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
I’m a voracious reader and always have several books on the go. As I’m in between jobs at the moment, or currently re-inventing myself as one friend put it, I’m reading a lot of books around this subject. ‘How to find fulfilling work’ by Roman Krznaric has much to make you think. I heard him speak at a recent Fresh Air meet-up group in Brighton. One of the things he spoke of was taking a radical sabbatical. He suggests trying out different jobs and careers before investing a lot of time and money in courses, just try out and see what fits. Maybe that’s one reason on receiving an email from a cycling friend that I answered ‘Yes!’. The one day’s work is for nine cycling film extras in Eastbourne and there’s even a payment and travel expenses. I was part of a cycle group crowd scene as part of a video shoot a few years ago filmed up on Devil’s Dyke. It’s all part of getting out of my comfort zone and trying something different while I’ve got the time. Back to real life for the moment though and I’m on the prowl for my next cafe review.
I’ve always called this little spot of calm in the Lanes Dolphin Square because of the wonderful Dolphin fountain set bang in the middle. You walk through the maze of lanes and then suddenly the space opens up and you are there. The sound of the water cascading down into the pool below is like any moving water, a bit hypnotic and relaxing all at once. The fountain is a bronze of two nymphs playing with two dolphins. The water flows down into a sea green and beige mosaic-tiled pool below with the dolphins dancing above. Cafe Oasis was my choice of the two cafes to choose from. Unusually for a Lanes cafe the menu is mainly sandwiches with a huge variety of fillings made to order as well as hot breakfast sandwiches served all day. Its white interior with bold colour splashes is fine but its the outside that is the draw here. The square is packed with tables surrounding the fountain while tourists wander around the edge window shopping in one of the upmarket jewellery shops or specialist pen shop. I noticed that Rounder Records was closing down after being in business in the square for 44 years since 1966 and a well known name in the Brighton music scene for supporting independent record labels. Above the shops are flats mostly with their windows open to catch the breeze and I wonder what it would be like to live in one of them. With the murmur of the chat rising up from the cafes and the constant soothing sounds of the water splashing from the fountain it could be a rather nice backdrop to your home. My table complete with sun umbrella right next to the fountain was perfect spot to relax and take in the surroundings and take my mind off any worries
I’m most definitely in my comfort zone while visiting cafes and writing about them and its what I love to do. Another writer I’m a fan of is Natalie Goldberg who is a Zen Buddhist living in New Mexico. She’s a creative writing teacher and talks about living in the moment and expressing that in your writing. So even if the film role doesn’t materialise there are plenty more cafes to write about in fact I’ve counted five new ones that I’ve spotted just this week.
Meet-Up groups are a great way to meet new people and develop new interests. One of the meet-ups I’ve joined recently is the Independent Coffee Lovers group. They didn’t seem to be having many get-togethers so I proposed this Friday at Tic Toc cafe in the Lanes. I made the new-comer’s grave error though of posting the meet-up after the week’s email had been distributed. Consequently by 10.00 this morning I was the only one listed as attending. As I’m quite happy going to cafes on my own I thought I’d go along anyway and you never know who might turn up. I’m really glad I did.
With more and more big chain corporate cafes taking over Brighton’s historic Lanes it’s great to find a gem like Tic Toc, a hidden sanctum down a small passageway that is Meeting House Lane just off the much busier Prince Albert Street. As well as the dual aspect windows there is also a ceiling atrium giving this fairly small space loads of natural light. I was the only one there, apart from the staff, so had plenty of time to have a look around and admire all the small details that make this cafe rather special. The formica topped tables hark back to the 60’s as does the mustard coloured banquette seating along with the iconic painted portrait of a young woman that used to be considered bad taste but is now viewed as stylishly kitsch. The fresh roses on each table were a surprise and a lovely touch. The bookcase of paperbacks with the ubiquitous clocks give a homely feel along with the black and white snaps taken some decades earlier. I thought initially that the Billie Halliday music was coming from the cafe but on more intent listening I realised it was coming from the bar next door. Early morning tourists passed by the windows looking a bit lost as did young international students that make up so much of Brighton’s transient population in the summer months. I listened in to the staff talking some French though I believe the owner is half Dutch. I don’t know who Millie is but chalked on the blackboard covered door was the legend ‘ Millie is tres folie”
The menu has some interesting touches too such as strawberry goat cheese and almond salad as well as bacon butty with Stilton and very rich chocolate milkshake. The cafe is now open in the evenings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and with a bring your own wine option would make for an great alternative evening out venue.
Just as I had given up on any of my meet-up buddies turning up in walked my mate Christopher with his colleague Ben. They had just come out of a licensing meeting at the town hall just around the corner and were looking for somewhere to have a coffee. With all its city status Brighton is still small enough so that you can bump into friends unexpectedly which is one of the things I really like about living here. It seems Christopher is keeping the other committee members alert and entertained with his quotes from Virginia Woolf about bowling. His own quote that ‘walking along the seafront is democracy in action’ seems to have caught people’s attention as I keep seeing it in local publications. The quote from Einstein en scripted on the walls of Tic Toc is that ‘ Time is there because not everything can happen at once.’ Happenstance was that although my meet-up group didn’t materialise as it turned out I had some very good company anyway.
To see a video of Tic Toc click on the link below:
A few days ago I’d been to the private view of the new summer exhibition called Cluster at Fabrica in Ship Street. Here the artist combines traditional local materials with 21st century design recalling the rural heritage of Sussex. These large sculptural works comprise a series of large scale woven wooden vessels and make full use of the space that the former church offers. There seems to be a bit of a theme here with the Jubilee too calling to mind ideas of more halcyon days in a simpler time. Back on Ship St the other day I was looking for somewhere to stop for a tea and was drawn in by Blackbird.
Step into Blackbird Tea Rooms in Ship St and you leave modern day Brighton with all its hustle and bustle into the more sedate and well mannered world of the 30’s and 40’s. All the tables on the ground floor were taken so I went upstairs to the more spacious first floor and plumped for a table by the large bay window. The light floods in from both sides of the room and you get to watch out over all the busyness in the street below. The attention to detail in recreating the period setting is remarkable. The round light switches are black bake-lite and the walls are adorned with sepia-toned portraits, wood work is dark stained, tables are covered in vintage lace tablecloths with vintage china to match. This isn’t a fusty time warp though, the wallpaper has a colourful bird print pattern and the menu while leaning to the period still has something to offer the customer of the 21st century. My cream tea at £5.00 was delicious and it’s worth taking advantage of the ration book style loyalty card where if you buy four cream teas then your fifth is free. Its great having table service, so used do you get to queuing up to place your order in most cafes in town. Other choices were ample slices of cake accompanied by fresh blueberries and strawberries. Tea is loose leafed as you would expect but cappuccinos and lattes are also served. This new venue has so many unique selling points that it’s sure to be on the cafe scene for some time to come.
On the way out I sneaked a look at the rear courtyard and once the sun comes out this will be a great spot to treat yourself to some vintage indulgence. Have a look at Fabrica’s exhibition first though, just a few yards away, for some modern yet heritage inspired art work and make a full afternoon of it.