Paul Davies visits Brighton's North Laine.
When London gets sunstroke: go to Brighton. Avoid the Underground, jump on a train (providing they still work) and shoot through the rolling countryside to England's south coast — officially the sunniest part of the UK (according to its tourist website). Upon arrival, dart down the main drag towards the water, throw on your swimsuit, jump in and cool off. Done? Good. Now get changed, avoid the glitzy glare of the famous fairground and battle those iconic pebbles back up towards whence you came. We're off to Brighton's North Laine.
Everyone knows about Brighton Pier. The "pleasure pier" hovers above the sea like a mystical waterworld. It anchors most photos of the southern coastal city and shows off the English talent for utilising limited space. Carousels and a rollercoaster on the ocean, isn't it fantastic? At least that's what I've heard, I've never had any of my nephews with me which might qualify me going. But we're not talking about the pier — we're all about North Laine, a more mature part of the city that deserves equal attention. It's Brighton's eclectic district of art spaces, cafes, restaurants, bars, music shops and outdoor markets.
It's too often missed in the beeline from the train station to the water. If you resist and hang an early left, you can stroll down brightly coloured alleys hanging with bunting and lined with stalls, eateries and creative looking chaps with exceptional moustaches.
A slum in the 19th century, North Laine starts just to the east of the main street, Queens Rd. Winding your way down its paths, you're likely to find all manner of stores, and all manner of people. It's home to collectives like Art Schism, which features local art and resident artists who also mind the till. Their transient nature means it'll move on, but probably not far. This is the bohemian quarter — the place for creative types to cultivate.
Boutique jewellery shops sit harmoniously between secondhand stores and designer T-shirt labels. You can get anything from a bonsai tree to a naval tattoo and you'll be given it with a smile.
After walking some well-worn streets you'll be ready to refuel. Being so close to the source, it's tough topping fish and chips by the beach but there's plenty more on offer.
The Dorset St Bar is a lively pub with outdoor seating and the aptly named North Laine has a good selection of cask and craft ales. English chain Gourmet Burger Kitchen is in the hood, but a better option would be the indigenous Burger Brothers, just over on North Rd.
Indian/Nepalese restaurant Chilli Pickle is popular with the locals and pizza/craft beer joint Dead Wax Social lets you select a record to play while you enjoy your pepperoni on sourdough.
After that, you'll be ready for some entertainment. Brighton has a rich musical and artistic history in which North Laine has played a crucial role. It's home to the 200-year-old Theatre Royal, which hosts musicals, ballet and opera is one of the oldest theatres in the country. Also contemporary music and comedy club Komedia, which has been voted best venue in the south and west of England and Wales 12 times on the trot, lives and laughs in the hood. With grade-one listed arts venue Brighton Dome a hub for artists and performers across the region, and the 19th-century Indian-style Royal Pavilion (built as a pleasure palace for King George IV) on its border, it's definitely the cultural corner of the city.
Whatever you do and wherever you head, you're likely to be welcomed.
Locals are happy plying their trade there because they're in Brighton; in their sunny, liberal lanes beside the sea.
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