Did you know that the British public house – or pub – dates back to the 1500s, if not before, when people used to brew beer and sell it from home – hence the name ‘public house’? When it comes to pubs in the city of Brighton and Hove, people always talk about the city having one for every day of the year. I also read somewhere that Brighton has more pubs per square mile than London. I’ve never counted, but I do know pubs are ubiquitous; it is difficult to walk more than 10 minutes without passing one.
Which leads to the question: how do we support and get to know the pubs Brighton has to offer? To help, I propose a Brighton pub crawl with stops at some of my favourites, the most traditional and noteworthy. Ones I’ve been back to time and again, some just for drinking in, others that do food as well. My only advice? Be sure to set off with a lined stomach and pace yourself… Bottoms Up!
Seven Dials Pubs
Some pubs are made for winter, like this one – called the Shakies for short – small, laid-back, rustic and cosy with a roaring fire. Like the Geese in Hanover I talk about later on, it’s also a sausage and mash pub with 11 sausage varieties, seven flavours of mash and six gravies to choose from. “That’s 560 meal combinations. If you come in five days a week, you’d still be discovering new flavour combinations over two years later!” Sundays are for roasts only though.
Find The Shakespeare’s Head at 1 Chatham Place, Brighton BN1 3TP
An off-the-beaten path pub in my favourite Brighton neighbourhood of Seven Dials, on the route of my self-guided hidden walk around the area. Another for the winter-favourites list, for its roaring fire. There’s also a suntrap paved terrace – complete with outdoor TV – out the back for sunnier days sipping Pimms and watching tennis.
Find The Crescent at 3 Clifton Hill, Brighton BN1 3HL
West Hill Tavern
For ages, the ‘Westie’ as it’s known in the nabe, was so run down it looked like the kind of pub you’d only go to for a fight. It’s since changed hands and been revamped inside and out, and has a funky, 70s vibe. For me, the most fun part is that they specialise in negronis and have six on the menu. Try the breakfast negroni made with Campari, Martini Rosso, and Aber Falls Marmalade Gin. Dangerous but delicious. Highly recommend, before a Sunday roast or to get you going for the Wednesday night pub quiz.
Find The West Hill Tavern at 67 Buckingham Place, Brighton BN1 3PQ
Other nearby options include The Cow at 95-97 Dyke Road, The Good Companions at 132 Dyke Road, The Craft Beer Co at 22-23 Upper North Street, Prestonville Arms at 64 Hamilton Road, and The Chimney House at 28 Upper Hamilton Road.
North Laine pubs
One of the things I love most about the Great Eastern are the front doors: on a corner, curved, with brass handles and etched frosted windows. Walking through them and down into the bar feels like you could be on a Western film set. There’s a spit n sawdust saloon vibe, without the spit and sawdust – think low ceilings, stripped wood floors, wood panelling – and a wide range of whiskeys and bourbons on offer. You might almost expect a dual to take place outside.
Find The Great Eastern at 103 Trafalgar Street, Brighton BN1 4ER
The Basketmakers Arms
A tucked-away traditional corner pub with the same landlord for almost 30 years. It’s distinguishing for its walls decorated with old metal tins containing messages, jokes and random musings from punters scribbled on the back of receipts and flyers. There are lots of beers on tap and they serve decent food. The roasts are renowned but they don’t take bookings so it’s good to have a plan-b option lined up.
Find The Basketmakers Arms at 12 Gloucester Road, Brighton BN1 4AD
The Heart and Hand
Another pub I love for its tiled façade and almost original interior. Also, what amazes me about this place is that despite being on one of the North Laine’s busiest corners, finding a seat in here is never a problem. It’s a laidback place with a great selection of 60s tunes on its vinyl jukebox. They also have a resident cat called Bailey, who has his own Instagram account.
Find The Heart and Hand at 75 North Road, Brighton BN1 1YD
The Earth and Stars
A great option for a pub date night, with a twist. It’s still a drinking pub, but unique in that it also does gastro-level pub food, but without the pressure to book a table and have a full meal. You can turn up for a drink and later decide you fancy a small plate or a bar snack. Which you will. It’s impossible to resist anything on the menu, especially the skin-on fries with Sussex Charmer cheddar, confit garlic and parsley. There are bigger plates. The majority of dishes are vegan and vegetarian, but they also do killer Sunday roasts (book ahead for those). It’s described as an environmentally friendly pub, as it has a solar panel on the roof, serves organic drinks where it can, and mostly vegetarian and vegan food, save the roasts.
Find The Earth and Stars at 46 Windsor Street, Brighton BN1 1RJ
Preston Park/Roundhill Pubs
The Preston Park Tavern
Set in an elegant Victorian corner building in a peaceful leafy area of the city is my local pub. Everyone calls it the PPT for short. It’s a good place if you just want a relaxing drink in a warm, inviting, unpretentious pub. It’s peaceful during the week, and busier at the weekend especially on Sunday when roasts (£17) are on offer. The food is gastro-level and the menu changes regularly, but there’s always a fish, meat and veggie option, and the chargrilled beef-burger is always good. For summertime, there are plenty of tables out front and a covered terrace to the side.
Find The Preston Park Tavern at 88 Havelock Road, Brighton BN1 6GF
A lively, friendly and welcoming local pub full of eccentric charm and traditional character inside – there’s a piano decorated with trolls and lots of other random things; and out – it’s still got the original Tamplin’s brewery façade complete with Tamplin’s signage and even a silver turret! They don’t serve food, so it stands out in the area as a goold-old traditional drinking pub. Drinks are cheap and they also do a few cocktails. It’s the kind of place you go to intending to have just the one but see a familiar face and end up leaving at closing time! They also host events like quizzes and music nights, some more bizarre than others. It’s not unusual for one of the owners to play the saw.
Find The Jolly Brewer at 176 Ditchling Road, Brighton BN1 6JA
The Park Crescent
Hidden amid residential streets is this unassuming pub in a beautiful Regency villa and named after the curved street of townhouses it faces. It’s the perfect place for a cheap, quiet drink, on your way home, or into town. Inside, the décor and atmosphere harks back to the era of working men’s club – think low stools rather than comfy chairs, wood panelling, always the one man nursing a pint silently at the bar, his daily habit for the past 30 years. The pinball machine, decorative bird cages above the fireplace, and candles make it feel cosy.
Find The Park Crescent at 39 Park Crescent Terrace, Brighton BN2 3HE
Other nearby options include the Preston Park Tavern at 88 Havelock Road, The Signalman at 76 Ditchling Rise, The Open House at 146 Springfield Road, The Joker at 2 Preston Road, The Hare and Hounds at 75 London Road and The World’s End at 66 London Road.
An unpretentious, lively pub in a beautiful Victorian building with a lovely corner setting on hilly Southover Street, which is one of my favourites in Brighton. I love the dive-bar-roadhouse feel inside: think neon signage, empty bottles on windowsills, beer mats decorating walls, bunting on the ceiling, lights around old sash windowpanes, photos pinned up behind the bar of nights gone by, and the owners’ collection of retro cycling caps. The crowd is friendly, youthful, here for sausage and mash, to play board games or quiz night.
Find The Geese at 16 Southover Street, Brighton BN2 9UA
Another Brighton pub with an beautiful original façade, of green tiles. There’s a nice story to it, as well. It may not exist had a group of locals not saved it from being developed into luxury flats a few years ago. Now it’s a cool café-bar-pub decked out like your granny’s sitting room – think armchairs, crochet blankets and tassly standard lamps. They’re open all the time – for breakfast, brunch, North African-inspired lunch and dinner, and Sunday roasts.
Find The Village at 129 Islingword Road, Brighton BN2 9SH
Kemp Town Pubs
This could be the coolest pub in the city. It’s compact, has an edgy atmosphere and get busy-busy at the weekend, despite the fact it’s located quite far out of the city centre at the top of St James’s street towards Kemp Town village. It does amazing cocktails and is unique for its underground drinking den, a room in the basement for clandestine date nights, which they also hire out for parties. They often host DJs, don’t serve food, but you can order pizza to eat from the nearby Pizzaface if you’re planning to stay for the long run.
Find The Black Dove at 74 St James’s Street, Kemptown, Brighton BN2 1PA
Hand in Hand
This colourful pub, the Hand in Hand, In Kemp Town village is a special pub. To say its interior decoration is busy is an understatement – the walls and ceilings are lined with newspaper and crammed with random decorations, including ties pinned to the beams, ceramic beer mugs, all kinds of pictures. It feels like you’re in your eccentric granny’s front room. There’s a piano, a toad in the hole box, and they do jazz nights on a Sunday but its piece de resistance is its microbrewery – the Hand Brew Co – where they make their own range of unusual beers like toasted-coconut porter, cocoa nib, and oat-filled breakfast stout. On the right day you might even blag yourself a tour, which boasts the accolade of being the UKs smallest working tower brewery.
Find the Hand in Hand at 33 Upper St James’s Street, Brighton BN2 1JN
Lion and Lobster
You’ll find this charming side-street pub in my favourite part of Hove, not far from the seafront. On a side note, you may – or may not – have discovered it if you’ve followed my hidden walk around Brunswick Town. A wander around inside is an adventure in itself, the pub is spread across four floors and has two Regency dining rooms, two bars, each one full of nooks, booths and crannies perfect for cosying up in winter. Décor-wise, it’s traditional pub meets vintage shop: there are brass features and rich mahogany panelling and furniture, rich reddish/purple carpets, mixed with framed old maps, historical pictures and candles in bottles on the tables. There are also two outside terraces.
Find the Lion and Lobster at 24 Sillwood Street, Brighton BN1 2PS
There are a couple of French bars in town, but this one is the most quirky. This is a brasserie-style place with French vibe which means you can enjoy wine from an extensive wine list, along with a meat or cheese board. Décor-wise, think checkerboard floor and black-and-white photos of French greats decorating the walls. They host gypsy jazz nights and it attracts a real mix of customers. Outside the front above the canopy is a little detail to stop – a sign that says ‘Western Hotel’ which alludes to its past life.
Find The Paris House at 21 Western Road, Hove BN3 1AF
Central Brighton pubs
The Hop Poles
One to note as a good-old-fashioned pub near the seafront. It’s cheerful décor hasn’t changed in years and the furnishings are perfectly worn in – like the hops hanging form the ceiling and funky light fittings – which makes it feel homely and cosy. Antiques litter the shelves- I love the old radio and soda syphon. It’s one of the first pubs I used to hang out in – and had my first Brighton Sunday roast in.
Find The Hop Poles at 13 Middle Street, Brighton BN1 1AL
Hole in the Wall
The former Queensbury Arms, now the Hole in the Wall, is still the smallest pub in Brighton according to a plaque outside the front. It’s hidden along a mews behind the Metropole Hotel close to the bandstand on the seafront. It’s had a revamp since it changed hands, a shame to find the original pub interior is no more, but it’s still a nice off-the-beaten path option if you’re fed up with tourist crowds on the seafront.
Find the Hole in the Wall at Queensbury Mews, Brighton BN1 2FE
Don’t let its rough appearance put you off this friendly historic pub with its unusual corner location. It’s a good option if you need an escape hatch from the city-centre shopping crowds. Weirdly whenever I’ve been in, it’s never been busy. I love it most for its historic details. It dates back to Victorian times and there are lots of features around the pub look as if they haven’t changed at all. There are some great old pics of Brighton on the walls and I love the bourbon bottles with ears of wheat, the games and books left casually on the stairs and the barrel stools. The best bit: up a little spiral staircase it hides a secret venue, which hosts live music gigs regularly, and also a Monday night cinema.
Find The Quadrant at North Street, Brighton BN1 3GJ
So there you have it lovely readers of Ellie & Co. I hope you enjoyed our crawl of Brighton and Hove’s traditional pubs! I enjoyed researching it, hic.