their own words, they’re ‘a gallery run by artists for artists’. In that sense, they makes a point of putting Brighton’s best and most promising on full display, having helped hundreds of local artists sell their work in a way that is both fair to, and rewards the work of artists.

Two Kats and a Cow

Whether it’s a traditional fish and chips or an ice cream you’ve enjoyed on the Pier, it’s imperative that, if you’re an art lover, Two Kats and a Cow is your next destination. Situated in one of Brighton Beach’s Victorian sea-front arches, it’s only a stone’s throw away. The brainchild of painters Katy McMurray, Kathryn Matthews and John Marshall, the gallery takes its name from the two ‘Kats’ in the trio and a ‘Cow’, a reference to one of John’s works. Today, the gallery is home to the work of a whole roster of artists, jewellers, ceramicists and sculptors and have become a key attraction on Brighton’s seafront. Regarded by the Independent as a ‘must see’, we simply cannot help but agree. If intriguing and original works are what you’re after, this is the place.

Let’s Eat

Whilst tucking into a well-seasoned portion of chips or nice piece of toffee rock is all fair and good in rounding off your seaside experience, it would be a sin to not experience the restaurants Brighton also has to offer. With some of the freshest seafood and charmingly original cafes right at your fingertips, Brighton’s culinary map is just as colourful as its hip, Bohemian quarters

English’s of Brighton

English’s of Brighton is a restaurant and oyster bar that has become synonymous with Brighton’s food culture, having been around since 1945. A firm favourite amongst both locals and tourists, the restaurant prides itself on serving the freshest and finest seafood. Whether it is an indulgent meal you’re after in one of the restaurant’s dining rooms, or perhaps something lighter in the restaurant’s marble-topped oyster bar, you’ll be sure to sample the best of Brighton’s seafood delights here.

The Regency

The Regency is something of a restaurant and cultural landmark. Its 131 King’s Road address is historic, having formerly been the palatial seafront home of Harriet Mellon, once the richest woman in Europe. The site became the Regency, as we know it today, in the 1930’s, offering some of the best locally caught, fresh fish in the area. With rave reviews foodies and journalists alike, it’s fair to say The Regency’s reputation for excellence is known far and wide. The restaurant also boasts a gorgeous view of the seaside, whilst also being just a stone’s throw away from the i360 tower, which offers a breathtaking bird’s eye view of Brighton.

Sunbirds Deli

Perhaps you’re after something a little lighter, in which case few places come better recommended than Sunbirds Deli. The café prides itself on dishing up Mediterranean and Middle Eastern delights, whilst also offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. Found on London Road, Sunbirds Deli delivers homemade, fresh and hearty food that has won the hearts of locals. When there, give their meatball meze and baklava a shot – they both come highly recommended.

Getting Here & Places to Stay

We Londoners are spoiled by the fact that Brighton is only an hour away. Whether it’s a weekend trip, or just something on a whim, trains can easily be caught from Victoria, London Bridge or Blackfriars stations. There are several departures per hour, so it’s just a simple case of: show up, grab your ticket, and you’re there! However, to really get a feel for the place, look beyond the day trip. Spending time in the city really helps you etch out a Brighton of your own, and make your time spent here that bit more meaningful.

Drakes

If it’s opulence you’re after, few hotels come better than Drakes of Brighton. The bespoke rooms come furnished with handcrafted beds, designer fabrics, free standing baths and sea views of Brighton’s gorgeous coast are featured in many of their rooms. With private dining options at their exclusive restaurant, in addition to private, couple’s suites, such as the hotel’s breathtaking Super King Feature Room, Drakes’ keen eye for detail means that your stay will be nothing short of luxurious.

Blanch House

As Brighton’s original boutique hotel, Blanch House delivers chic, old world charm by the bucketload. The hotel is housed in a Grade II listed town house, situated in cool, Bohemian Kemp Town. The rooms are individually designed and are equipped to meet the needs of all its guests. Featuring a flat-screen TV, all your connectivity needs, a selection of teas and biscuits paired with aromatherapy, toiletries and bathrobes, it’s fair to say that Blanch House have all your needs and requirements covered.

Fab Guest

Hip, spunky and bursting with personality, Fab Guest’s bold and unapologetically cool design has made it a favourite amongst the young and artsy. Behind the grey of its skinny five storey Georgian townhouse exterior lie the hotel’s 14 rooms. Whilst cosier in size, they are phenomenally well designed and highly comfortable. With wacky and curious accent pieces dotted all over the hotel, Fab Guest is the place if you’re after something off the beaten track. It brings the energy and hipster charm and appeal of your favourite London districts right up to the Brighton coast.

Brighton has arguably become one of the country’s main epicentres of hip, Bohemian culture, and whilst its proximity to London has given the town a slight metropolitan edge in recent times, it nonetheless exudes a character all of its own. This is conveyed in what you can find here. The old cliché of ‘expecting the unexpected’ has never held truer anywhere but with Brighton- and there’s a good chance of you being pleasantly surprised by what you find here.

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All photos courtesy of respective locations.

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  • Nigel is a writer and journalist living in London. He loves music, literature and architecture. Since moving to London to study, he’s yet to kick his honeymoon phase with the city, and when not working, can consequently be found making the most of what London has to offer. He maintains that Billy Joel is one of the greatest and most critically misunderstood singer-songwriters of our time. So far, he has found 3 other people that agree with him.

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