Bohemia isn’t just a place in the Czech Republic. Ever since the Prince Regent and Maria Fitzherbert were at it on this stony shore, Brighton has been alternative, edgy, avant garde. Their love nest, Royal Pavilion, is a rare example of the Indo Saracenic style in Britain. More than two centuries after it was completed, the Royal Pavilion with its onion domes, big tent roofs and minarets is still alternative, edgy, avant garde – and very bohemian. Quite the silhouette looking east on a sunny winter’s morn.
A samosa’s throw from the Royal Pavilion is a maze of alleys off North Street. A window sign states: “The Hanningtons Estate: Hanningtons Department store, affectionately known locally as the ‘Harrods of Brighton’, grew from a single shop at No.3 North Street into one of the largest single freehold estates in Brighton. The Hannington Estate sits on a 1.32 acre site and is the dominant landmark retail pitch at the eastern end of North Street. The department store dominated North Street for nearly 200 years and was the most prestigious shopping address in Brighton, until its closure in 2002. For 10 years the future of the Hanningtons Estate was uncertain, until it was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2011 which, along with local architects Morgan Carn, hatched a vision to rejuvenate the whole area. An extension to Brighton’s world famous Lanes, named Hannington Lanes by the architects, was to be created on the redundant service yard of the former department store.”
And continuing, “New pedestrian links to North Street, Brighton Place, Meeting House Lane and Brighton Square were included to maximise connectivity and permeability. The main North Street frontage of the former department store was to be restored to its former glory. In 2015, the estate was purchased by Redevco of the C+A group – the international chain of fashion retailers, who also started as a single shop in the 19th century. Redevco shared the vision of Morgan Carn Architects and engaged local contractors Westridge to construct Hannington Lanes and rejuvenate North Street. Works commenced in 2016 and were completed in 2019.”
Seasoned East Sussex restaurateurs Chef Ben McKellar and his wife and business partner Pamela have opened a brasserie called The Flint House in a corner of Hannington Lanes. The building may be new, but the choice of facing materials – brick and flint – pays homage to centuries of Brighton architecture. Downstairs is dominated by a counter around an open kitchen. Upstairs the dining room and cocktail bar spill onto a terrace cosily overlooked by its close neighbours.
Where better to enjoy some good Italian white wine, Le Coste Trebbiano di Romagna 2019 of Emilia Romagna? And some small plates: marinated beetroot salad, miso dressing, smoked almond furikake; smoked anchovies on toast, green sauce; tempura pickled shiitake mushrooms, kewpie mayonnaise. And one very small plate: fruit pastilles. The food is as fresh and clearly directed as the brasserie interior with a nod to the Continent. The extra taste notes are just that little bit bohemian.