Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Brighton's Best Pubs

Following on from my recent 'Country Pub Rant', I thought I'd share some thoughts on my favourite urban hostelries in my home town (I still can't think of it as a city), Brighton. So here's my top five, in no particular order...

The Barley Mow, Kemptown Village
Although not strictly the closest pub to my home, I still think of this place as my 'local'. It's cosy and traditional, with comfortingly simple and tasty pub grub. The staff are all really amicable, and always acknowledge their regulars, making you feel at home even when you arrive before the rest of your friends (which happens to me a lot - my friends all seem to have a punctuality problem!). There is a huge pile of assorted games in the corner, from Connect 4 to Jenga, and more obscure ones to boot. We've been frequenting this place since we became regular participants in (and fairly regular winners of) the weekly quiz (Thursday nights, from 9ish). Sunday roasts are particularly recommended - the portions are so generous, I've never been able to finish one yet!

The Lion and Lobster, Bedford Place
I used to live practically opposite this lovely, buzzy hang-out, which manages to maintain a 'locals' vibe, despite its central location. There is regular live music, of which Thursday night Jazz is especially good, and the food is pretty tasty as well. The decor is entertainingly eccentric - lots of old showbiz pictures and pages from magazines pasted all over the walls, and an assortment of random ornaments. Since they extended it around the back, there are plenty of dark and seedy hideouts for romantic trysts. I've also used it as overspill accommodation for parties etc (they have rooms upstairs), and am told that it's very comfortable. What's more, they throw in Sunday lunch if you stay there on a Saturday (presumably no-one gets up in time for breakfast!).

The Basketmakers, North Laine
Tucked away in a quiet backstreet, The Basketmakers thankfully escapes the onslaught of retail tourists who flood the North Laine at weekends, and is instead a haven for all kinds of local characters. The walls are covered with an array of vintage style tins (see picture above), into which it is traditional to put handwritten notes for others to read - always a good conversation starter. You can still buy a decent meal for under a fiver, and the beer is reasonably priced for Brighton, making this my top choice for a cheap and cheerful night out in the centre of town.

The Regency, Regency Square
The phrase 'Camp as Christmas' comes to mind when thinking about The Regency, and indeed the festive season is probably the best time to visit in order to fully appreciate the flamboyance of this legendary establishment. Decked out in faux-regency style furnishings, including in the ladies' (I can't speak for the gents', but am told its decor is also rather unique), it has traditionally become something of a pantomime set around Christmas. I sincerely hope that this custom will continue under the new management, since the departure of the fabulous former landlords. It's a great place for 'holding court' on a birthday or special occasion, and I always seem to get drunker than I mean to if I spend a whole evening there.

The George, Trafalgar Street
Although not particularly atmospheric, this one had to make the list purely by virtue of being the only all-vegetarian pub in Brighton, and because it has a non-smoking area, which is a major bonus in my book. There is a little yard out the back which catches the sun in the warmer months, and is covered and heated in the winter. The veggie grub is excellent, as is the selection of beers and organic wines.

Coming soon, 'Top Five Cocktail Bars', meanwhile:


  1. What an excellent post! Can't vouch for the Barley Mow (sorry can't join you for the Quiz) but agree with the others. Went to the Setting Sun the other Sunday evening. Very pleasant. As we were sat around the table one of the staff plonked a bowl of left-over roast potatoes in front of us to eat. Marvellous stuff!

  2. very familiar post,
    l&l was extended years ago, they DONT give you sunday lunch anymore and basket makers will prob just about give you a packet of crisps for a fiver - but still its a great pub....

  3. Well I still remember before the L&L was extended, it can only be 3 years ago, which isn't much in the life of a serious pub-goer. Thanks for correcting me on the Sunday lunch issue, though it's not likely I'll be putting anyone up there these days, now that I live in Kemptown!

    I refute your claim about the Basketmakers - I had a jolly nice jacket potato with a massive salad the other night and it cost me £4.50. Much cheaper than most of the other pubs in town.


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