Thursday, April 09, 2009

FEATURE 24 - 5 Good Things About Brighton

1) Paskins Guest House
David had raved about this place. Decorated in Art Deco style this guest house is a real gem. The hostess/proprietor was unfailingly kind, helpful and attentive. The breakfast choice, is not just your usual mini packs of cereal and palid racks of toast. To start with there was yogurt, a range of stewed fruits, cereals, and fruit juices. Followed by a cooked menu whose spectrum ranges from porridge, to fish, meat, vegetarian or vegan fried breakfasts. We had the vegetarian fried breakfast every day,which consisted of home made burger and sausage, fried mushrooms, baked beans, organic eggs and fried bread. All topped off with as much coffee as you could swallow. There was one day, I kid you not, when it got to the evening meal before we realised we'd gone completely without a midday meal. Our room though budget sized i.e. small, was perfectly adequate for lying in of a morning to watch old episodes of Will & Grace.

2) Food for Friends
Another David recommendation, we booked our evening meal days before when we were still in Cambridge, its that popular. The food itself was simple fair but just of such good quality and cooked to perfection. Even the olives and dips for starter was superlative. Our main course was a Mezze with various baked vegetables, a couscous stuffed red pepper with a slice of goats cheese as a lid, sliced courgettes with feta cheese crumbled along it,perfectly cooked aubergine, not mushy, firm but still melted in your mouth, all off set with a salad in a sweet dressing.

3) Bill's
A favorite of David's, we went here twice. Once for lunch with Sahananda, and for an evening meal. Housed in a converted bus garage, it has canned and bottled produce lining the walls and wholefoods for sale on stalls at the front. The centre is just packed with tables and chairs for diners. For the evening meal we had a gorgeous macaroni cheese, vegetables were mixed in with the pasta and was all topped with breadcrumbs. The desserts, well, they are never less than substantial. Unless you are a glutton, or really like the sensation of being stuffed like a haggis, always order one dessert and share it. Ours was a Bread and Butter Pudding, but very unusual one in that it used croissants layered with rhubarb and white chocolate. Served with vanilla ice cream this was simply a rich but rustic delight.

4) Brighton Pavilion I've been to Brighton at least three times before, and each time failed to see its major attraction. Too small to be a palace, it ended up being called a pavilion, which makes you imagine it as rather petite or tent like, but say not so. Everyone recognises its exterior, this mongrel confection, or more accurately, conglomeration of Indian mogul stylings. The interiors are less well known, but if anything are more impressive. The chinoiserie of The Banqueting and Music rooms is laid on richly and thickly, by Georgian designers who had clearly never been to China, nor understood the culture. They just borrowed heavily from a design pattern book and created this wonderfully ludicrous concoction. The effect of walking into The Banqueting Room is to be overwhelmed with awe. Both David and I stood gob smacked, astounded and amused. Commentators of the time thought the Pavilion 'effeminate' whilst today we might call it 'camp'. But, this is the highest of high camp, but one that I am deeply impressed with. It has instantly becomes one of my favorite buildings in the whole UK. Quite simply remarkable and unique.

5) The Mock Turtle
In our search for a tea room that served cream teas, we came across this little gem. So many cafes have a desultory range of cakes, this cafe has an enormous one, with a table literally heaving with dozens to chose from. From outside The Mock Turtle looks just like any quaint English tea shop, with ceramic plates, odd portraiture, plaques, dull landscapes, and brass ornaments decking the walls. But this instantly took on a surreal edge when you realised all the waitresses are Thai ,and they could hardly string a clear English sentence between them - 'A eet A Eysta Eugg' ( I eat a easter egg),' E awredy tidee' (It's already tidy). Very sweet, cheeky girls, who were a real handful for their English boss.

The cream teas, when they arrived, were of a stupendous size. There was the obligatory pot of tea, each cup had its own tea strainer. Then came the scones, four in all, the size of a small loaf, a pot of butter, one ice cream dish full of jam, and one full of clotted cream. The tea service design was the ubiquitous 'willow pattern.' Considering the all pervasive orientalism the Pavilion engendered, this seemed all too appropriate. Though it does seem strange that these Thai girls were serving up a quintessentially English thing, in this bastardised version of an oriental culture. I had the same response in the Pavilion when I saw Chinese tourists gawping at its half baked, cranky version of their own cultural aesthetic It made me realise how mixed up, and appropriating English culture, has, and continues to be.


1) Crossing the Road
If there is one thing about Brighton that is more than a bit scary, its the roads and the pelican crossings. Brighton needs a bypass, a huge amount of traffic travels through it and along the coast road, which rather ruins your walks along the Brighton Promanade. Pedestrianised areas have cars driving up them at all times of day. You take your life into your hands merely crossing an ordinary street. When I stand at a pelican crossing, I always look across the road I'm wanting to traverse to the lights opposite to inform me when to cross. In Brighton there aren't any. You are expected to look immediately behind you, to your right for a little walking green man to light up. This does not make any sense what so ever!

2) Brighton Marina
Admittedly it was on the greyest dullest day of our trip, that we walked along the beach to the Brighton Marina. David had read there were other exclusive and enticing shops, restaurants and cafes to be explored there. What a let down we were to have. The approach from the beach is truly dreadful, walking down this horrible, badly stained concrete walkway, reminiscent of entering some decrepit subway. Once you emerge what do you see first?- the far too familiar frontage of Asda. Brighton Marina itself is all car park and delivery bays, at least lets be charitable and say its hidden behind them. When you do find your way to the correct level for the shops and things, it is a very miserable, and very disappointing experience. The restaurants and cafes are your predictable multiples and most of the shops are discount clearance warehouse outlets. Who on earth would believe it was feasible to buy a true designer bag for ten quid, anyway? It maybe a 'Chav' or 'Wag' heaven, but as far as I'm concerned its one place on gods earth to be avoided at all costs.

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