Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Brighton & The Kensington Balcony Cafe

A message popped into my personal Facebook a little while ago.  It started:

'Craaaazy question but you're not free last weekend of Jan are you?'

Actually yes, yes I am.

You see every so often Steve has to go away for a few days, a week or possibly longer for work.  This time it was a week in Cairo, which left me with a weekend at the end of January with not much going on.  Until Shay messaged me with a simple yet brilliant idea.  A girls weekender away.  We tossed around the ideas of Somerset (yes the whole of it), Bath, Birmingham, Cambridge, Bristol, Oxford, Liverpool and the Cotswold's, but we kept returning to Brighton.  I've been a few times and love it; Shay has only ever been once on a hen do so she was keen to go.  It's only a couple of hours from us on the train and everything about it was just brilliantly convenient. 
Sinead is a social media guru and works in tourism so she did something that has never even occurred to me and pinged off a couple of tweets to Love Brighton to get some recommendations on where we should try out.  We were bombarded with replies and shout outs and that made our minds up (turns out Love Brighton went to uni in Canterbury.  Small world).  Brighton for a girls weekender it was! 
First things first was the hotel.  I stayed at the Queen's Hotel on the sea front the last time I was in Brighton and knew it was a good hotel in a brilliant location and ridiculously good value.  On my recommendation (no pressure, but if the trip was ruined because of the hotel it was all my fault) Shay booked it and I sorted out the train tickets.
We both had the Friday off work so met at the station in the early afternoon to give us a decent amount of time in Brighton on the Friday.  We polished off a bottle of fizz on the train, got unceremoniously dumped at Lewes due to a broken down train on the tracks, travelled for 15 minutes in the wrong direction to slingshot Brighton and finally got in to our hotel a mere 30 minutes later than we had originally planned.  We checked in, bantered with the lovely ladies on reception about the good places to go that evening, grabbed a street map to scrawl all over and headed up to our room.  We stood in a large bedroom with the sunlight streaming in through the bay windows and marvelled at the view, before I kindly offered to let Shay have the big double bed.  I'm very self-sacrificing like that.
I then went looking for the bathroom, and realised that I didn't need to let her have the bed.  There was another bedroom we had completely missed in our haste to skip down the corridor.
Huh.  For £40 each per night, we had what was basically a suite of rooms that could sleep 5.  Including breakfast the next day.  That is insane value.  We even had our own TV's, which is good as I like to listen to rock and indie music (Kerrang was perfect) whilst I get ready whereas Shay prefers more intellectual stimulation (there were the definite faint sounds of a quiz show or debate coming from her room).
I'll go into more details on our Friday night out in Brighton later this week, but for now let's fast forward to the Saturday day time.  Saturday was spent exploring the Lanes, including the required visit to Choccywoccydoodah's which was filled with sickly sweet reminders that Valentine's Day is nearly upon us.

This was followed by a wander around the grounds of the Brighton Pavilion. We didn't go inside as in all honesty, the entry is a wee bit pricey and we had a lot we still wanted to explore.
We wandered for hours around the Laines, visiting little craft shops, losing each other in the North Laine Antique and Flea Market and stopped off at Present in the Laines, a gorgeous little shop that we had been chatting with over twitter and that sold the most beautiful hand crafted goods (the leather bags are drool worthy) as well as my favourite body lotion, Korres Jasmine, trinkets and jewellery and beard oil that we were debating getting for Sinead's fella.  They are located on Gardner Street and if you are in Brighton you should definitely stop off for a visit! 

We were in desperate need of refreshment and so stopped off for a coffee break (I think we were both started to feel our stealth hangovers at this stage) at a hidden away little place we stumbled across called the Kensington Balcony Cafe in the heart of the North Laine. 
This place was clearly a mecca for hungover students as they wolfed down giant fry-ups, jacket potatoes and burgers.  If someone could have imagined Brighton as an interior design, I'm pretty sure that this little cafe is what they would have come up with.  It was vibrant, fun, and chockablock full of personality.  Raised wooden booths competed with low seats whilst the vast, inexpensive menu blazed with colour above people's heads.  It had the feel of a real community hub about it, with the large notice board advertising up and coming events and activities, families, people working on laptops, some reading books and groups of friends dissecting what they could remember of the previous nights antics.
It was a little cold to be sitting outdoors on the Balcony that overlooks the bustling North Laine below but in the summer I would imagine that this would be lovely.  Inside there was a constant stream of people queuing at the counter to order food and enormous portions were flying out of the kitchen.   I really like the vibe of this little cafe.  The only downside was, upon leaving, having one of the other customers come flying down the stairs, hands clasped desperately to her mouth, only to be nosily sick in the street. 
Clearly there are hazards with being a popular spot to cure a hangover!  We had our own hangover cure we wanted to try out though, so drained the last of our drinks and headed back out into the Laines in search of somewhere we had been recommended for lunch.  More on that to come later this week...
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