Brighton has no shortage of cafes where you can easily spend an hour reading your book, checking the internet for stuff, resting in between shopping sprees; but what I’m looking for is one that makes me feel charmed, that transports me to another world; when I walk in I feel the stress melt off, like I’m visiting an old friend. So far in Brighton I’ve found four that make me feel this way. Obviously it goes without saying the coffee and food have to be good, too. Follow me!
Tucked away in a residential part of Kemptown is this local gem. It’s the kind of place you didn’t think would exist in Brighton, city of giant spray-paint murals, hipsters and students. Despite its out-of-town-centre location, people make the effort to travel here. So it’s always busy. Somehow though, even on busiest of days, you always manages to get a seat.
I can never help gushing over the decor – ‘derelict-chic’ I like to call it. The peeling plaster, cracked tiles revealed hidden for years beneath layers of paint, torn magazine pages for decoration on the walls. Jars of marmalade and sweets on windowsills, collections of bottles on shelves… piles of newspapers, and stacks of cookbooks… just stuff around the place. All highly instagrammable.
Then there’s the counter. A beautiful mess of homemade cakes, pretty pastries, plump pies and quiches stacked on vintage plates; a cabinet filled with hearty sandwiches. I always want it all. There’s also a menu full of breakfast treats: boiled eggs and soldiers, bacon sarnies, scrambled eggs on lightly toasted Real Patisserie chewy brown bread, smoothies, granola…
Local tip: You can also bring your own wine – we came here for brunch on our wedding anniversary and drank champagne!
Find Cafe Marmalade at 237 Eastern Road, Brighton BN2 5JJ.
Out of all the thrift-filled cafes in Brighton, this one is most charming hands down because it’s run by a local couple with a genuine love of good coffee and salvage, not ‘cliched’ Brighton cafe decor and accolades… You’ll find it a little way out of the centre of Brighton towards Hove, so you have to make an effort to deliberately escape from the crowds.
What’s also intriguing is that no two visits here are the same, the owners Meg and Tazz filling the cafe with their regular antique and flea market finds. So, order a nice pot of tea – there are 100s to choose from in glass jars on the counter – a coffee, a hearty breakfast of pancakes, perhaps?, maybe a toasted bagel for lunch, settle in and let your eyes wander around all the curios. It’s the perfect environment for relaxing and letting go, coming up with your next idea for life…. Jazz music and a little chatter from the locals at the bar filling the air…
Everything’s for sale here from the wall art to the table and chairs. Just ask the owner behind the counter if something takes your fancy. Piano, trumpet, internal door for your house, anyone?
PS. Did I mention that Cafe and Salvage is dangerously close to another Ellie & Co Brighton treasure – Audrey’s, Brighton’s time-capsule chocolate shop, tucked at the end of a breezy Hove street? So when you’re feeling reinvigorated after your pitstop, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump across the main road to nostalgia chocolate heaven.
Find Cafe and Salvage at 84 Western Road, Hove BN3 1JB.
You’ve had a little mooch around Preston Park, discovered the wild flower meadow and rose garden, and now you’re ready for a coffee. But where to go? The Rotunda cafe at the edge of the park could be an amazing setting, but is pretty desperate and the park’s located in a bit of a no-man’s land in terms of cafes and shops. But if you walk five minutes towards Brighton on the London Road, you’ll discover this pretty cafe oozing charm.
Hiding behind the imposing big black front door is what looks like the inside of a big French country house. It’s the sort of place you just didn’t expect to find on this scruffy row of shops on a main road. It’s filled with lots of lush details to take in – perfectly worn wood floors, peeling plastery-painted walls, rustic chairs and tables, pretty flowers in vases, fairy lights scattered about…
The food is just as charming as the surroundings, not to mention delicious. Who knew cheese on sourdough toast with tomatoes could look so enchanting? Stop by for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Or how about your morning coffee out in the secret terrace?
If you’re into your interior design and hoping to find some inspiration while you sip your coffee, look no further than Chard – what I like to call Brighton’s secret cafe-restaurants. You’ll find it hidden up some stairs above the iGiGi home design shop in Hove. Once at the top you emerge into a calm, quaint, rustic, country dining room, to the warmest welcome from the family owners – Benny, Mae and Ciarán, two sisters and a brother – so friendly and charming you feel you’ve known them for ages and you’re hanging out in their home.
It’s the perfect setting for your morning coffee, girls lunch, afternoon tea, or romantic dinner. Where shall we sit? I like this cosy table for two at the back of the dining room in the window, or how about the one at the front overlooking the main road for a spot of people watching?
Chard started out running pop-ups at Cafe Rust, but this is its new permanent home. It’s open every day from 11am Wednesday to Sunday, for tea, coffee and cake, with lunch served from 12pm-3pm and dinner from 6pm-10pm.
Find Chard in the iGiGi General Store at 31 Western Road, Hove BN3 1AF.