I’ve been to Brighton a fair few times on sunny days when walks along the beach and alfresco eating and drinking are easy to come by. In the winter the weather is likely to be cold, wet and even windy, but it’s still well worth a visit with plenty of indoor activities to keep you occupied.
My last trip to Brighton was for a couple of nights to see in the New Year and included a delicious afternoon tea at a quirky vintage tea room, an amazing vegetarian dinner, a fascinating visit to the Royal Pavilion and a fabulous New Year’s Eve of dinner and dancing.
We stayed at the Lanes Hotel just along from the pier on the seafront in Kemp Town. It’s by no means the fanciest place you’ll ever stay, but the people were friendly, the room was huge and we managed to nab two spots in their tiny car park. It’s on the corner of Charlotte Street and about two minutes walk along there on the corner of Upper St James Street is Metrodeco, a 1930s style tearoom that was originally an art deco furniture shop.
They have an extensive menu of loose leaf teas which you can also buy to take away if what you try takes your fancy. And there’s plenty of cake on offer as well as breakfast, lunch and early evening light bite options. But although we visited at lunchtime it was the afternoon tea we were there for and it didn’t disappoint, starting with a glass of prosecco served in gorgeous glasses.
Then the food came out on a lovely cast iron cake stand along with vintage china plates, cups and saucers. The bottom layer was a mix of sandwiches and savouries while the middle held the scones that came of course with cream and jam. To top it off were mini sweet treats and of course the all important tea. Everything was delicious and we worked our way through it sitting in the comfortable armchairs for a quite a long time.
Eventually we dragged ourselves back outside for walk along Upper St James Street which has some of Kemp Town’s interesting vintage shops. The bright pink Brighton Flea Market is just a few doors away from Metrodeco and well worth a wander around.
But if you’re after something more mainstream, walking the other way takes you into the centre of Brighton where there are shops a plenty and some pretty Christmas lights. Also (here comes a random fact) the post office inside WH Smith issues international driving licences. Not many post offices do and as we were in need of them for a forthcoming trip to Chile we made use of the opportunity.
Later that evening after resting in our huge room at The Lanes, we headed back into the centre by cab (only a 15 minute walk but it was raining). We had a dinner reservation at Food for Friends, Brighton’s original vegetarian restaurant in the Lanes area (not to be confused with our hotel), but first went for some very nice cocktails across the street from it at The Mesmerist.
Food for Friends is somewhere I’d walked passed lots of times before, but its pretty hard to get in without a reservation. This time we made sure we got one and even though it was a bit later than we’d have liked, it was well worth the wait. Two of us are veggies but even our meat eating friend thought it was amazing, including the very fabulous post dinner cocktails.
The following day after a very good breakfast at The Lanes, sitting in the bay window that overlooks the seafront, we headed out for Brighton’s Royal Pavilion. Again it’s somewhere I’d been passed lots of times before but when its sunny, being inside doesn’t tend to appeal. Hence it’s a perfect winter activity and it really is a rather wonderful one.
Originally a farmhouse, it was rented by George, Prince of Wales, when he started to visit Brighton in 1783. A few years later he asked Henry Holland to create a neo-classical villa on the site and then added Chinese decor inside. By 1811 he was Prince Regent and decided to transform the building into one inspired by Indian architecture.
When the prince became King George IV he used the Pavilion as a royal residence as did his brother William IV, but their niece Queen Victoria felt Brighton was too crowded so sold the palace to the town of Brighton in 1850. The furniture and fittings were taken away, but since then much of it has been returned and restored. A £10m restoration programme was completed in the early 1990s.
Photos can’t be taken inside so I bought and scanned a couple of postcards to give you a flavour for the amazing rooms. The music room is particularly lavish with huge red and gold wall paintings while the King’s Apartments are more subtly decorated. The King became hugely overweight in later life, so these rooms were designed for comfort rather than display.
I really liked the Great Kitchen which looks quite modern and has a brilliant poster of the type of elaborate menu that was created for the King’s guests. The food was served in the Banqueting Room which has to be one of the most stunning interiors in the Royal Pavilion, with a huge chandelier held in the claws of a dragon.
As it was Christmas time there was one photo that was allowed to be taken inside which was of a Victorian sleigh. You were even allowed to sit in it, which was possibly meant for visiting children but we didn’t hesitate!
Also at this time of year the Pavilion garden hosts a pop up ice skating rink and cafe. We didn’t fancy taking a turn around the wet ice (yes it was still raining), but we did pop into the cafe for a glass of mulled wine and watched those braver than us glide across the ice in a stunning setting.
Lunch that day was back in the Lanes area at the Cricketers, a cosy pub with lots of nooks and crannies to keep warm. There are stacks of restaurants and bars in the Lanes as well as some really lovely shops so it’s very easy to dodge in and out of the rain.
And later that evening it was back to the Lanes area again to spend New Year’s Eve at Hotel du Vin. Brighton has lots of clubs and bars where you can see in the New Year, but being a bit old for that scene now we decided to opt for dinner and dancing in a nice venue. Hotel du Vin wasn’t the cheapest on offer but it was fab, starting with some very nice pre dinner champagne in the bar.
The four course meal in the restaurant was fantastic and very substantial, then it was back into the bar for live music and dancing until 1am. The receptionist helpfully booked a taxi to take us back which either didn’t show up or got nabbed by someone else. But by then the rain had finally stopped so we were happy to finish our very nice winter weekend in Brighton with a slow meander along the seafront.
Click on an image below to scroll through a few more photos in the gallery.