Before going to Brighton this past weekend, I knew only that (1) it’s a seaside resort popular with London daytrippers since the 1800s, and (2) these days, Brighton is known for a happening nightlife and cool gay scene. For some reason, I thought the happening nightlife/gay scene rep would mean the city was super-cool and chic-looking, but actually, the parts I saw just seemed kind of shabby and sad.
The good news is that going to Brighton takes only an hour by train, and from the Brighton train station, it’s a quick walk to the boardwalk and beach. The bad news is that the boardwalk and beach are kind of depressing and not worth visiting. Don’t go to Brighton thinking you’re going to find a gorgeous crescent of sand or a well-maintained, pretty boardwalk (like the one in, say, San Sebastian). Oh no. Think hard pebble beaches, “beach pubs” that reek of day-old beer spilled on the floor, and a pier packed with seedy arcade games and community-fair-calibre rides that cost £8 a pop.
It’s fair to say I was disappointed in the beach and seaside part of Brighton.
The big tourist “sight” in town is the Royal Pavillion (see photo at top of post), which was built by King George IV when he was still a crazy young prince who liked to have his jollies in Brighton. The palace is of the school of architecture known as “white guy’s fantasy of the Orient.” Onion domes and decorative archways galore. It’s pretty enough, but I’d come to Brighton for the seaside, not for a tour of yet another ridiculously-huge palace. (I think I’ve recently started to suffer from Palace Fatigue. In terms of how often this malady grips me, I think Palace Fatigue comes just behind Gothic Cathedral Fatigue).
There are some cute, winding alleys of shops in an area of Brighton known as the Lanes, which is not to be confused with the other alleys of shops known as the Laines (with an “i”). Laines with an “i” was described by a Telegraph travel article as where all the “cool” shops were, but I think that description is accurate only if you find cheap jewelry and second-hand-clothing stores to be cool. The Lanes without an “i” are closest to the beach, and while many of the shops are chains, at least gems like the ChoccyWoccyDoodah chocolate shop are there.
To be fair to Brighton, I have no complaints about my food experiences there. In fact, the chocolate milk shake at ChoccyWoccyDoodah was so thick and chocolatey (we’re talking good, bittersweet chocolate) that I might go back to Brighton just for the milk shakes.
And our brunch at the bustling, cheery Bill’s Produce was also very good. Bill’s Produce is both a restaurant and a grocery store, and I can imagine that the original Whole Foods must have had a vibe like the wholesome, slightly-chaotic one at Bill’s.
My eggs benedict with smoked salmon was everything I’d want in said dish. Eggs poached so the yolk is runny but the whites are cooked through and not vinegary; a creamy, tangy hollaindaise; thin, savoury slices of nova; and a little extra texture and nuttiness with the unexpected addition of toasted squash seeds. And it looked pretty. And it cost just £7.
Obviously, the next time I go to Brighton, I need to be sure I’ve been invited to a cool party, and before said party, I’ll be sure to eat at Bill’s and grab a milkshake at ChoccyWoccy.