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 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.
Don’t be put off by the airport terminal style to this unusual cafe. With its massive white frontage and canopy you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d taken a wrong turning somewhere and ended up at Gatwick by mistake. South facing and with huge full length windows you catch the sun whether sitting outside on the expansive terrace or in the huge space inside. It’s really designed for when there are events on at the cricket ground attracting huge crowds. When the crowds have departed it’s altogether different and rather a quiet spot, set back from Eaton Road, with views down the tree-lined Selbourne Road towards the sea in the distance.
Italian is the theme here with the pizzas made from dough freshly made each day and plenty of fresh pasta dishes very reasonably priced. I’m told the ice-cream is hand made on the premises as are the range of Italian desserts on display such as tiramisu and apple cake. As this cafe is open from 8.30 each day you can also get breakfast here too. The owners used to run Zingarella’s at the Marina and have now moved here to further practice their art of all things Italian. The barista told me that on event days they clear out all the tables and chairs and have loads of panini and savoury eats to take away to satisfy the crowds. I could just imagine in my mind’s eye the place packed with throngs of people jostling for food and drink. Fortunately for me there was no such event on and the area exuded peace and calm when I was there. It seems not many know that this gem of a place is open every day even when there are no matches or events taking place.
Inside the low early autumn sun threw long shadows streaking across the floor through the tall windows and cast deep shadows of the distinctive looking light fittings high up on the ceiling onto the wall. The cafe’s size make it perfect for mums with buggies or for large groups as there’s so much space and there’s free WiFi for those who want a spot away from home to work. Outside there are some snazzy looking bold orange chairs on the terrace and the leaves on the surrounding trees are just starting to turn gold and orange too. With the clocks going back and autumn gales forecast it’s time to embrace the change of the seasons. But for a little while longer you can sit in the sun at Cafe Pasticci and have the place almost all to yourself.