Just when you think it’s time to move on and try something different friends, blog followers and a network of cafe lovers draw you right back to where you were. Hearing that so many followers noticed that Cafedharma hadn’t been updated in a while has propelled me on to new cafes, new stories and lots more tea. So while my copywriting work ebbs and flows the life of a cafe blogger goes from strength to strength.
Brighton city centre is usually thronged with crowds and I generally try to only venture there if I really have to. But there is a bit of a breathing space now, set back from the road by the clock tower that is the New York Coffee Club. Fans of Peter Andre will already know of it, he of Aussie singing fame and one time husband of Brighton’s very own Jordan, and it seems that he’s a dab hand at knowing what people like in the way of cafes.
It’s light and airy helped along with south east facing windows and white painted brick walls with black, white and red highlights from the tables, seating and lights. There are some huge photos of the New York skyline and yellow taxi cabs for the big apple vibe bringing back memories of my trip there last September. Bagels and hot dogs feature as well as hot breakfast muffins and a great selection of cakes and sweet treats.The cafe has its own bespoke crockery with the legend ‘Fuel for the city’. The kiddies play area goes down well with the yummy mummy set so they can sip on their lattes knowing that junior is happily playing. I found the staff particularly friendly and helpful especially when I spilt my jug of milk all over the table. They look smart kitted out as they are in their distinctive red and black uniforms.
There’s a glass display case of Peter’s and the cafe’s memorabilia for sale so you can be in no doubt who is the energy behind this venture. I didn’t see the man himself on my visit but the possibility of that and my enjoyable first visit will mean I’ll be back for more at the New York Coffee Club. In between, of course, trying out lots more new places for my devoted cafedharma followers.
The Runaway Buffet and Snack Bar is unusual in that’s it’s the sort of cafe you tend to frequent by default. Located as it is on Platform 2 of Lewes railway station it’s a godsend when you’re passing through and have a wait for your next train. We’d just alighted from the Brighton train and had twenty minutes until our train to Glynde was due and the thought of a cuppa at the Runaway was most welcome.
The Runaway has a few quirks that stand it out from the usual bland corporate outlets that are more common on railway platforms. For a start classical music is always playing and then there’s the clock on the wall that is always five minutes fast. The unique Runaway time zone is a helpful idiosyncrasy as it means you’re unlikely to miss the train you’re passing time in the cafe waiting for.
With such a tasty menu of home made specials it’s worth taking time over your transit to have a tasty breakfast or lunch here too. Lots of jacket potatoes, panini and toasted sandwiches as well as soups and cakes. The cafe featured on Radio 4 on the late John Peel’s Home Truths show as part of a commuter’s radio diary. Famous too for the custom of the late Diana, Princess of Wales who stopped off here to order one of their legendary bacon sandwiches.
The service is always friendly and its a cafe I’ve frequented for years off and on whenever I’ve been passing through Lewes station. With an eye on that express clock, it was time to make a move and get on with catching the train and the main business of the day. Refreshed by our teas we were ready for more than a few miles rambling along the Old Coach Road from Firle to Alfriston. This ancient route runs parallel and at the foot of the South Downs and is great if you like your routes direct and straightforward and with no more unexpected detours.
The eponymous tea rooms sit in the heart of the historic downland village of Ditchling just across from the ancient church. If you’re looking for somewhere cosy and comfortable for a pot of tea then this is your place. It may be slightly worn around the edges, a bit confused in its sense of decor and with a rather lived-in feel like a comfy pair of slippers but it’s the home of the giant scone. I wonder if this USP will be enough to brave off the stiff competition for a cuppa in a world where latest styles and trends hold sway.
All within spitting distance of the tea rooms there’s the recently opened Mr Magnolia’s coffee shop right on the crossroads as well as the brand new Ditchling Art and Craft museum’s cafe by the pond. For such a tiny village it’s become a bit of a cafe hotspot all of a sudden. Is there a bun fight for the competition or will they all attract their own particular clientele?
We’d taken the train to Hassocks and walked along the small lane past the restored Oldland windmill and then the contour-following footpaths with views to the South Downs before dropping into the village. It’s a restorative 50 minutes walk and and an easy way to escape the city, breath in lungfuls of fresh country air and soak up loads of Sussex village charm.
The original beamed tea rooms have a bakery attached with many of their cakes and a wicker tray of their famous giant scones on show in the period bow window. There’s a lovely aroma from the log fire burning slowly in the grate in the back room. During the summer the walled patio garden is my favourite spot but on a cold winter’s day inside was a preferable warm and cosy choice. They’re very much traditional tea rooms and seem as if they’ve always been here. Although no longer called Dolly’s Pantry, long-standing regulars like myself occasionally slip up in its nomenclature. You can tuck into soups, toasties, jackets and specials of the day and absorb some of its old world allure while facing off the inclement weather outside and refueling for the afternoon’s return walk.
The tea rooms have braved off competition before but the two new kids in the village come with their shiny stylish interiors and the vigour of just-opened new businesses. Only time will tell if there’s room for all three cafes in Ditchling. So even if it’s not buns at dawn there’s bound to be at least a battle of the cupcakes or maybe those giant scones will flatten any challengers.
With Christmas just around the corner it was time to escape the frenzy of the shops and indulge in some cycling with a well planned tea stop en route. Half an hour’s bike ride away is Shoreham airport along Sustrans route 2, winding its way through Portslade, Southwick and then Shoreham. The Adur was at high tide as I crossed over the Old Toll Bridge then turned south onto the airport perimeter road. The bright orange wind sock was showing a strong south-westerly wind though I knew that already on cycling the five or six miles to get here.
The airport cafe was reinvented as the Hummingbird some time ago, bringing out all the best of its art deco features with the huge windows overlooking the airfield being the prime ones. You get wonderful views out towards the South Downs with Lancing College in the foreground with merry clouds scudding across the wintry blue sky.
It’s a huge roomy space with light oak flooring and chalky walls offset by the dark wood tables and chairs. There’s a touch of greenery from the huge sprouting pot plants and there’s even a mini grand piano with a programme of live music to look out for.
Given the season there was the ubiquitous sparkling tree and uplifting Michael Buble soundtrack of all the festive hits. It’s a place for families, friends and work colleagues to meet up, it’s got a bustle and an air of conviviality about it.
As it’s Truffles Bakery who are the new operators, the freshly backed scones and cakes make a terrific spread and are very keenly priced. My pot of tea and delicious fruit scone came to just £2.80. Lunches are tasty too and they were doing a brisk trade. The friendly staff are kitted out in black with the white hummingbird logo and were busy keeping their customers happy.
Shoreham Airport has stacks of history surrounding it with the first flight taken by Harold Piffard on his self-built Hummingbird bi-plane on the 10th July 1910.
On the way back I cycled over the new Adur pedestrian and cyclists bridge and now with a bit of a tail wind behind me the homeward journey was a bit easier.
My daughter arrived back home for Christmas later in the day so it was business as usual with loud music blaring from her room and racket as she and her friend stumbled back in the small hours after clubbing. Or so she told me. I slept through it all, sound asleep after my blustery cycle ride to the Hummingbird.
The Meeting Place has a scruffy sort of charm about it. Only a short bike ride for me along the seafront cycle path, I’ve been coming here for years attracted by its promenade location. Being completely outdoors, in the summer the cafe has hordes of tables and chairs spread around its terrace. When it’s cooler, like now near the the winter solstice, then it’s the hardy few who venture here well wrapped up to grab a beach side table. Its bold, canary yellow wind breakers give shelter from the breeze. Pigeons and seagulls abound here so you can’t be too squeamish about them coming close daring to scavenge a few morsels of your food.
Some years ago the cafe was demolished and reborn a few yards further east along the seafront, significant in that those few yards now mean that you can buy your tea or coffee in Brighton and drink it sitting in Hove. The Angel Peace statue also straddles the boundary between the two towns and heralds this popular cafe.
All the staff are Polish, friendly and eager to practice their English. The cafe is open 365 days a year from dawn serving breakfasts and hot drinks to the dog walkers, joggers and early risers in general to dusk where it catches those reluctant to tear themselves away from the beach. It’s even open on Christmas day and I’ve seen the queues stretching back in their masses with customers seemingly impervious to the long wait. There are so many food and drink deals they are too many to mention but if it’s no nonsense fillers and home baked cakes you’re looking for then this is your place.
Christmas is nearly upon us again and it seems to come around quicker and quicker each year.The early setting sun was transforming the watery blue of the sky into a peachy glow while the skeletal West Pier slumbered peacefully on the calm December sea. At least down here by the The Meeting Place Cafe you can take some time out, swapping the demands of last minute present buying at the shops for breathing in the fresh air and wonderful seascape for the price of a cuppa.
I often bump into friends in cafes and it’s these unexpected meetings that are often the most enjoyable. On Tuesday having just dropped off some old camera gear at Clock Tower Cameras I was strolling through Pavilion Gardens when I remembered that there was a new cafe through the south archway. The possibilities of somewhere new is always a draw for a cafe lover like myself. Just as I was deciding which tea to have who should walk in but a friend who is a photography lecturer in London.
The Pavilion Tea Co. has taken over the space that used to be occupied by the Pavilion shop which has moved into the adjoining space that used to be the tourist office. It’s on a small, pedestrianised side road that leads onto the Pavilion Estate and lined mainly with other cafes and restaurants.
Loose teas are the speciality here and the look is of a traditional oriental tea sellers. Colourful tea containers in hues of red, yellow and brown are stacked up on dark wooden shelving along the main wall with hexagonal fringed yellow lampshades hanging down. The royal blue velvet seating along by the large arched windows looked very inviting and the bespoke wooden tables and chairs complete the look.
The cakes and savouries all looked delicious and the lunch box deal of one of their savoury tray bakes or quiche with seasonal salad at £4.95 should be a crowd puller.Tea is served in grey cast iron teapots, just like in Hove Museum tearoom, being also run by Peyton and Byrne, and there’s a superb choice if you’re a bit of a tea aficionado.
My friend and I got chatting and soon moved on to photography. Her students were down from London to do a Graham Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’ book cover assignment. I was able to update her on my forays into interiors copywriting with possible accompanying photography and my subsequent digital upgrade. Her wise comment that it’s more about the development of the ideas of the person behind the lens than the camera which is just a tool is worth remembering. It was great chatting photography again and reminded me of my college course taken some years ago.
Clock Tower Cameras phoned later with their quote and it’s just about enough to buy a new digital SLR It will probably take some time to learn how to get the best from it but I’ve always loved taking photos and it looks like a new opportunity is opening up for me. All the better with the support of like minded friends. ‘A happy accident’ remarked my friend at the happenstance of meeting each other. For me too the synthesis of photography, writing and tea too of course.
Find out more about the Pavilion Tea Co. Cafe
There are some cafes that are recommended to me by friends, others I just happen to spot as I cycle around town and a few that I hear about on the grapevine. Joe’s is one that I’ve been meaning to visit for some time now with friends and family raving about its charm and great food. In between house visits, as part of my new property copywriting venture, I deduced that Joe’s was equidistant between my last appointment of the afternoon and home. Unless you’re familiar with the streets around the Port Hall area of Brighton the cafe is is a bit tucked away but it is definitely one worth seeking out.
I was told that Joe is no longer and the new owners are a family combo of Dan and Jane who are husband and wife along with Lynsey who is Dan’s sister. They sensibly decided to keep the original cafe name as it had such a strong following.
The bold turquoise walls set off well the reclaimed wooden tables and chairs reminiscent of those in my primary school dinner hall. There’s a profusion of fresh herbs growing in zinc pots around the room and stacks of old wooden crates filled with all sorts of goodies. Breakfasts are still the principal item on the menu and at £5 including tea or coffee sounds a good deal.There are plans to make use of the patio garden area out at the back which would be a great spot to sample one of their famed breakfasts.
The new owners are keen to use local suppliers of top quality sourcing their bread from the Real Patisserie, sausages, black pudding & bacon from Natural Farm, free range eggs from Holmansbridge Farm, juice from the award-winning Wobbleggate, pies from Magnificent Magpies Pies and cakes from the wonderful Brighton Cakery.
I was too late for the breakfast menu but thoroughly enjoyed my warming bowl of home made tomato and basil soup with fresh bread. Afterwards the spread of cakes caught my eye and I opted for the banana and walnut muffin which went down a treat with a mug of tea.
Miles Franklin an Australian writer titled her autobiography ‘ My Brilliant Career’ swiftly followed by ‘My Career Goes Bung’. Sometimes I feel as if I go through this process in one week, sometimes in the course of one day, so bountiful are the peaks and troughs as I carve out my new line of work. The trajectory is on the whole upwards so I should keep the faith. For the new cafe owners Dan, Jane and Lynsey I wish them all the best for success in their new business and if there is any justice Joes’s Cafe should continue to do very well indeed.
You don’t have to cycle to the new Velo Cafe but it does seem a very appropriate way to journey there. This is Brighton’s first bike themed cafe and a new community hub for commuters, Brightonians, visitors and cyclists of all persuasions. The whole Level area has been redeveloped recently with an imaginative new children’s play area, landscaped fountains, a popular skate park for the teens and this fabulous new cafe. The wooden single storey structure comes with loads of sustainability credentials from the green wildlife friendly roof and solar panels to its rain water harvesting system.
Outside there’s an abundance of south facing seating on the terrace to catch the sun and plenty of bold red bike parking. You can spot the Velo banner flapping in the breeze with the ubiquitous logo ‘Eat Drink Ride’. Inside there’s a buzz about the place and its not just for cyclists with young families, laptop workers and curious passers by all taking a look. Queuing up for my coffee I admired Velo’s distinctive red and white logo emblazoned across their coffee machine and the cups and mugs with cyclists on bikes design. The open kitchen lets you see some of the delicious looking food being prepared. Breakfasts are served until 11.30 then it’s toasted sandwiches, burgers and salads. Velo pride themselves on using local artisan producers including Small Batch Coffee and Flour Pot Bakery. The cakes on display certainly looked enticing as was the display of red and white cyclists’ water bottles and other cycling paraphernalia that every cyclist likes to check out.
Being a bright autumn day there was tons of light flooding in with glass windows on three sides of the building as well as along the apex of the roof. A large flat screen shows a loop of great cycling moments from history and I can imagine that this will be a popular spot for cycling fans to gather when the Tour de France and other cycle races are taking place. There’s an open workshop to the back where you can get your bike serviced or even get that infuriating puncture repaired where the price includes a tea or coffee. So it’s all very civilized and puts the ease back into cycling.
The web based Velo Strava Club allows Velo regulars to tot up and publish their miles, altitude and time taken for journeys ridden. Being a keen cyclist myself it’s wonderful to see the symbiosis of cycling and cafes come together with such conviction. Maybe there will be some osmosis with the non cycling customers imbibing some of the cycling vibe down on the Level and deciding to have a go themselves. And where better to start than at Velo.
Just when you thought Brighton and Hove had every kind of cafe going, up pops yet another one assured of its own quirky, indistinguishable style. Arriving so complete and perfectly formed you’d think it had always been here on this previously unremarkable stretch of Church Rd. It’s got that mix of shabby chic with just the right amount of panache and style that makes for a very relaxed feel. Everything is for sale here, from the distressed and extremely comfy leather sofas to the cabinets, shelves and plethora of knick knacks and lamps furnishing this offbeat cafe. There’s an expert eye at work here though as this is no higgledy-piggledy interior but an artfully arranged ensemble complete with an autumnal colour theme displaying their wares to best effect.
With the chilled out jazzy music and those sink into sofas it’s all very laid back. All the cakes are home baked daily so come as fresh as can be and you won’t get them anywhere else in town. Displayed in a lovely vintage Cadbury’s wooden and glass case their baking looked very tempting and can include New York Style Baked Cheesecake and Chocolate Cake with Fresh Whipped Cream and Mordello Cherries. Their cash till is an original aluminium antique which has been brought back into service and rings with that unmistakeable brrrrrng when the keys are pressed and the drawer opens.
Run by a family team of Meg and her dad Barry hailing from California and Tazz, Meg’s business partner, their list of previous work experience is eclectic ranging from building, movies and even catering. If you manage to get into conversation with Barry it’s a chance to hear some Hollywood tales first hand from his early days in the movie business. He’s more than an aficionado and has that easy, loose way Californians have of talking and makes for engaging company while sipping on your coffee or tea. Tazz prides himself on his coffee making skills and my cappuccino was pitch perfect.
In the evening it’s planned to hold classes such as baking, upholstery, sewing and even some speed dating so worth keeping an eye on their website. There’s also a function room downstairs if you’re holding a private party.
So Cafe and Salvage might be the new kid on the block but it’s sneaked in unobtrusively and looks like it’s already part of the fabric of Brighton & Hove’s cafe scene. They’ve now got a great little film too.
Houses aren’t just homes, they say a lot about our aspirations, our dreams and how we see ourselves. As the French leave the rural towns and villages so the incomers take their place. The Brits, the Dutch, the Canadians are all part of this influx, staking their claim in a new French way of life. They’re mainly retirees and mainly couples though sometimes there are families and singles but the one thing in common to them all is this new phase to their lives.
I’ve just returned from a few days staying with family in the Limousin region of France. My sister moved to Bellac some four years ago and along with her husband has successfully established a Chambre d’Hotes in the small town of Bellac. Maison Bellachonne is a 400 year old town house just across from Le Mairie with five gorgeous en-suite guest rooms. History oozes out of every wall with original dark wood flooring throughout. The central staircase is in dark wood too and rises up to the fourth floor. Each guest room in this small boutique hotel has been individually designed with much flair. Views from the rooms at the back are of the ancient church and the rolling countryside beyond the town while at the front towards a fountain by the town hall. It’s a lovely place to stay.
When the UK house prices are so exorbitant the chance to buy property at just a few thousand euros is a huge draw. My sister showed me around some properties in Bellac that were bought by some of the early retirement diaspora from the UK and beyond that were now back on the market. Circumstances change and maybe the reality of that particular dream no longer held sway. Being already at least partly refurbished these properties are a bargain compared to the UK. A large town house with shop/business premises on the ground floor and sited on the main pedestrianised Rue du Coq and overlooking a small square can be purchased for offers around 75,000 Euros. Some properties, albeit very rundown, are even given away free with the purchase of another. Buy one get one free is not advantageous as it may appear given the restoration required but for some an offer too tempting to turn down. The property market in France compares favourably to the UK and that’s why so many Brits and other Europeans are moving there.
Hearing my two nieces speaking fluently in French was hugely impressive and they continue to move successfully through the French education system. This is one family that have built their dream into a positive reality and have overcome the myriad of difficulties of establishing a new life in a foreign land.
Maison Bellachonne is located deep in the heart of France in the Haute-Vienne department of the Limousin region. You can fly to nearby Limoges airport with flybe and Ryanair from the UK. As well as running the Chambres d’Hotes my sister is also unofficial property guru for the town and knows what’s hot and what’s not.