A cafe lovers take on the meaning of life while enjoying a cuppa.

Category Archives: the Lanes

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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.

100_3802The 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   100_3804 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

Clock Tower Cameras

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Having a bit of chocolate always makes you feel better. That’s why when I’m in central Brighton I always make a point of wandering down Chocolate St or Dukes Lane as it is really called. There are no more than three specialist chocolate shops here and  its really easy to glean a sample of delicious dark chocolate for yourself.  Just a square of a few buttons as there’s no need to be greedy and all is right with the world again.

For a more indulgent chocolate hit the place to go is Choccywoccydoodah Cafe at the corner of Boyce’s St and Middle St in the heart of the Lanes and just around the corner from their shop. From their quite inauspicious black painted exterior you enter into a world of pink, red and gold oozing with chocolate delights.   It’s quite a tiny space divided into two small rooms and with the grey and wet weather outside was packed with expectant customers. The hand painted walls feature blonde haired cherubs, Grecian gods and goddesses on  a vivid backdrop of  purple, pink and yellow. Ornate gilt framed mirrors mange to find a spot squeezed amongst all this art work. On top of all this were Hallowe’en decorations of skulls,  cobwebs and spiders all over the place.

The seating is a mixture of  black iron framed and heart backed red velvet.  Luck was on my side and I managed to secure the red velvet sofa giving me plenty of room to spread out.  Usually fairly restrained in cafes surrounded by all this indulgence this time I felt I just had to have something from the menu so ordered a chocolate brownie along with my pot of tea.

The table of four young men next to me were making short work of their hot chocolate drinks, available in white, milk or dark, as well as sharing a selection of chocolate dipping pots. The talk was of sugar rushes and feeling they’d ordered too much though not wanting to be defeated they eventually managed to clear all their plates.    The staff , sporting bright red aprons, are  friendly  and efficient and you can tell they are proud of  the quality of  the extravagant  chocolate specialities  they’re offering their customers.

My slab of brownie was delicious drizzled with chocolate sauce  but I could only manage a third of  it, taking the rest home with me. So maybe I was being a bit greedy this time but it was near impossible not to indulge in something  in this  chocolate dedicated  cornucopia.

choccywoccydoodah


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.

Cafe Oasis


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:

Tic Toc cafe video


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.

Blackbird Tea Rooms



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