How do you pick new cafes and restaurants to try? Love it or hate, there’s no denying Instagram is useful for travel tips. I don’t mean visiting the latest ‘Instagrammable’ restaurant everyone is posting about. No way. That’s not what we’re about at Ellie & Co. What I mean is I’ve found Instagram a great way to discover local and off-beat gem restaurants in Brighton. I’ve actually had some of my best meals in the city at places I’ve spied through Instagram.
So today, I wanted to share these discoveries with you. My tried-and-tested ‘Instagrammable’ favourites. Here at Ellie & Co we only recommend places we truly love, local gems with unique personalities, where the food must speak for itself, too.
(PS: This post is updated from my original created using links to other Instagram users’ feeds. Deleted photos meant too many broken links, so I updated it with my own photos. I hope you like it!)
I actually found out about Marmalade thanks to Instagram. I saw a snap of the ‘unfinished’ decor and was intrigued. Unplastered walls, cracked tiles revealed hidden for years beneath layers of paint, torn magazine pages for decoration… Had I discovered a cafe inside an abandoned shop? Within minutes, Dan and I were biking over to Kemp Town to see for ourselves…
Anyone would agree ordering is tough. First sight of the dreamy counter inducing indecision. It’s a glorious heap of sugary cakes, pretty pastries, moreish plump pies and quiches, hearty sandwiches – some homemade in the owners’ kitchen. Not pictured: the overflowing bowls of crispy fresh salad. Then there are all the menu treats, like buttery runny scrambled eggs piled on softly toasted Real Patisserie chewy brown bread, topped with strips of crisped bacon.
I pretty much spend most of my time here annoying other people, floating around the place, taking picture after picture of all the details. All the while my food goes cold…
Find Cafe Marmalade at 237 Eastern Rd Brighton, BN2 5JJ.
2. Carlito Burrito
This cosy local Mexican is a good-looking favourite for some mid-week fun and comfort food, or even if you want somewhere to go for a celebration. It started out on the festival circuit, but has a permanent home near the North Laine, all the food made from scratch in the tiniest of kitchens.
Inside, you sit perusing the menu amid a colourful treasure trove of Mexican curiosities and folk art and bright tablecloths – all highly Instagrammable – while cool Mexican tunes drift from the stereo. The burritos are bursting and the fish tacos life-changing.
Find Carlito Burrito at 12 York Place, Brighton BN1 4GU.
3. Riddle and Finns in the lanes
If there’s a whiff of ‘New York’ about a restaurant, I’m there. This favourite Brighton champagne and oyster bar has all the New Yorkie jazz – red-tiled floors, white-tiled walls, high marble bar tables. The entire place is bathed in candlelight each night making it the perfect spot for date night, and obviously good for a photo or two. I like to call a trip here ‘date night in New York’.
I always have trouble choosing between the crab salad and the fish pie. And, it’s almost impossible to resist the chips – piping hot, crispy and skinny. Like I’ve said many times before, I will never make it as a food blogger, as I haven’t yet remembered to take a picture of my food until after I’d scoffed it. Next time, I promise!
Find Riddle and Finns at 12 Meeting House Lane, Brighton BN1 1HB.
4. Cafe Rust
As local as it gets, Café Rust is tucked away out of town, on the fringes of Brighton a leaf-peep away from breezy Preston Park. With its big dark façade and windowless front door, it’s easy to miss. Seriously I’d been walking past it for months without noticing it until a friend suggested we meet there…
Inside it’s like walking into your imaginary rich bohemian aunt’s house in Provence. So many lush details to take in – perfectly worn wood floors, peeling plastery washy-painted walls, cottage chairs and tables, pretty little flowers, fairy lights scattered about… all that’s missing is a big slouchy sofa and pile of thumbed magazines.
So pretty is the food, its a double-whammy of Instagrammable-ness. Stop by for some breakfast, brunch or lunch. Or how about your morning coffee out in the secret terrace? (Random fact: Celeb spots in Brighton are rare. You mostly have to go to London for that. But it’s not unusual to walk in and see Rust regular and Strictly Come Dancing winner, Stacy Dooley, taking a break in here.)
Find Café Rust at 50 Preston Road, Brighton, BN1 4QF
5. Rock O’La
Time travel back to the 1950s at Brighton’s most unique cafe, with its own duke box that’s free to play. The walls are filled with memorabilia from the era which you won’t be able to resist reading and snapping.
It’s a nostlagia-lovers dream, from the black-and-white checkerboard floor and diner seats, down to the tomato sauce bottles on the tables. All the ‘American classics’ like hotdogs, fries and burgers on the menu served in baskets. The milkshakes.
* Since I wrote this post, Rock O La has closed it doors, no! But I have heard rumours it’s due to reopen soon. Stay tuned.
(Photos of Rock O La cafe by Emma Croman)