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.
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.
Houses aren’t just homes, they say a lot about our aspirations, our dreams and how we see ourselves. As the French leave the rural towns and villages so the incomers take their place. The Brits, the Dutch, the Canadians are all part of this influx, staking their claim in a new French way of life. They’re mainly retirees and mainly couples though sometimes there are families and singles but the one thing in common to them all is this new phase to their lives.
I’ve just returned from a few days staying with family in the Limousin region of France. My sister moved to Bellac some four years ago and along with her husband has successfully established a Chambre d’Hotes in the small town of Bellac. Maison Bellachonne is a 400 year old town house just across from Le Mairie with five gorgeous en-suite guest rooms. History oozes out of every wall with original dark wood flooring throughout. The central staircase is in dark wood too and rises up to the fourth floor. Each guest room in this small boutique hotel has been individually designed with much flair. Views from the rooms at the back are of the ancient church and the rolling countryside beyond the town while at the front towards a fountain by the town hall. It’s a lovely place to stay.
When the UK house prices are so exorbitant the chance to buy property at just a few thousand euros is a huge draw. My sister showed me around some properties in Bellac that were bought by some of the early retirement diaspora from the UK and beyond that were now back on the market. Circumstances change and maybe the reality of that particular dream no longer held sway. Being already at least partly refurbished these properties are a bargain compared to the UK. A large town house with shop/business premises on the ground floor and sited on the main pedestrianised Rue du Coq and overlooking a small square can be purchased for offers around 75,000 Euros. Some properties, albeit very rundown, are even given away free with the purchase of another. Buy one get one free is not advantageous as it may appear given the restoration required but for some an offer too tempting to turn down. The property market in France compares favourably to the UK and that’s why so many Brits and other Europeans are moving there.
Hearing my two nieces speaking fluently in French was hugely impressive and they continue to move successfully through the French education system. This is one family that have built their dream into a positive reality and have overcome the myriad of difficulties of establishing a new life in a foreign land.
Maison Bellachonne is located deep in the heart of France in the Haute-Vienne department of the Limousin region. You can fly to nearby Limoges airport with flybe and Ryanair from the UK. As well as running the Chambres d’Hotes my sister is also unofficial property guru for the town and knows what’s hot and what’s not.
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.
Central park has just as much buzz as the rest of Manhattan albeit in a more spacious setting. The park is a massive patch of green space in the heart of the city and the New Yorkers come here to jog, cycle and play baseball with typical zeal and earnestness. After all this is their small slot of time and space to exercise and they’re going to make the most of it. Then there are the horse and carriage rides and the bike carriages too taking tourists on trips around the park’s inner route adding to the general throng. All of the city, as well as the park, has an air of familiarity about it somehow, probably because New York has been the backdrop to so many films and TV series.
A morning visit to The Met, which sits on the east side with its breathtaking views over the park from its roof garden, satisfied any cultural urges. A more prosaic need was to find a cafe for lunch. There are a few cafes dotted around the park and after getting slightly lost in this vast area with its woods, rocks, tiny paths, reservoir and turtle filled lake we came upon Le Pain Quotidien. This is an artisan bakers with a great array of tasty sandwiches and pastries. The outside terrace is perfect to take in the Manhattan skyline behind a foreground of trees. The park’s huge perimeter mean that you can’t hear or see the traffic on the nearby Avenues.
For observing a different side of Manhattan, a prime spot on the cafe terrace held my attention for ages. From young Latino girls pushing their privileged charges about in their prams while mom is out working to the young women in their gorgeous designer shift dresses immaculately poised and groomed with their Chanel handbags hanging effortlessly over their arm. Preppy boys actually exist, coiffed and sporting dashing blazers with the requisite brown brogues and straight legged chinos direct from a J Crew advert.
I remember reading in Alain de Boton’s wonderful Art of Travel about a philosopher who liked to just sit at train stations or ports rather than traveling through them himself. It was more about sitting and observing and imagining the stories about all the lives moving in and about the scene before him, thereby saving himself all the stresses and discomfort of travel. I can identify with his point of view and observing Manhattan life from the parks, High Line walkway and cafes were some of the best parts of my trip.
Spotting what I thought looked like a film shoot just a short way away I wandered over to see that it was Kevin Bacon doing a jogging scene for an upcoming Warner Brothers production. So my impressions of New York being like some huge film set are not so off target. Real life will seem very tame on my return home.
Blaker’s Park is set on a tiny handkerchief patch of land up at Fiveways. Its sloping angle catching the sun. For a small park it crams in plenty of goodies like tennis courts, kids play area and even a cafe. I’d cycled up to this part of town to visit a friend whose daughter has just had a new baby and to see the newborn Saphia for the first time. The park was strangely quiet for a warm August afternoon. Just a few tennis players and some kids playing around with their bikes.
Trees are abundant here, tall and well rooted in full foliage giving shade where its needed. There’s an impressive clock tower painted in the City Council’s trademark green topped off with a golden fish weather vane balancing on top. At a quarter to three it was most definitely tea time. So a mug of Redbush and a slice of fruit and seed flapjack later I was sitting by one of the tables set on the grass in front of the small cafe building. The cafe, originally the tennis clubhouse, faces south-west to best catch the summer sun and there are tables and seating on the small decking area too. Sited directly next to the tennis courts, the thwack of tennis balls is a pleasing background rhythm to time spent here.
August, for me, has been one of those months where other peoples lives have touched on my own. It’s a joy when it’s birthdays you’re celebrating or when a child has been born healthy. But other personal dramas playing out around you can be a bit more challenging to address. Recently a friend’s parent died after a long illness and another friend’s new relationship broke up rather brutally. I sought some advice from a friend who is training to be a therapist and counsellor as to how best to handle these sort of situations after showing initial empathy. ‘It’s all about reflecting back what the talker feels. It’s important to show these good listening skills while at the same time moving the conversation forward.’ Insightful, helpful advice and worth remembering when I’m next called upon in a crisis.
Even when the sun is shining it doesn’t always imply that lives are going according to plan. Hopefully I’ll be more prepared next time for when real life intervenes. Meanwhile life goes on; births, deaths and everything in-between. And the cafe at Blaker’s Park is a good a place as any to ponder over life’s celebratory moments as well as its uncertainties.