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 all in the 1930’s at the moment. Given the glacial weather conditions outside this January it’s probably appropriate that I’ve been reading a spine chilling ghost story set in the 24 hour darkness of a 1930’s Arctic winter. I braved the current freezing temperatures and stepped into this age once again but this time in a much more hospitable setting.
Metrodeco sits at the corner of Upper St James St and Charlotte St catching the low winter light through its west facing windows. From the outside its quite inconspicuous but once within you’re immediately drawn into another more glamorous and pampered era. Tagged as ‘ a storm in a 1930’s teacup’ this is a tea salon that’s worth going out of your way to visit. I secured a spot on a comfy leopard print covered sofa and had a peruse of the menu.
I’ve never seen Shades of Grey listed as a tea blend before and was seduced by the description of ‘ A refreshing take on the classic Earl Grey. This light and zesty black tea with a hint of rose is the perfect little lift in the afternoon.’
The loose leaf blend is served in an art deco style Henley teapot with an ingenious integral tea strainer. I can confirm that the tea had just the right amount of infusion and lived up to its flirtatious narrative.
Vintage china was in abundance as part of the retro tea salon theme along with original chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, a huge gilt mirror, a potted palm and all sorts of quirky paraphernalia expertly put together to give the authentic 1930’s look. Vintage brown leather suitcases display the bags of tea infusions that you can buy to take home with you.The cakes on the counter looked amazing and the bespoke shelves behind store the vast array of teas on offer.
Once I’ve had a look around a new cafe I can’t resist a peak at who else I’m sharing it with. My eye was caught by one customer in particular who for me personified the character in the poem When I’m old I shall wear purple. Wearing a purple dress with her short grey dreadlocks tied up with purple and black ribbons and shod in black Doc Marten boots she was someone who was confident in her own style. Brighton has its fair share of characters and Kemptown seems to epitomise the Brighton eccentric style.
I got the feeling that this is a cafe with plenty of regulars. Though quirkiness might be its initial draw the service and great tea and cakes on offer are what customers return for. If you’re a tea drinker and want to see how tea should be served then Metrodeco is one of the best.
Through the huge windows life in Brighton’s Kemptown continued apace with passers by huddled up against the present day cold. Inside Metrodeco it was an altogether more genial experience of a bygone age.
As an antidote to the self absorption and introspection of modern society, Roman Krznaric advocates Outrospection. At his talk recently at the Fresh Air meet-up group he promoted the values of looking beyond our own lives and showing empathy for the lives of others. Roman always gives an excellent talk as well as getting everyone involved and chatting about how we might go about doing this. I always come away from his talks with ideas to mull over.
However, there are things about the past that definitely worth sticking to. Such as The Old Cottage Tea Rooms in Rottingdean. I’ve been coming here for years and seen several owners come and go. Each change of ownership has put their stamp on the place but it still carries its original imprint from 1589 when it was built being a grade 1 listed cottage. Its low beamed ceiling strung with Christmas baubles, white painted tongue and groove walls and the uneven red brick tiled floor, where you have to watch your footing, give it bags of character. The Olde Cottage encompasses three tiny rooms, two with original fire places, and it’s very much the old fashioned tea shop.
The cake stand is one of the first things you see as you walk in with its deep home made cakes on display. The bells on the door jangle as you go in and jangle again as you close the door against the outside chill. The jaunty red and white gingham oil cloths cover all the tables which are also topped with individual evergreen filled glass jar vases for a touch of seasonal panache. 70’s Christmas hits from Slade and Wizard play unobtrusively as the background soundtrack, a reminder that the season of goodwill and partying is almost upon us.
As we’d walked a few miles over the Downs to get to Rottingdean from Brighton we were ready to tuck into our jacket potatoes as we sat at the large window seat. You can see towards the sea looking south and towards the narrow village High Street to the north. It’s worth having a look at the local artwork on the walls as you sip on your tea and enjoy the setting. A pot of tea is just £1.40 but the best deal on offer though has to be the apple crumble served with cream or custard for just £2.50. which I often choose.
The way home was the few miles along the under cliff path with the low winter sun starting to sink low on the horizon. The tide was out and the sea was calm for this time of year. Roman’s other ideas to do with work are wide achieving rather than high achieving and taking radical sabbaticals. I’m doing a bit of both at the moment and in the course of this hopefully learning to further develop some outrospection at the same time too.
When I do something I really like to get stuck into the work. So it is with my garden clearance: straggling vines are lopped, towering buddleia reduced and brambles thinned out. The pile of cuttings takes up a small corner plot of my back garden but bunches of grapes and ripe blackberries have been revealed. The grapes are thriving on their south facing trellis now that they can soak up any rays that late autumn offers.
Autumn also brings what has become a regular cycling trip to the New Forest. Along with some of my cycling buddies we headed along to the New Forest to take part in a 100 km event which loops around the periphery of the national park along with about 1,000 other cyclists. But before all this activity started I had arrived a day earlier and had time to myself to go for an easy ride and discover what Beaulieu had to offer.
Next to the huge estate and house is the small cobbled village High Street which in times gone by would have been where the estate workers lived.The buildings date from the 16th to early 20th century with many of them listed. The former bakery is now a lovely tea shop in the traditional style with brilliant white cotton tablecloths and place settings of teacups and saucers ready for the next customers. The old baking ovens remain in situ and the white -washed brick walls display a fascinating range of old black and white photos showing the history and former inhabitants of the bakehouse and of the village.
Plenty of light meals such as jacket potatoes and sandwiches are on offer and you can eye up the choice of cakes before you place your order. I ordered a pot of tea and a toasted teacake which filled a gap until eating later that evening.
On the way to Lymington, where I was staying for the night at the Little Gem B &B, I cycled along the quiet lanes with views to the Isle of Wight and the Solent as the autumn sun slipped lower in the sky. Elaine, my landlady, was as friendly and chatty as ever making me feel very welcome. After meeting up with my cycling companions that evening for dinner it was back to bed for a good nights sleep before an early start on the Sunday morning. Breakfast included some of Elaine’s home made wholemeal bread spread with her home made blackberry jam which were both delicious.
The easy part was over now it just remained to cycle the 100 km route which took us right around the New Forest. We were rewarded with spectacular views of wide open heathland contrasting with tiny forested lanes all the while on the lookout for any stray ponies or donkeys wandering out in the middle of the road.
Autumn is about reflection as the seasons change and the nights get longer. I was glad I was able to fit in this mini break while the days were still sunny and I was still feeling fit after a summer of cycling. The garden clearance work at home would just have to wait a few more days till my return.
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.