Brighton’s North Laines are dripping in old charm and new ideas. Set against a backdrop of cobbled streets and pedestrianized roads, old vintage shops rub shoulders with nouveau cafes and tiny, contemporary galleries sit next to rustic pubs filled with southern English swagger. If you really want to dive into the unique allure of Brighton, the North Laines will welcome you with open arms.
The North Laines’ pubs are a mixture of Brighton flair and traditional English charm. Shabby chic, upcycled furniture looks elegant against muted walls, whilst the selection of local craft beers keep locals quenched until the early hours of the morning.
The nook and crannied interior of The White Rabbit (13-14 Kensington Gardens) is a favourite pit stop on the way into town. Squashed between a vegetarian café and a handmade jewellers, it is easy to miss. But venture inside, and you will find a low-lit affair with chunky wood tables and a tiny courtyard out the back that is perfect for grabbing a pub classic, like scampi and chips or sausage and mash.
For a slightly more spacious drinking hole, there is the North Laine Pub (27 Gloucester Pl). Sat on the outskirts of the North Laines (near the Royal Pavilion) it has an extensive craft beer selection and a Bavarian-style décor with long, wooden tables and high ceilings.
If an afternoon gin and tonic is more your thing, The Office (8-9 Sydney St.) has you covered. With a broad menu of local and international gins, you can mix and match your beverage until it is just right. The Thai menu is a treat, too, with sticky noodles and spicy curries offering the perfect accompaniment to a refreshing G&T.
Head to The Eagle (125 Gloucester Passage) on a weekend night and you will struggle to find a table. The tucked away pub is a haunt worth standing for, though, with a collection of locally-brewed beers and a classic pub menu filled with rustic burgers, healthy wraps, and British favourites.
Brighton’s North Laines are the go-to hub for independent boutiques that sell everything from upcycled home ware, one-of-a-kind clothes, and shoes made from anything but leather.
JuJu (24 Gloucester Rd.) is not afraid to stand out. Sporting a garish façade with zebra stripes you can spot a mile away, the boutique plays on its alternative edge by selling outrageous t-shirts, one-off garments, and original takes on mainstream fashion.
For a hipster-inspired experience, hotfoot it to Zoing Image (1 Sydney St, North Laine,). Specialising in quirky photography styles that are just so Brighton, it stocks a range of prints, Lomography accessories, shiny books, and unusual cameras for every possible occasion.
But Brighton also knows how to do good old fashioned paper products, too. Pen and Paper (4 Sydney St.) is often packed out with inspired writers on the hunt for the perfect moleskin, or creative types thumbing through reams of handmade wrapping paper and seeking the one pen to rule them all.
It is no secret that Brighton is a vegetarian’s playground, and the North Laine fully plays into this characteristic. Vegetarian Shoes (12 Gardner St.) does exactly as it says on the tin – selling all sorts of boots, sandals, and shoes made from anything but leather. Business began in 1990 when owner Robin saw a gap in the market for leather-less shoes, and now he says customers come from far and wide for the “comfort, fit, and leather-like-ness” of his creations.
Remember when the mods and rockers caused havoc on Brighton Beach? Even if you do not, the legacy lives on in Jump the Gun (36 Gardner St), a clothes shop that’s positioned itself to the 60s-loving crowd. From mohair suits to checked shirts and Tonic Trousers, this time machine of shop stocks the same mod-inspired outfits year in, year out. “We are stuck in 1964 after all,” says Jump the Gun team member Jonathan.
The creative art scene in Brighton’s North Laines is evident in the smattering of independent galleries, artist studios, and workshops – whether you’re looking for a stylish souvenir to take home or to simply marvel at some locally-made masterpieces, there is a venue for you.
Art Republic (13 Bond St.) oozes a youthful vigour with its whitewashed walls and eclectic display of vibrant, contemporary art. As well as showcasing great graffiti pieces and mixed media gems, it offers a bespoke framing service for even the most amateur of collectors.
For a more intimate encounter, head to Gallery40 (40 Gloucester Rd), where new artists exhibit their work in the bohemian centre of the North Laines. It focuses on highlighting pieces by emerging artists from the major arts department of Brighton University just down the road.
Run by a small group of artists and designers, io Gallery (39 Sydney St) is a hub for local makers. Over the 18 years it has been in business, it has “developed its own colourful and eclectic style,” the ideal ingredients for a gallery in the North Laines – “It’s a perfect area for a gallery like ours,” says team member Tania.
When it comes to food, Brighton’s North Laines have a little taster for everyone, from creative curry houses, to eco-friendly eateries, Mexican foodie marvels, and everything in between.
The colourful Chilli Pickle (17 Jubilee St.) adds spice to both the aesthetic of the North Laines and to its customers’ palettes. Serving authentic Indian street food that plays on well known curry classics, like Crispy Pork Belly Vindaloo and Duck Haleem, it packs a punch with its flavours and unique recipes. “We wanted to create a restaurant where we would want to eat on a regular basis,” says owner Alun, and it’s certainly paid off.
Recent addition Silo (39 Upper Gardner St) brings eco-friendly eating to a whole new level. Set inside an old renovated warehouse with high ceilings and chipboard tables, it serves food made from a mixture of modern and ancient recipes. Emphasis is placed on nutrition and non-processed foods, and everything is recycled, right down to the jam jars for water.
For a fun evening taken straight from the streets of Mexico, grab a table at La Choza (36 Gloucester Rd.), a restaurant with both a colourful interior and menu. Classic, slow-cooked Mexican dishes are the name of the game here, with fresh tacos, burritos and quesadillas made modern with pulled pork, chilli prawns, and roasted garlic squash.
Solera (42 Sydney St.) is a Spanish tapas restaurant with a twist, bursting with elegant décor in deep reds and wooden accents. Its menu is a mixture of bite-size classics like patatas bravas and platters of iberico ham, and contemporary takes on well-known dishes like confit of duck with cinnamon-infused pumpkin mash.
Bills (100 North Rd) is the ultimate in Brighton charm, based inside an old warehouse with wooden walls, shabby chic nuances, and a menu that is just as rustic as the backdrop. Breakfasts are the star of the show here, but lunches and dinners are equally as exciting, with offerings like duck pie, “naked” burgers, and an extensive selection of grilled meat.
For an elegant sojourn into French culture, there is always Mange Tout (81 Trafalgar St), a stylish independent bistro that serves a mouth-watering selection of pastries as well as a lunch menu filled with French delights like tartines, mussels, and croque monsieurs.
The North Laines are the perfect place to sit and sip on a cup of coffee whilst people watching, thanks to the eclectic selection of shops and mishmash of people.
Small Batch Coffee Company (17 Jubilee St.) has a collection of cafes throughout Brighton, but the North Laine offering is a cosy affair. Set inside a brightly designed interior, it serves great quality coffee from all over the world.
Pelicano (28 Sydney St) is a relatively new kid on the café block in the North Laines. Boasting a counter filled with home-baked goods and aromatic coffee from Africa and Latin America, it is perfect for any hot drink aficionados in search of a tasty treat.
For a humble backstreet coffee shop away from the main hustle and bustle, head to The Coffee Counter (15 Vine St.). With a welcoming interior that has a vintage edge, it draws in alternative crowds with its ample selection of hot drinks and its hearty breakfasts.
Infinity Foods (50 Gardner St.) is a bastion of Brighton culture and has long reigned as one of the best new-age food shops in the city. Its café is inspired by a dedication to healthy eating and an emphasis on nutrition, so expect good-for-you snacks and lots of flavoured tea and coffee.
Antique and Thrift Stores
“Brighton loves vintage,” says Joe McCarty, Assistant Manager at Beyond Retro, and he is not wrong. The city is a hub of vintage buys, and nowhere is doused in antique charm more than the North Laines. There is a gaggle of boutique stores selling upcycled furniture and clothes that hark back to yesteryear.
Snoopers Paradise (7 Kensington Gardens) is the king of antique shops in Brighton, acting almost like a museum with its cluttered displays of old knickknacks, vintage posters and gadgets, and furniture brought back from the past.
Beyond Retro (42 Vine St.) is a haven for those still in love with the free spirit and wild ways of the 60s. With rails full of fashions from the hippy era and beyond, it is the ideal backdrop for a quick rummage, whether you are on the hunt for some authentic 60s leggings or a fancy dress outfit. Beyond Retro is loved by everyone, “from local thrift shoppers to students,” says McCarty. No surprise, really, considering it is the largest vintage clothes store in the North Laines area.
Outside Dirty Harry (6 Sydney St) there is a rail filled with denim dungarees in all shapes and sizes. Do not be fooled by this glaring display of Rural American style, though. Inside, it is a grotto of printed t-shirts, vintage jackets, and clumpy boots.
For a twee version of the traditional vintage store, have a browse through the rails of Hope and Harlequin (31 Sydney St.). This relatively new addition to the North Laines vintage scene sells women’s clothes for a range of occasions. Weddings are its speciality, although Louise Hill, the owner, says that they “encourage people to experiment with their style” through a collection of unique pieces.
Brighton seems to love the 60s, because To Be Worn Again (24 Sydney St.) is another North Laines thrift store that promotes the free-spirited decade. It specialises in selling high-quality fashion items brought back from various checkpoints in the past.