Brighton, England is known as a seaside, summer vacation destination. The pier, the seafront promenade, and eating fish and chips on the beach are all fun attractions that have drawn tourists to its shores for decades. But Brighton has as much to offer, in not more, within its city streets, as on the ocean. The best way to experience Brighton as a local is to visit some of the Brighton locals’ favourite spots. This is why I have compiled a list of Brighton’s top four cafés. After living in Brighton for two years, I have learned that Brightonions love a hot brew of coffee almost as much as they love a cold one. There seem to be just as many cafés in the city as there are pubs. After visiting as many of them as my bladder can handle, I have chosen four of my favourites. As I am not much of a coffee connoisseur, I have based my selections the following criteria: atmosphere, community bonding, and availability of food. With this list, I hope to guide you through Brighton beyond the postcard pictures, and into its very beating heart.
Trading Post Coffee Roasters (Ship Street)
Trading Post is a popular spot in Brighton for breakfast, brunch, and coffee. Their full breakfast menu offers many vegetarian and vegan options. The same goes for the sandwiches, cakes, and various baked goods they offer at the counter. They have two locations in Brighton: one in North Laine, and one on Ship St. in which they operate their roastery directly on the coffee shop floor. Using a Petroncini Roaster and artisanal methods, master roasters at Trading Post roast and blend the beans shortly before they are brewed to offer the freshest coffee possible. They also ethically source their beans and as much of their other ingredients as they can, sourcing locally whenever possible. The highlight of this company is easily their conscious and ethical mindset. Their café spaces reflect their passions. Both Brighton locations are relatively large, offering plenty of table space and outdoor seating. Upon entering, it is clear that people come to this place to socialize and connect. The place is almost always bustling with activity, and almost every table is shared between two or more people engaging in eating, drinking, and chatting. However, if you are going it alone, the Ship St. location has a spacious, upstairs seating area which is perfect for working, studying, or enjoying a solitary coffee in your own good company.
Plant Room Espresso Bar (Brighton Square)
Plant Room is a relatively new addition to Brighton, having only been open for three years from 2016. The renowned New Zealand coffee roasters, Allpress, provide their coffee. Plant Room also offers a selection of vegetarian and vegan cakes, pastries, and nibbles. The design exhibits the newness of the place, keeping it clean and modern. Cool blues and whites create a very slick interior accentuated with, as the name suggests, blooming, sprawling, green plants. The atmosphere, overall, is youthful and laid back, which is embodied by the staff and reflected the contemporary, indie playlist. My favourite aspect of Plant Room is the space’s openness, especially the full, wall-sized window which lets in plenty of natural light and looks out onto Brighton square. The café also features a long table in the centre of the space which is great for sitting with others, even if you are on your own, and a small outdoor patio which is particularly enjoyable on warm, sunny days. Most often I have found this café relatively quiet on any given afternoon, in terms of the volume of customers, which makes it ideal for independent work or spending some time with yourself. Plant Room also has an espresso bar in Hove and a deli on London Rd. in Brighton.
Café Rust (Preston Road)
Café Rust is a small, little out of the way place just off of London Rd., which isn’t immediately visible or obvious. That being said, it is something of a hidden gem. The interior is one of the most beautiful I have seen. It draws on strong, rustic visuals in combination with delicate details. A distressed, slate-blue wall serves as the backdrop for dried plants and an antlered skull while dark, wooden furniture gives the room warmth. Undoubtedly, the most charming feature of the place is the enclosed, flint-walled garden seating area which crawls with unruly plants, both wild and potted. Sitting in this patio area evokes and reminds me of sitting in my grandmother’s garden, sipping tea and munching on homemade treats – a daydream made further possible with Café Rust’s selection of cakes and sweets. They also serve breakfast and a selection of sandwiches with plenty of vegetarian options. This place is a rustic aesthetic waking-dream, with each of their locations in Hove and Kemptown offering equally beautiful settings.
Marwood Bar and Coffeehouse (Ship Street)
Marwood is an eclectic spot, which prides itself on being a little out of the ordinary. It is tucked away in what almost looks like an alleyway off of Ship St. The community-oriented atmosphere is its best quality. Marwood supports several non-profit initiatives including (but not limited to) The Hummingbird Project and A Cuppa’s Best Shared. The café’s visual presentation also reflects the value they place on their community. The furniture looks like it is mixed and matched from any number of charity shops and streets sales, and encourages enjoying food and drink in a group. The walls are crowded with posters, magazine clippings, and pieces of art. Marwood is one of the few places that stays open from morning until late in the evening. It transitions easily from café to bar. They also host plenty of interesting events and community meet-ups including the Brighton Girl coffee meet-up, and Bits and Pieces life drawing. Their menu offers a swathe of vegetarian and vegan breakfast and lunch options, and delicious home-style cakes. I highly recommend the carrot cake (pictured above). Overall, my favourite aspect of Marwood is that they have designated times spaces that are laptop-free zones, which further encourages community building and emphasizes human connection.