The Evening Star                                                           The Basketmakers Arms                                                              Lord Nelson Inn   

Recently, I’ve been asking around regarding Brighton, somewhere I’d not visited for years, and have been advised to visit the same 3 pubs, all close to the railway station (a very interesting and ‘Bohemian’ area) by 4 different Sussex folk, including 2 who live or have lived in Brighton recently.  So, being a conscientious person, I made the trip to Brighton.  If it’s Brighton & Hove Albion you’re here for, the new ground is actually in Falmer, close by the University of Sussex main campus, about 4 miles to the north-east of Brighton, or 4 miles to the south-west of Lewes; it’s well serviced by buses from both directions, and there’s a railway station.  Inside Brighton's AMEX Stadium there are 2 cask conditioned ales on sale, ie Harveys Sussex Best Bitter and Dark Star's excellent Hophead, and bottled beers from both breweries are also available. 

The first, and most strongly recommended establishment, is The Evening Star, 55-56 Surrey Street, BN1 3PB (01273 328931) which sells 7 ales, 4 from Dark Star brewery (the owners), always including Hophead, and 3 guest ales, on this occasion, Brodies Special, Salopian Ironbridge Stout and Bowman Wallops Wood; I noticed, and discussed, that they regularly acquire beers from Thornbridge in Derbyshire, Kipling being one of my favourite beers but, sadly, now not a ‘micro’, Thornbridge beers don’t come all that cheaply.  Admirable that Dark Star have kept this as a genuine ‘freehouse’.  The Evening Star also sells 2 or 3 ciders, often including a perry, and a good selection of bottle-conditioned and imported beers.  

You can sit out the front, where there are a couple of tables/benches, but it is on quite a busy road.  I found the 2 members of staff behind the bar to be very friendly and knowledgeable about ales, and music to my taste, so I felt very comfortable staying at the bar, though I rarely feel uncomfortable in such a position.  Inside is quite light, with bare wooden flooring throughout, and wood panelled dados (with brick or plaster above) and a wood panelled bar.

The second hostelry is The Basketmakers Arms, 12 Gloucester Road, BN1 4AD (01273 689006), a Gales/Fullers house, with 6 of their own beers, Pride, ESB, HSB, Discovery, Seafarers and Summer Ale, and also selling 2 guest ales, a ‘regular’, but “guest” ale, is Butcombe Bitter, and Elgoods Cambridge Bitter was also available on my visit.  The Basketmakers has an impressive range of whiskys/whiskeys, with about 100 on sale, with a “Malt of the Month” at £1.75 a shot as a regular offer, June 2011 was Strathisla.  Staff and customers were all very friendly and welcoming, and informative too, and, as this is the only pub on my list that opens at 11.00, could be your first port of call.

The Basketmakers sells food lunchtimes and evenings, Monday to Friday, and lunchtimes at the weekend.  Consequently, this was where I had lunch, and a very good choice of food was available, though too many dishes available to mention them all.  There were a number of salads available, of which I had Goats Cheese Salad with crusty lightly toasted bread, which had a good selection of leaves and salad vegetables/fruit, and which I enjoyed immensely.  There was also a good selection of fish dishes including mussels, vegetarian options, chillies, jacket potatoes, ploughman’s lunch, burgers etc., plus ‘Specials of the Day’ detailed on boards above the bar.  

The interior, and exterior for that matter, are typical of what I like about pubs.  There is a low-ish ceiling, bare wooden boards on the floor, wooden dados and bar, photos and numerous memorabilia on the walls, including a great collection of old tins and signs.  There are upholstered benches and stools, and bar stools, with small wooden round tables around the bar.  Behind the bar there are pewter tankards and water jugs dangling from the ceiling.  It has a good feel about its authenticity as a pub.

Whilst in The Basketmakers, I was informed the landlord is taking over The Oak, (previously the Royal Oak, so no doubt taken over by Roundheads), 46 St James’s Street, BN2 1RG, in early June.  I believe this is nearer to the front, in the ‘Lanes’ and, as it is a freehouse, may be worth a visit if including the Lanes in your itinerary.  Also, just to show I haven’t limited this to just the 3 pubs I was originally recommended, but have carried out my own more in depth research, it was suggested I visit the next port of call, which I did.

The Great Eastern, 103 Trafalgar Street, BN1 4ER (01273 685681) was the next stop, notably it was suggested to me because, not only does it sell cask conditioned ales, but it also sells 60 bourbon whiskeys.  The outside of the building is in need of work, but don’t let that put you off going inside, as this is a quirky establishment, not just because of its large supply of whiskey from the U.S. of A.  The first thing I noticed, other than the low ceiling, quite high wood panelled dados and wood panelled bar, were the bookcases at either end of the quite long room, complete with what appeared to be a random selection of books.  If you like reading whilst imbibing, this is your place to visit!  They also sell guest ales, which may include Hop Back Summer Lightning, Adnams Broadside, Hook Norton Hooky Bitter, Skinner’s Betty Stogs and Goddards Ale of Wight.  There is live music here on Thursdays and some Sundays.

The final stop is just up the road at the Lord Nelson Inn, 36 Trafalgar Street, BN1 4ED (01273 695872), virtually under the railway station (if you come here first when you visit, turn right out of the station, then right again into Trafalgar Street walking under the station.  This is the Harveys establishment to visit if you want to drink Harveys beers as the entire range of their beers, 8 handpumps, are Harveys, and cider from Addlestones was available.  Food is served here lunchtimes, eg 14 types of sandwich, 7 or 8 fillings for jacket potatoes and numerous salads and, apparently food is available “by arrangement with a nearby Italian restaurant” (CAMRA Beer Guide), in the evenings, except on Sundays.

This has a large carpetted bar at the front, presumably formed by integrating rooms in the past, though partly divided by  a screen, and more rooms as you go deeper into the pub, and a small beer yard out the back.  What appears to be the obligatory wood panelled dado adorns the walls, with photos and prints above, and a very large framed collection of photos of Brighton footballers on the wall to the right as you enter the room.  

Finally, I was reading about an Indian restaurant the other day and thought it should be shared with you all.  It is The Chilli Pickle, 17 Jubilee St, BN1 1GE (01273 900383), open every day at 12-3pm and 6-10.30pm, looks like you wont be disappointed if you like curries!