It was my first trip to central Brighton since the pandemic started, so I was a little worried to see if my old haunts had survived the pandemic. What a pleasant surprise…
Where I stayed
First stop was The New Steine Hotel. Celebrating 21 years as a gay run business, and just a stones throw from Brighton Pier and the more of Brighton’s gay bars than you can shake a long, hard stick at, I couldn’t have asked for a better location.
It’s a boutique hotel that gave me the luxury holiday feeling as soon as I stepped inside. Instantly I was greeted by relaxing jazz music and great service from Herve and his team in their reception area. I managed to get a parking place just outside as I had purchased a 24-hour parking permit for just £8, a godsend in the circle of hell that Brighton can be to park. It’s also dog and child friendly, for those of you who want to bring your human or canine family.
Dining and drinking
My partner and I decided to venture out for dinner. Le Village Bar is one of the more recent additions to the the many gay bars off St James Street. Thai Food and rainbow decor screamed good old-fashioned gay bar and with cabaret most weekends, Le Village is a definite must-visit. The Thai food is delicious and affordable, with most main dishes under £10, so we opted for Pad Thai, before checking out the cocktails in Charles Street Tap, just round the corner.
Charles Street Tap is a long established gay bar that, like many of Brighton’s haunts, has had a revamp. I’m not sure what excited us more, our porn star martinis or the quirky, fishy, Brighton themed artwork on the toilet walls, plus the very modern “butch” and “femme” signs on their gender inclusive toilets.
Last stop on our pub crawl was an old favourite, The Marlborough, which recently reopened and is now called The Actors pub. The Marlborough has always been known as the “lesbian pub” of Brighton, where the girls – queer, trans or just arty and cool – hang our. I was a little apprehensive that it might have lost this vibe but I needn’t have worried. Fortunately, I opened the door to The Actors to a revamped, freshly painted, cleaner and altogether more classy experience but still with all the same things many of us loved before: friendly bar staff, an open mike night that kept us entertained for hours and some tasty Christmas warm apple cider to heat me up on a winters night. I’m pleased to say that the Actors still has the theatre upstairs and still most definitely has that cool vibe that forced us to stay until closing time, after popping in for “just one drink”.
After enjoying a late checkout and just not wanting to leave my lovely bed at the New Steine Hotel, breakfast was a further treat. I had strawberries, yogurt and toast, while I mused over the business end of the breakfast menu. After pondering over their regular full English breakfast, vegan options or create your own, I decided to create my own full English, with some added avocado and paprika. Unlike many places where the staff appear annoyed if you deviate from the main menu, it was great to feel that the staff actually enjoyed helping guests choose their own menu.
Day two, and we decided to explore some of Brighton’s more mainstream touristy ventures. Brighton’s zipline is a must for any thrill seekers. Yes, like an inexperienced male lover, it only lasted 30 seconds or so but we left full of adrenaline. If you’re more of a spectator, don’t worry…there is a bar below with great views. Lastly, it was time to hit the shops and soak up in the buzz provided by the many independent, alternative shops in the famous Brighton Laines.