Last week, the people of Brighton went into shock when everyone’s favourite vintage cinema – the Duke of York’s – announced it would be shutting its doors indefinitely. This historic cinema is the oldest in the country, open for over 100 years. To see it disappear would be a tragedy of epic proportions.
So, I think a guide to finding contentment at the seaside couldn’t be more needed right now. One that helps us support our local community at the same time. I’ve put together some ideas for finding that spring in your seaside step again… while we wait for our favourite cinema to reopen. Obviously, it goes without saying we all need to wear a mask and follow the social distancing guidelines.
1. Book a beach-side sauna session
With its secluded setting and a distant view of the Palace Pier, this is where you’ll find hardy locals and visitors in the know hanging out. Open all year round, the Beach Box Sauna is a little hidden gem guaranteed to invigorate and refresh you in sunny months or warm the chilly cockles in winter.
Quick heads up: those after a typical fluffy robe and slipper type of beauty spa experience should look away now. Those intrigued to discover a new way of life, should follow me here.
2. Drink a giant cup of hot chocolate!
Turns out this teeny tiny coffee shop in the North Laine serves huge glasses of decadent hot chocolate – dark, milk or white topped with marshmallows and honeycomb!
Find Black Mocha at 103 Gloucester Road, Brighton BN1 4AP
3. Gather friends for a night of classic, cult, unusual, interesting and overlooked cinema
We might not be able to go to our favourite vintage picture house at the moment, but here’s a way we can help to keep Brighton cinema alive. White Wall Cinema, experts in classic, cult, unusual interesting and overlooked cinema have come up with this genius service. How it works: You make a donation, have a chat about movies, they then choose you the perfect mystery movie, build you an evening of fun around it, and deliver the whole package to your door!
Find out more about White Wall Cinema’s home service here.
4. Treat yourself to some kitsch
Just around the corner from the chocolate shop is this emporium of kitsch. Black Out Shop is my favourite Brighton shop for whimsical knick knacks for everyone – from Indian tins and jewellery, to Frida Kahlo trinkets, kitshy Christmas decorations, and woven bags.
Find Black Out Shop at 53 Kensington Place, Brighton BN1 4EJ.
5. Order an entire homemade cake
Tilt in Fiveways is an unsung hero of the Brighton café scene, which I think deserves way more attention than it gets for the incredible food that emerges from its miniature kitchen. They create homespun healthy versions of comfort food daily, from scratch. They also bake cakes and sweet treats that blow your mind, most you can’t believe are made without sugar. They even bake cakes to order like the one above which is honey and camomile – totally delicious. Call it a treat to yourself.
Find Tilt Coffee Shop and Kitchen at 132 Preston Drove, Brighton BN1 6FJ.
6. Splurge on a romantic date-night dinner
7. Buy the smell of homecooking… in a candle
Light one of these, close your eyes and let the scent of apple crumble transport you to Sunday afternoons of your childhood and your mother’s home cooking. Other ‘flavours’ include rhubarb and custard, cucumber sandwiches, butterscotch sundae and coffee and walnut cake. Shop for them here.
8. Go sweet shopping all for yourself!
My favourite sweet shop in Brighton of the moment is Audrey’s. It’s not particularly new – in fact it’s one of the oldest in the city, which is why I like it. They also make chocolates for the famous London shop, Fortum and Masons on Piccadilly. I can’t believe it took me ages to discover it for myself but I’m so glad I did because it’s a delight. The interior dates back to when it was originally opened. Another favourite of mine is Rainbow Organic Chocolates in the Open Market.
9. Lose yourself book shopping
There’s nothing better than losing yourself browsing the shelves of your favourite local bookshop, is there? As soon as I set foot inside a bookshop, I literally forget what time it is, and everything I’m supposed to do that day completely goes out of my mind, I get so caught up in the moment. Some of my favourite Brighton bookshops to get lost in are – City Books, Savery Books, the Oxfam bookshop in Kensington Gardens, and Waterstones (only because you can get a coffee while you browse).
10 Go thrifting for vintage homewares
With so little entertainment to distract us except the TV, so many of us have used lockdown and this weird time to re-evaluate our lives. For me, it’s been about clearing the kitchen cupboards and looking for old china from local charity and junk shops. Five addresses in Brighton for thrift shopping: Brighton Flea Market, Snoopers Paradise, Diplock’s Yard, and Junk Brighton.
11. Get your seaside Soul Food on
Sometimes I just want a hearty plate of seaside soulfood and when I’m in this mood, my mind often turns to Bardsley’s for a plate of piping hot fish and chips. Read more about it here.
12. Fight the blues with blues
Every Tuesday night this 1930s pub in Hove hosts an a jazz night hosted by its house band and featuring a special guest each week. They also do a jazz brunch on a Saturday. Find out more here.
13. Go for a refreshing sea swim!
Nothing gets your happy endorphins going quite like a dip in the sea. You could brave the icy water yourself, or if you need some encouragement, you could join the Salty Seabirds, a friendly community of swimmers who swim in the sea off Brighton and Hove beaches every single day! They post on Facebook when and where they’ll be swimming and for others to join them. There are usually early morning, daytime and evening swims. They’re currently not meeting for big social swims but keeping it to 6 maximum while the Covid-19 social distancing and self isolating is in place.
14. Appreciate Brighton as an open-air playground
There’s so much to do for free in the open air in Brighton. So put your boots shoes on and hit the pavements to discover some sights in the city you might not know about, like this one you can read about here. Find more ideas in my ‘Brighton Post-Lockdown Survival Guide’.
15. Discover Secret Brighton
16. Unlock more city secrets
Discover an entire vault of Brighton secrets, with my book, Secret Brighton.
17. Support local shops and businesses
There’s nothing like giving back to the local community to warm the heart and feel good inside. Brighton shops can use all the help they can get right now, too, so if you need to get stuff, see my guide to shopping like a local here. More ideas here, too.
18. Order a gourmet dinner to ‘finish at home’
One good thing to come out of lockdown are the inventive new ways businesses are serving customers. I love this idea from my local neighbourhood restaurant, Semolina, which features on my list of fave local gem restaurants here. Since lockdown, they’ve started offering three-course menus you finish off at home – don’t worry, they provide all the instructions. They’ve been such a hit, they’re still selling them, even though they’ve reopened. The menu changes every two weeks and you can simply order online. See the latest menu here.
19. Enjoy a night of cabaret in a mausoleum
An elaborately designed mausoleum in Kemp Town is the setting for vibrant cabaret nights of cocktails, dinner, live music, dancing, and entertainment from Europe’s biggest cabaret stars. Every Friday and Saturday night, hosted by Proud Cabaret. Find out more here.
20. If all else fails, go for a sunset beach walk