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.
There is something special about getting up that little bit earlier and getting a taste of early morning. Just A gentle bike ride along the seafront cycle path and I am at Morrocco’s in just a few minutes. The ice cream counter is what first welcomes you on entering. A chilled cabinet with a rainbow of rich colours representing around two dozen different flavours of their home made ice cream to choose from. Over the years I’ve tried most with the chilli chocolate being a favourite.
The sun is getting quite strong already but with cup of tea in hand I’m lucky enough to get a seat on the small front terrace which is still in the shade. I love the musicality of the Italian language and hearing the banter of the staff as they get set up for a day’s trading. Having studied Italian at school I can usually pick up a few words here and there but unfortunately that’s about all.
Watching the cyclists pedalling by on the cycle path directly in front of the terrace. I hear the whir of chains turning and the bur of rubber on tarmac. I wonder how long it will be until I spot someone I know. Only about ten minutes as it turns out. The sea is just a few yards away and the sound of the waves on the shore blend with the hissing of the coffee machine behind me and the chatter of the nearby customers. A couple of yachts are sailing on the horizon on a calm and clement sea. Breakfasts, seems to be what everyone is ordering to set them up for the day ahead.
I’ve been coming to Marrocco’s for years now since I first moved down to Brighton & Hove. The original couple who established the cafe in the late 60’s have since passed the business on to their son, Peter Marrocco, to run. Marrocco’s describe themselves as bringing a touch of Naples to Hove. So, in the summer it is not unknown for queues to stretch right along the block for the famous Marrocco’s ice cream with people waiting up to half an hour for their choice of flavour. The cafe is mainly known though for its Italian seafood, pizza and pasta but you can just as easily pop in for a coffee or tea. Now open till 11pm at night it’s a honeypot for late night cafe and ice cream lovers. When I’m cycling home late in the evening after a night out it’s cheering to see Marrocco’s lit up and still buzzing with life.
In Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts in the movie, Elizabeth goes to Rome on the first stage of her voyage of self discovery and indulges in the local pasta and ice-cream. I’d venture you wouldn’t need to go as far as that. Just cycle down to Hove promenade to savour a little bit of Italy and ponder on life while watching the world go by.
A change of scene always gets your mind moving, changes your perspective and gives you a chance to mull over new ideas. We’d spent an invigorating day’s walking along the stunning Holkam beach from Wells-next-the Sea to Brancaster Staithe along the Norfolk coastal path. Huge, wide open skies and miles of dunes backed by pine forests. All very different from my usual stroll along Hove promenade. Though with one main similarity, a tea stop at the end.
A chance to sit down and rest our weary muscles and drink some tea was top of the list after an exhilarating day in Norfolk’s great outdoors. Though strictly a small hotel, bar and restaurant The White Horse also does a fine pot of tea. The indoor setting reflects the natural vista beyond being all driftwood mirrors, comfy wicker furniture and with a colour scheme of dreamy washed out blues and creams with a dash of sun burnt red. The seating area looks through the conservatory restaurant facing directly northwards over the vast area of fens and marshes. Over the late afternoon the tide gradually came in lifting up the small wooden boats from the mudflats and changing the view out entirely. The music was as mellow as the gently shifting seascape outside making this stop a very chilled out one indeed.
I’ve been reading The Job Delusion, a book written by a fellow Scot and now Brightonian like myself. Kevin eschews the notion of jobs bringing financial stability to our lives and instead embraces the idea of personal financial freedom. There’s loads of ideas to mull over and I agree with lots of the suggestions the book describes. Time to move on my life another step, in a bolder direction. In the meanwhile I can sip on another cup of tea as the tide slowly flows in closer still. But not for too much longer as it’ probably about time to act and make the life changes happen.
We stayed at the wonderful Deepdale independent hostel