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 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.
Cafe Delice sits at the bottom of Kensington Gardens as it joins the junction with North Road. You cannot miss its glossy plum exterior highlighted with number 40 in gold lettering right on the corner. Being in a prime spot in the heart of the bohemian North Laine it’s a great place for a meet up. There is a line of tables outside on the terracotta tiled pedestrian thoroughfare for sitting al fresco but I was headed inside.
I was meeting with Write Club, a group of writers on their monthly get together held upstairs in this cafe-bistro. You never quite know who will turn up although there always seems to be an interesting bunch. Maybe it’s something to do with writers being, to me anyway, a fairly diverse and creative group. There was a freelance journalist, a short story writer, a self-taught applied physician turned IT guru, a copy writer-novelist and myself a blogger-copy writer. I love to hear people’s back stories and how they got to where they are now. Then the ideas flew about how to get new work and progress in our chosen metier.
After choosing our drinks downstairs at the counter, staff brought them to us upstairs. It’s a large space with a myriad of artwork on the walls and a mixture of seating including some comfy sofas. It’s a relaxed and spacious room with windows on two sides facing south and west so with lots of natural light. In the background you can hear the hubbub of the bustling street life down below as people saunter along Kensington Gardens.
Cafe Delice is actually a French bistro serving up some delicious sounding food for lunch and dinner. In the mornings their pastries are baked fresh on the premises or you can choose from breakfasts and light bites. Later their homemade cakes go very well with your tea or coffee prepared by their fully trained baristas.
Meanwhile back at Write Club the talk was still as lively as ever even though none of us had ever met each other before. We’d had our teas and coffees and with lunch time looming it was time to move on. After all if you’re a writer you have to write not just sit around talking about it.
You have to have a strong will not to be enticed in by the wonderful coffee aroma and the convivial atmosphere of people chatting and drinking when you walk by Small Batch. Inside there’s a curvy counter following the street-facing windows which is good to sit at and muse on the comings and goings outside on Jubilee Street. Small Batch don’t really do comfy seating, confident in their ability to draw their customers in with their other attributes. People don’t seem to be put off by the lack of sofas and armchairs that you find in most cafes in town. So it’s high stools and shared tables for most drinkers who seem impervious to this oversight. My friend and I chose to sit outside by the pavement tables to bask in some late summer sun while catching up on each others news.
As well as wonderful coffee, remarked on by several friends as the best in town, Small Batch now do really good tea. There’s a small but discrete menu of loose leaf teas available of which I’ve now tried several. Served in glass cafetiere type pots with matching and insulated glass tumblers and saucers, it’s tea but not as you know it. Well, with Small Batch you come to expect something a bit quirky.
On the counter were sitting four intriguing looking percolators. On querying them I was told it was a very scientific way of getting your own personal brew. I haven’t yet seen them in action but they looked sparkling and ready to demonstrate their brio. Alternatively, if you fancy having a go and learning a bit about coffee making you can book yourself in to a barista training session and learn how Small Batch make such good coffee. Courses are all held in the Vault of the Seven Dials cafe.
This site on Jubilee Street, up until a few years ago, was a bomb site from WW2. The new library, hotel, pizza restaurant and Jubilee Square were all created when the site was developed. I remember often walking over the wasteland when crossing from the swimming pool to the North Laine. Time doesn’t stand still for bomb sites or for any of us. Life is constantly about change so it’s better to embrace it rather than hoping things will stay the same.
My daughter has gone back to Uni again for her second year and it’s been easier this second time around. Chatting to my mate Laura who has a daughter the same age we both agreed that as much as we miss our girls, life does seem to flow at an easier, less dramatic pace. A year ago I talked about being an empty nester, this year it’s more about a full cup. And why not make it a Small Batch one.