If you read this post, you’ll know I’ve launched a new Brighton and Hove neighbourhood guide series on the Ellie & Co travel website. Today, in the first instalment, we’re getting to know London Road. Let’s explore…
The London Road area of Brighton isn’t as well-known outside the city as other Brighton neighbourhoods, but its distinct personality makes it well worth exploring. You’ll find it in northeast Brighton, just south of Preston Park and its mysterious hidden garden and waterfall, between the New England Quarter and The Level green space with its skate park.
London Road, Brighton: A Neighbourhood Guide
On the surface, London Road looks pretty rough around the edges. But what the Brighton neighbourhood lacks in looks it makes up for in vibrant atmosphere. It has a big artistic and student community, which could explain its big concentration of charity shops, which sit alongside cafes, independent restaurants and a covered outdoor market where you can eat your way around the world, from Greece to Mexico.
Things to do in London Road
Watch a film at the Duke’s
At the Preston Circus end of London Road is a cream-painted Edwardian building, that stands out from the crowd for the set of stripy can-can legs sticking out the roof. This is the Duke of York’s Picturehouse, known locally as The Duke’s. It’s a cool independent cinema that opened in 1910 and is thought to be the oldest surviving purpose-built cinema in the UK. It once had 800 seats but now has 278 including a balcony with sofas. Check the listings here.
The mysterious Stone Circle
London Road in Brighton is home to the starting point – or end depending on which way you approach it – of an art installation hidden in plain sight you may have walked over countless times without realising. Next time you’re in the vicinity, take a moment to look down and you might just spot one of 50 numbered stone paving slabs, set in a circle around the area as wide as the road is long. Read more about it here.
Discover Queen’s Place
Unless you do yoga at Studio IO, you might know not this tiny little time-capsule street of six black flint cottages exists. Discovering it feels like you’ve stepped back in time to another era, when Brighton was a little fishing village. Going on a hunt to find it makes a peaceful detour away from the noisy end of London Road near MacDonald’s and Aldi busy with buses, cars and all the Deliveroo drivers, on your way into the centre of town, and past one of my favourite Brighton restaurants, Carlito Burrito.
Catch a gig at the Rose Hill
This is a secret Brighton venue, in that few people know about it. It’s also hidden away along a residential street not far from the Duke of York Picturehouse, so you wouldn’t walk past it unless you were taking a quiet route in and out of town. It also always looks closed, even abandoned when I walk past. Don’t be fooled by the facade, for this is a thriving music venue, recording studio and arts hub in the former Rose Hill Tavern. It’s run by artists and musicians and open most days of the week for small live music, spoken word and other events. Find The Rose Hill at 70-71 Rosehill Terrace, Brighton BN1 4JJ
Where to eat in London Road
Five minutes south of Preston Park is Rust, a cafe decorated like a French farmhouse, with worn wood floors, light-washed walls, tiny vases of dried flowers on rustic chairs and tables, and a fairy lights scattered about for good measure. The food is as delicious as the decor, too. Not surprisingly it’s a popular spot. I’m always amazed at how beautifully presented the food is, particularly the breakfasts. Somehow, they make a Full English look like a delicate work of art. They also serve salad bowls with different toppings like spicy chicken, cocktails like mimosas, and homemade cake. Find Cafe Rust at 50 Preston Road, Brighton BN1, 4QF
The Open Market
The covered Open Market is a global feast under one roof: there’s tasty Korean at Korpan, heart-warming bowls of Greek stews at Kouzina, fresh Mexican tacos at Taquitos Casazul, home-cooked Bangladeshi and Goan dishes at Mohammad Spice of Life; flaky, buttery croissants at French-style bakery The Little Loaf, handmade confections at Rainbow Chocolates, homemade houmous and falafels at Smorl’s, speciality sausage rolls at This Little Piggy (the secret is they deep fry them which sounds disgusting but gives them a unique taste crispness), and Green Valleys local honey.
This laid-back cafe-bistro is one of Ellie & Co’s favourite restaurants in Brighton. It’s a good choice for a relaxing mid-week catch-up, as it is for a weekend date night dinner, family celebration or a get-together with friends. The husband-and-wife team owners are so welcoming, and I’ve had some lovely evenings here. Dishes like black bream, saffron fregola, ink sauce and spring veg; roasted hispi cabbage, feta, pine nuts; coconut and lime tart, and tarragon granita, are all as tasty as they sound. They also do amazing cocktails (try the Brighton negroni). Find Semolina at 15 Baker Street, Brighton BN1 4JN
This postage-stamped size restaurant, Kitgum Kitchen, near The Joker Pub started life as a pop-up in The Signalman Pub nearby. Thankfully it survived Pandemic challenges, proving just how good its small, shareable plates of East African, Gujarati and Ismaili food are. I recommend the Daal palak – warming split and washed moong daal, spinach, spices served with a spinach purée, and carrot pickle; and the Kitgum Fried Chicken: coated in spices served with masala dill pickles and masala ketchup. Find Kitgum Kitchen at 9 Preston Road, Brighton BN1 4QE
Bardsley’s Fish and Chips
I’ve been raving about Bardsley’s – Brighton’s back-street chippy – since I started the Ellie & Co website in 2016 (here and here), well before The Guardian and others started talking about it. It has a quirky dining room filled with old music hall memorabilia. Their secret is friendly and welcoming owners and the freshness of the food. Everything is cooked to order, served crispy, golden and piping hot – and you can order wine! What’s also special is that it’s been in the same family since 1926, and the owners are SO friendly and welcoming that you’ll feel relaxed as soon as you walk in. Find Bardsley’s Fish and Chips at 23A Baker St, Brighton BN1 4JN
Where to drink in London Road
L’Atelier du Vin Wine and Cocktail Bar
On the same row as this flamboyant Mexican restaurant, is a mysterious shop with a black facade that stands out for its preserved signage. It’s home to L’Atelier du Vin, a Prohibition-era-style cocktail bar with a peaceful candlelit ambience. Dan and I tend to stop here for a pre-dinner refreshment stop on our way into town. And I love that they nurture indecisive types: name your favourite spirit and mood, and they’ll build you a perfect tipple. They’re usually spot-on, too. Find L’Atelier du Vin at 10 St George’s Place, Brighton BN1 4GB
One of Brighton’s newest pubs is also its smallest, set in an old shop under the London Road viaduct. The Brzn Arms is run by four guys behind the Brzn Brewery located in a tiny container lockup nearby the old site of the old Cobblers Thumb pub, now home to Richardson’s Yard. They serve their own beer made in small batches. Inside it’s cosy for winter supping and has a big back terrace hung with string lights for summer sundowners. Find the BRZN Arms at 62 Beaconsfield Road, Brighton BN1 4QJ
Where to Shop on London Road
Tucked behind Costa Coffee on Providence Place is Atelier 51, a unique artists’ studio and shop, started by local printmaker, Sarah Young, and her partner, Jon Tutton. It hosts five resident artists in its studio spaces, whose work you can browse in ‘The Hand Made Shop’ at the front. A nice spot for escaping the shopping crowds on London Road. Find Atelier 51 at 51 Providence Place, Brighton, BN1 4GE
London Road may have the highest concentration of charity shops in any Brighton and Hove neighbourhood. Please, don’t quote me. In one stretch of street, starting near the BRZN Arms (see where to drink), you’ll find around 10. Here they are in no particular order: British Heart Foundation, Mind, Martlets Hospice, Oxfam, Cats Protection League, The Sussex Beacon, Age UK, Scope, Chestnut Tree House, British Red Cross. Phew. Wait, I forgot the PDSA near the Viaduct and DEBRA UK.
The Smallest Bookshop in Brighton
Brighton’s Open Market is home to a lovely bookshop which claims to be The Smallest Bookshop in Brighton. Only true Brightonians know of this diminutive bookseller I discovered quite by chance one Saturday on a wander through to pick up croissants from The Little Loaf. It’s the size of a market stall and my new favourite bookshop. They stock second-hand books at reasonable prices including plenty of classics as well as more obscure cult reads.
Where to stay in London Road
Most Brighton hotels I like to recommend are located nearer to the centre of the city, but there are a few nice unique Brighton AirBnBs nearby worth considering. The closest to London Road is this sleek yet cosy and peaceful apartment set inside an old Victorian corner shop very close to my favourite vintage cinema. It’s great if you like to be on the fringes of the city-centre action, a good night’s sleep and local neighbourhood life. Alternatively, a little further away near Preston Park are these options: this colourful period apartment full of character is your best bet if you like to leave the city behind at the end of the day and for accessing the countryside, or this secluded garden flat in a Victorian terrace. A good choice for regular visitors who enjoy the feel of staying in a leafy suburb.
London Road in Brighton is a small neighbourhood and easy to walk around, so pack some comfy shoes. It’s 10 minutes from the North Laine shopping area, Brighton station and central Brighton, and 20 minutes from the seafront.
You’ll find a useful map of London Road independent shopping and nearby addresses of note, here.
If you want more inspiration, my secret guidebooks will get you excited.