Friday 14 September 2012

Summer is so over. Roll on a Brighton autumn

Brighton, beach, paddle, autumn, summer, kids, sea,
One last paddle...
It's about this time of year that I contemplate moving to Australia. I've loved the summer, hanging out on the beach (okay, okay, hanging out at the Fortune of War) spending an inordinate amount of time in shorty shorts and feeding the kids chips and Magnums every day. But now it's time to put my vest back on and embrace the shorter days. We might not spend every weekend on the beach, but I have been assured that we won't get bored during the colder months at the seaside.

Firstly, this weekend, we have the uber-awesome Brighton British Beards and Moustache Championships coming to town. As a renowned moustache fan, this is without a doubt the most important date in my diary. We're off to watch the Beard Parade through town tomorrow lunchtime plus more hirsute fun and frolicks throughout the afternoon. Although, I will draw the line at moustache rides. Ahem.

We also have the awesome Biba exhibition at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery to look forward to. It opens next week and runs 'til April, which means I will be able to drag the kids around it more than once.

Sadly, the infamous White Night, Brighton's annual all-night arts festival, has been cancelled this year due to lack of funding. So unfortunately I won't get to hang out after hours with a sherry in hand at the city's museums, which is a shame as it sounds like my sort of culture.

We've also got the Brighton Comedy Festival in October. Yes, three whole weeks of pant-wetting belly laughs. This year has tonnes of good acts coming to the seaside including my favourite rude girl, Jenny Eclair (I'll be there heckling in the front row!).

And if that's not enough excitement, Peter Andre is only coming to the Brighton Centre on the 11th of December. Phew! Not sure I can cope with all the excitement

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Our first summer

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside...
It's been a long, hot (well, ish) summer in the Davies' new city. Six glorious weeks to explore and discover our new home and I have to say, it's been totally brilliant. We've found new beaches, swam in the gloriously temperate English Channel (who knew?) and gone crabbing for hours. We've spent days on the pier shoving tuppences into machines, eating hot, sugary doughnuts and scaring ourselves silly on the rides. We've lived the Brighton dream with a sunset barbie on the beach, been bodyboarding the waves, hung out at a friends beach hut and enjoyed many a cold pint in a beachside bar cranking out great music and cool vibes, in short we've  had an awesome summer. The kids go back to school next week and life will get back to normal. The days will soon get shorter and the sea won't be so welcoming, so bring on a Brighton autumn. We're looking forward to it!
Living the Brighton dream

Monday 30 July 2012

Beach Bar Babylon

Beers on the beach
Brighton is without a doubt at its best during the summer months. As our first season here I feel duty bound to spend every sunny moment on the beach (which explains my great tan and distinct lack of posts). With last week's temperatures hitting a rare 28 degrees, we've been swimming in the sea, lounging on the beach and more often than not indulging in a little beach-side beer, so I thought I'd share some of my favourite beach hangouts with you.
My number one favourite is the Fortune of War, along Kings Road Arches at the bottom of West Street. The oldest beach bar in Brighton, it opened in 1882 and has been sating thirsty Brightonians ever since. The decor's all a bit Captain Birdseye with rope-railed stairwells, an arched bar and two wooden hulls which overlook the sea, but it's as friendly and cosy as you can get. During the summer everyone spills out from the terrace onto the beach. It's open until midnight during the week (kids can stay until 8pm) and 2/3am on Friday's and Saturdays so don't be surprised to see folk partying til the early hours in little more than a bikini.
Just along from the Fortune, heading towards Brighton Pier, the Ohso Social is another must-visit. A family-friendly cafe-bar with a large terrace stretching out onto the beach. Feed the kids their (very good) fish and chips and then let them loose on the beach while you kick back with a well-earned glass of rose.
Heading east past the pier you'll come to a little stretch of Bondi (well, ish) where the city's hipsters play beach volleyball on the all-sand courts at the Yellowave Beach Club. Attached is the Barefoot cafe with its front row seats, a climbing wall and large sandpit for the kids. This has become a regular hangout for us as it guarantees me and Mr Dolly a quiet glass of vino while the beasts scale the climbing wall (see below).

If you want a decent cocktail with awesome views head even further east and the Seattle Hotel in the Marina which boasts the best ocean views in Brighton. Surrounded by gleaming white yachts you could almost be in St Tropez. As one of the city's most romantic spots, it might be worth leaving the kids at home for this one...

Friday 20 July 2012 Boden mums in their natural habitat

Lewes is famous for bonfire night where effigies of politicians and celebrities are paraded through the streets before being burnt on the pyre.
I went to Lewes yesterday, the county town of East Sussex which lies about 6 miles north of Brighton. More Boden than boho, this pretty market town attracts a certain type of DFL (generally those from zone 1 who have gardeners and Carluccio's loyalty cards) and it reminded me of an article I read a while back written by a bitter Brighton-phobe. 
*anti-Brighton warning klaxon*
Despite being published 14 years ago it still attracts comments by loyal Brightonions. He famously states that Brighton is where those who can't handle London live and then right at the end of the piece bungs in "...and Lewes is where the people who can't handle Brighton live". What's the betting he now lives in Kemp Town and is writing his first Brightoncentric novel, eh? What a wally.

However, despite his nonsense I must admit, it does seem that when the London lot get tired of Brighton they move to Lewes. It's full with chichi shops, organic delis and expensive designer boutiques no doubt opened by smug ex-London fashion stylists.
Centuries ago I went to Lewes Tech and this was the first time I've been back and I was amazed at how different it is. It has a castle (who knew?) and a cattle market, which I do remember if only for the pungent scent on market day.  It's also still home to Harvey's Brewery, where on brew day the whole town would be engulfed by the smell of boozy Weetabix.

Anyway, while I wouldn't necessarily move there I can certainly see its attraction. But don't listen to me, listen to someone who's done it

Friday 13 July 2012

Brighton, I want my money back.


I'm furious. Forty days and forty nights of soul-destroying rain does not make Dolly a happy girl.
In fact, I would even go as far and say that I feel cheated. I expected more of you, Brighton. You've broken your promise of a golden summer and in turn shattered my seaside dreams. Okay, so a bit dramatic, but still, lay off the rain for a moment will you? It's my first summer as a Brighton resident and I'm rapidly losing my sense of humour.
Last year, on my weekly pilgrimage to the estate agents of this town, the sun shined like a beacon enticing me in with its embracing heat and sunniness. The streets were bathed in a golden glow and happy folk in flip-flops and maxi dresses swanned their way to the beach without a care in the world.
With this picture in mind, I informed Mr Dolly that we're not going on holiday this year and instead we shall stay and enjoy the fruits of our new home. I carried on my staycation charade with my London pals, 'go away?' I sniffily retorted. 'I LIVE on holiday. I'm spending the summer on Brighton beach, my friend.' in a revoltingly smug fashion. Oh how I laughed when I read their status updates from Thailand whilst nursing my trenchfoot. 
Despite my love for Brighton, I have to admit there are few places that look more dismal in the rain than a seaside resort. All I can say is thank goodness for Lucky Voice on Black Lion Street, a padded haven of karaokeness where even the vilest of weather can't penetrate. Add nine pina coladas and Scouser named Dave and it could almost be Magaluf '94.

Monday 9 July 2012

Bring out your bunting! Brighton street parties

If there was a street party capital of Europe, Brighton, with its quirky streets and passionately friendly residents, would totally be it. I've never known a place to hold so many. Over the past few weeks there's been dozens held each weekend, although this year it has been partly encouraged by the Jubilee, it's actually a Brighton tradition and each summer numerous residential roads close to traffic in order for the local folk to have a party. As June hits bunting is flung with gay abandon across the city's streets, pasting tables are dragged out of sheds and filled with homemade marrow wine and pints of warm cider and anyone and everyone who's ever held a tune pulls out a kazoo to honk out a jaunty tune. Yes, it might just be an excuse to drink within staggering distance of your own front door but it's also a lovely way to kick back, let the kids run free and most importantly, get to know your neighbours. Which is how we found ourselves drinking Red Stripe in the rain in Seven Dials on Saturday afternoon. Annually organised by the street's residents, some of whom were friends of ours, everyone pulled together to bring out homemade cakes, cucumber sandwiches, they even had a pie contest which added a nice frission of competitiveness to the event. There was face-painting, a bouncy castle for the kids and street olympics (aka 'an opportunity for the men to show off'). And just when we were all tipsy enough to dance, a swing band rocked up, complete with tuba, in the form of the adorable Swing Ninjas. Despite the dreadful weather, it was actually the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon and reason #1254 why I love this seaside city.

Monday 2 July 2012

Eating's not all about candyfloss at the seaside you know (sadly)

As an ex-restaurant reviewer I used to eat out in London A LOT, so one of my concerns (#423 actually) about leaving the smoke was that I was moving to a culinary desert, where the Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse was the height of sophistication. But of course that's nonsense, Brighton is positively booming with fancy pants restaurants and super-hip places to eat, drink and be Mary. So here is the low-down on my current favourites...

The Chilli Pickle, next to MyHotel in the North Laines, is a cracking place for lunch. This light and airy Indian street food restaurant has certainly made its mark on the culinary map of Brighton. Great curries, dosas and awesome thalis, they even have a nice kids menu.

I really like the Coal Shed in the other (posh) Lanes, which does cracking steaks and a ridiculously good pecan and salt caramel cheesecake. It's friendly and laid back but smart enough to impress.
If I'm out whizzing about on my bike (I know, get me) a bit closer to home is Mason's Deli on Elm Grove, which does HUGE sandwiches for not very much money. Don't go for the coronation chicken please, it's my favourite and always runs out because it's so good, dammit.
And I can't forget the lovely Fanny's of Hanover, just off Elm Grove on Islingwood Road, is a favourite place for me and my boy to hang out (see pic). Good bagels, sandwiches and even the odd Scotch egg, plus excellent coffee served in cheeky mugs, you've gotta love Fanny's.

Now if it's a Sunday roast you're after, get down to my local, The Hartington onWhippingham Road, again off Elm Grove. The roasts here are legendary, with pork crackling so big you can wear it as a cape. It's probably best to rock up early or at least book as I've seen too many heartbroken folk miss out on a roast spud as early as 3pm. Plus they have San Miguel on tap, and for that I am always thankful.

For really good ice cream it's got to be Marrocco's along the seafront in Hove. Sometimes when me and the kids are really living the dream, we'll head down after tea and buy the BIGGEST ice cream (although not bubblegum flavour - huey) and sit on the beach to watch the sunset. According to the locals, Marrocco's is a seaside institution which must be adhered too over the summer months. They also sell cold beer and pizzas and (apparently) a good line in fresh fish, but it's the 24 flavours of ice cream that reels us in weekly.

For raw fish and the like the Japanese chain, Moshi Moshi has a branch in the Lanes, opposite the town hall, which does good sushi. It's got the old conveyor belt action going on, plus if you ask really nicely the lovely staff will bring you soft shell crab that will make you weep with joy.

I can't write a food post and not mention Donatello. The Donatello group of pizza and pasta restaurants have dominated the Italian scene in Brighton for near on a-gazillion years (as seen by the decades of celebrity photos they have decorating the walls). While it might not be super-trendy or serve fancy pants food,  it does do good pizzas and pasta at ridiculously cheap prices, and they love the kids. My lot are huge fans (as is my purse).

Of course, there's tonnes and tonnes of places to eat in Brighton and I will do my utmost to try many  more over the coming months (in the name of journalistic research, of course) and when I remember I'll pop some more up.

But in the meantime, if you can recommend decent kebab shop I'll be forever grateful...