The interesting thing about a city like Brighton is that even when you’re only looking at a very small subset of a particular type of venue – in this case, the ‘traditional pub’ – you’ll still find a huge variety in atmosphere and vibe.
Emily Turner explores how ten Brighton pubs interpret the ‘traditional’ tag and evoke a truly unique sense of alehouse character.
The King and Queen
Stepping into The King and Queen can feel a little bit like stumbling onto the set of Monty Python: The Holy Grail. It was originally built as a farmhouse in 1779, and was named in honour of George III and Charlotte. The principal bar is built in the style of a Nobleman’s hall, and it’s flanked by a paved courtyard and incorporates Prinny’s bar on the upstairs gallery. However, any pub with its own Wikipedia page must have a special place in the hearts of drinkers nationwide, and this pub is certainly pretty charming. In true Pythonian charm, it’s a bit bizarre but advocates a drink.
13-17 Marlborough Place, 01273 607207, thekingandqueen.co.uk
The Bath Arms
Actually the oldest licensed premises in the original lanes, this cosy spot is tucked away near Brighton’s seafront, and people (including myself) have been guilty of walking past it as they are mesmerised by the architectural witchcraft of the chocolate displays of Choccywoccydoodah on the corner of Meeting House Lane. Despite this, be sure not to miss The Bath Arms – it’s warm and comfortable, with red walls, dark wood wall fittings and low, comfy seats that you can sink into with a mid afternoon pint while Bill Haley and the Comets plays. There’s also a skylight for the sunnier days, and a large selection of cask marque approved wines.
3-4 Meeting House Lane, 01273 731 864
The Seven Stars
Turn left out of the door at The Bath Arms, walk down Union Street, and you will come face to face with The Seven Stars. From the outside, it looks very grand, almost like an old theatre. But take heed from the fact that the pub is named after a poem by Oscar Wilde, that infamous advocate of a cheeky beverage, and step inside. As far as vibes go, the best way to describe The Seven Stars is eclectic – there are Frankensteinian light fittings with heavy metal piping and lightbulbs that wouldn’t look out of place in Nikola Tesla’s lab. Look up at the ceiling and you’ll see ballroom décor which looks like it was recycled from Leighton House. Romanov glamour contrasts with the octopus street art painted on the inside wall, along with ’50s diner lights and keg light fittings. There’s no overriding theme, but it works. It takes the idea of the traditional pub and creates something new and interesting with it.
27 Ship Street, 01273 258800, sevenstarsbrighton.pub
The Sussex Arms
If you’re the kind of person to call a spade a spade, you might be scrolling this list looking for what can truly be called a ‘traditional pub’. Well, look no further. The Sussex Arms is for you. This is the type of pub which Serves Great British Pub Food, has multiple screens showing the sport, and has a couple of fruit machines for pub-goers to throw their silvers away in. Low ceilings, detail heavy wallpaper, tiled floors, stained glass window décor – exactly what you’d expect to see in a comfortable, welcoming traditional English pub. If you fancy some grub, The Sussex Arms’ 1730s pale ale is used in several sauces and gravy used in dishes served at the pub.
1 Market Street, 01273 327591
Face to face with The Sussex Arms, the Pump House is also very much what you’d expect from a traditional English pub – a welcoming, easy going place to grab a drink. There’s even an open mic night held every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. Upstairs, however, is Miss Elliot’s tea rooms. Miss Elliot originally purchased the Market Tavern in 1766, running it as a tea house for the visitors taking sea water, and now it serves all you’d expect from a tea room. So for drinkers and non drinkers alike, you’ll find what you’re after at The Sussex Arms.
46 Market Street, 01273 827421
The Druid’s Head
The Druid’s Head has quite an interesting, diverse aesthetic. It’s got a copper top bar, wallpaper patterned with rulers, street lights for interior lightings and Druid’s Head carvings on the walls. However, the mark of a pub should be its ability to facilitate your drinking – and with a good selection of lagers, you’ll be able to grab something to keep you happy at The Druid’s Head.
9 Brighton Place, 01273 325490
Molly Malone’s, as you might have guessed, is a traditional Irish pub. There’s a centred bar surrounded with bar stalls, Gallic writing on the walls, and old books, antiquated Guinness advertising, and bottles stocked around the pub. Make your way past bar security at the entrance off West Street and you’ll walk under the two carved stone angels with flank the doorway. Either play it safe with a Guinness, or for those who really want to go to town, there’s a huge selection of Scottish and Irish whiskey to choose from. Molly Malone’s also plays live bands every week on Thursday nights – this could be an alternative folk/pop band, a bowtie foursome, a jazz extravaganza, or a group that covers popular songs in an upbeat reggae style. Any which way, you’ll find something that floats your boat.
57 West Street, Brighton, 01273 822555, mollymalonesbrighton.co.uk
Although it’s tucked away down a relatively quiet street near the seafront, you won’t miss The Globe as the outside is painted entirely black. It’s a bit different from your traditional pub decor – this is Brighton, after all – but it is certainly interesting. There’s a bicycle framed with neon lights on the wall and a large Betty Boop statue flanks the top of the staircase, but despite this, it has the cosiness of your average pub. With its deep red wallpapered archways and bookshelves, it’s small and comfortable. Grab a Cuba Libre – Barcardi, gold rum, coke and fresh lime – for £2.50, and some sweet potato fries for £2.
78 Middle Street, 01273 770685
The Queen’s Head
Stumble out of the train station after a long day taking on the world and head straight into The Queen’s Head, the traditional pub directly opposite the platforms. Due to its central location, it’s a very popular place to grab a drink, and there’s always a lot of energy and vibrancy in the place.
69 Queens Road, 01273 205800, queensheadbrighton.pub
Preston Circus is a great place to go out for a drink or two. There’s loads of interesting spots for grabbing a pint, including The World’s End and The Hare and the Hounds. However, be sure to try out The Joker – established in 1751, the place definitely has the vibe of a traditional pub, but remixed with a modern feel. Check out the skull design on the wall near the entrance.
2 Preston Road, 01273 675769, thejokerbrighton.com