I could list a dozen reasons why I floated down to Brighton from London a decade ago. But, let’s face it, the pubs were a big contributing factor. Brighton not only has loads of them, but their average quality is extremely high. In most cities you have to go out of your way to find a decent ale house. In Brighton, you’re never more than five minutes’ walk from one. Or is that rats? Anyway…
To celebrate my ten-year anniversary, it’s about time I shared ten of my favourite pubs — in no particular order. If you see me in one of them, come over and say hi. If you mention this blog, I’ll buy you a drink. I promise.
*This is a remix of a post I originally wrote for wow247.
All photos by The Wine Ninjas, except The Lion & Lobster and Hand in Hand.
The Shakespeare’s Head
Head four minutes north from the station to the Seven Dials area, where day trippers rarely roam, to find the “Shakey”, or “Shakies”. This cosy boozer is the preferred hangout of local stereotype Seven Dials Man. You know him — two kids, big sideburns, works in the media, wears a Harrington. He’ll be at the bar, looking grumpy. But he’ll come to life if you start talking to him about The Fall.
1 Chatham Place, BN1 3TP
The Fortune of War
There are plenty of places to stop for a drink on the seafront, but only one proper pub. The nautical theme in the Fortune of War shouldn’t work… but it does. The dark wood, ropes and portholes make it feel like you’re on a ship, but not in a naff holiday camp way. Any swaying or nausea you experience will be self-inflicted.
157 King’s Road, BN1 1NB
The Bee’s Mouth
How many pubs do you know that have a revolving head on a turntable in a glass case beneath the bar, and a toilet wall plastered with pictures of Steve Buscemi? None, right? Unless you’ve been to the Bee’s Mouth, that is. Here, in the city’s darkest yet most psychedelic bar, the walls breathe pure nag champa incense.
10 Western Road, BN3 1AE
The Robin Hood
Apart from the fact that it’s a lovely spot for a pizza and a pint, there’s one undeniable reason why the Robin Hood’s worth a visit. The clue’s in the name. It’s a community owned, non-profit, charity pub where the proceeds from your drink go to those who need it most. In your face, Sheriff of Nottingham (and that’s not another pub).
13 Norfolk Place, BN1 2PF
The Heart in Hand
Wedged into the heart of the North Laine, this place is like stepping back in time, right down to the green tiling outside. Compete for elbow room with a table of craggy rockabillies and shove 50p in the vinyl jukebox. How many of those still survive?
75 North Road, BN1 1YD
The Great Eastern
Head down Trafalgar Street from the station for this little gem, which specialises in bourbons (the whiskey, not the biscuits). If you can’t get a seat – which is often the case – ask someone to budge up. They won’t mind, it’s one of the friendliest pubs in town.
103 Trafalgar Court, BN1 4ER
The Hand in Hand
“You are now entering the free state of Kemptown” says the sign above the door at one of Brighton’s quirkiest establishments. There’s jazz on a Sunday, and they even brew their own beer. Good luck squeezing in there though – it’s about the size of a Punch and Judy tent, giving new meaning to the term “microbrewery”.
33 Upper St James’s Street, BN2 1JN – handbrewpub.com
One of the first pubs you’ll encounter at the bottom of the “Muesli Mountain” (aka Hanover) trail, The Geese has had quite a makeover in recent years. It’s now an S&M pub — that’s sausage and mash before you get any ideas — attracting a young but well-behaved crowd. If you like live music with your pint, The Greys directly opposite is also good.
16 Southover Street, BN2 9UA
The Lion and Lobster
Skating close to the Hove border, just north of the seafront, this place has that rare ability to appeal to both the footy and arty crowds. Against an eclectic backdrop that’s just the right side of scruffy, you can discuss that gig you saw round the corner at The Old Market, while keeping one eye on the Seagulls match.
*Update: the last time I visited this pub they were playing some shocking soft-rock power ballads. With no discernible irony. I had to leave. For this reason, I’m considering removing it from the list.
24 Sillwood Street, BN1 2PS – thelionandlobster.co.uk
Tucked away down an easy-to-miss North Laine residential street, this used to be one of central Brighton’s best kept secrets. A cool music policy, records on the walls, battered leather sofas and a roster of regulars from the nearby shops and markets give the place a genuine Brighton vibe. It gets busy on a Saturday night, but once you’re enveloped in one of its shabby chic armchairs you won’t want to leave. The red one near the ladies’ toilet is mine though, so don’t sit there.
*Update: this pub has changed ownership since this article was written. It seems to have retains most of its charms though. So far…
13-14 Foundry Street, BN1 4AT