Best shops and restaurants in Brighton

Rock Ola Coffee and Burger Bar, Brighton
29 Tidy Street, Brighton, BN1 4EL
Tel: 01273 673744

Independent, affordable, seriously tasty and centrally located, this is where to go for the Best Burger in town!

With huge thanks to my first ever Guest Blogger, fellow Brightonite, co-founder of Brighton Writers and contributor to Pretty Litter magazine, Rosie Davis has written a review of Rock Ola to get your taste buds slathering.

Brighton is filled with places to eat and drink, but here is a place that takes you away from the main bustle of Brighton and into a 1950s American Diner.  Rock Ola Coffee Bar has been tucked away for ten years and yet a combination of atmosphere, food and free jukebox have kept this small but perfectly formed cafe bringing in the regular customers and record fans.

As you walk through the door your vision is bombarded by record memorabilia that covers the walls and tables.  Look out for the gold plated Elvis record, paintings of iconic musicians, as well as collectable items from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
The record theme continues with the original jukebox that stands pride of place for everyone to admire and use for free! You will notice the make of the jukebox is Rock Ola, hence the café’s name.  It is rare to find such a treasured piece as this still in constant use.  Choose from a range of tunes from David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Elvis and The Rolling Stones, to name a few.  And if this has inspired you to revert back to vinyl then head through the adjoining door to Wax Factor, the second hand record shop for a browse.

The inspiration in here is clear; a love for rock ‘n’ roll, the music, the dancing and the style.  The owners of the shop and café, Pat and Al Berwick still visit jukebox and record fairs searching for eye-catching displays, so there are always new gems to find out.

Take a seat in one of the diner style booths and try the American Special of 2 eggs, 2 bacon, tomatoes, hash brown, 2 pattie burgers, 3 buttermilk pancakes and syrup. Top this off with a chocolate milkshake or a coke float or glass of homemade pink lemonade.  Rock Ola has also been recognised by the Vegan Society, so there is a wide choice of vegetarian and vegan options meaning you won’t be limited for choice.  When it comes to burgers, you’re in the right place.  Home-made burgers start from £4.95 - £9.95, the beef burger is made from steak mince and the Rodeo Burger has a choice of cheese, 3 onion rings bacon and gherkins.

Once you have tasted one of the burgers you are guaranteed to want to come back for more, so head back to the Rock Ola Burger Bar on Friday nights from 6 pm - 9 pm.  It is BYO night, grab a bottle of wine and taste your way through all the burgers, including The Elvis Burger! Weighing in at over 1kg this is a mighty meal.  There is also the succulent pulled pork sandwich to try, marinated for 12 hours and slow cooked for 8 hours by chef / manager Mark Chipping, this is his signature dish and another personal favourite.

Opening Times: Mon-Fri 10.30am-4.30pm, Fri eve 6pm-9pm Sat 9.30am-4.30pm

Beyond Retro, second-hand clothing, North Laine 

Beyond Retro, Brighton
42 Vine Street, Brighton, BN1 4AG
Tel: 01273 671937

It’s no wonder Brighton has become known as Brick Lane by the sea, what with girls in Aran sweaters, oversized 80s glasses and their hair tied up in loosely arranged buns appearing all over Brighton you could be forgiven for thinking you’d somehow landed in the East End of London. And now I’ve found out why, it’s amazing how you can live in a place as small as Brighton and have missed out on an absolute gem like Beyond Retro for as long as I have. Visiting it for the first time I couldn’t believe what a cornucopia of clothing delights I had been missing out on for so long and with its vintage ethos it fits in perfectly with the heart of Brighton, where it’s all about re-use, recycle, reinvigorate.
Beyond Retro Brighton

Grabbing an unsuspecting member of staff, Josh, I bend his ear a little to find out more about this treasure trove I have just wandered into.

“It’s owned by a Canadian couple, Steve and Helen who come over every three or four months from Vancouver, Canada. I think it was Steve’s passion for Rock ‘n Roll that was the driving force behind it. Our flagship store is on Brick Lane (that would fit, says I, looking around at clothes that would suit any Shoreditchette or dude). It has a cult following and has become a destination shop, where people from all over the world will come over especially to visit it. Maybe as many as 40% are tourists, from places like Japan who have come over just to see the store (crazy, I say in wonder).

"The store in Brick Lane, which opened in a disused dairy and has been there for ten years, has got a really good customer base in East London, and we’ve now opened one in Soho, Great Marlborough Street, near Carnaby Street, which attracts Topshop customers and only a couple of weeks ago we opened one in Dalston, with a cafe in it. The company is growing every week it’s kind of intense.
Beyond Retro original 50s glamour
“This store in Brighton has been open for two years (Wow, I marvel, I can’t believe I’ve never even been in here, it’s ridiculous!)

“We put on student events, the one today will involve emptying out the front section and filling it with a hundred boxes of items with 50% off and we’ll have a drinks company providing beer and wine.

"We’re more than just a clothes store, we want to reach out to people by building mutually beneficial relationships with other organisations and bands, we’ve already created a good relationship with Audio.

So how do you source your items?

“We have a team of people who look at what’s on the catwalk and predict trends. They put together a list of everything they want and send it over to the team of pickers to source the items from charity shops, vendors and donations and will rifle through the stuff that other people don’t want and then we select what we think will work.

“In theory you can go into a high street store and pick up whatever is on trend, for instance this summer it was all about the seventies and then you can come in here and find the originals. We actually have jumpsuits from the seventies.

Beyond Retro clothes sorted into decades

What trends should we be looking out for this autumn / winter?

“For blokes there is a lot of work-wear like chinos and brogues, parkas are going to be really big, block colour is going to be massive. Women’s wear for next summer will be focused on leather, lace and crochet, floral and western are going to be really big as well.”

Beyond Retro skirt

Wow-ee I say and I’m loving the box of scarves. The great thing is you don’t even have to make it down to Brighton to get involved, just head to their website and you can buy a whole of heap of originals right there.

Beyond Retro Box of scarves

The Fishmongers of St James’ Street

93 St. James's Street, Brighton BN2 1TP
Tel: 01273 681288

One of the benefits of living in a place as interesting and full of interesting people as Brighton is discovering the independent shops that have thrived on local reputation and are supported by their local community. These are the people that give Brighton its unique identity and are worth seeking out if you are visiting or living in Brighton and haven’t yet come across them.

Watts shop front

Firmly of this mold are Mike and Mary Watts, a couple who have owned a fishmongers in Brighton for over fifty years and are still, but not for much longer providing fresh fish to the Kemptonians for their supper.

As I was just about to take a picture of the colourful shop front I thought it only decent to pop in and ask permission. Minutes later I had been introduced to his industrious wife Mary out the back and Mike was rolling out some black and white photos enlarged to poster size that a photography student had taken a few years earlier and brought in the week before. As Mike unrolled a candid portrait of three men, himself, his dad and a friend stared back at us. What made it so poignant is that in the intervening time his father had died. The memory of his father, the name above the shop, brought tears to his eyes and mine, having also lost a beloved father and as I stood there he told me of how St James’ Street had been lined with people out of respect for his father when the horse and carriage drove past.

Later investigation online revealed that Mike's father has also inspired artist Daniel Locke to turn an anecdote relayed by George into a series of drawings, capturing his memory of a haunting moment during the second world war out at sea.

Google also revealed rave reviews over his mackerel pate and a great deal of bonhomie for this very warm hearted man. I took away a trout for my supper and a wish to go back soon and see them again before his family succeed in persuading him to close up shop for the last time.

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