Food, Days Out and Travel stories from Brighton, London and the Rest of the World


Pretty unique clothing with a nod to vintage in Brighton

Vacant Clothing

It happens sometimes, you pass a shop and like the look of everything in the window. Although this was the case for me as I passed Vacant, I had to keep walking as I was on my way up Trafalgar Street at the time to check out the new ethical chicken restaurant and wasn't sure where it was.

In the window were cute mid-length patterned dresses in navies and greens. As I continued climbing the hill in search of chicken my mind was still thinking about the dresses I'd seen in the window. Once I'd found the new restaurant I realised I was a bit early, half an hour to be exact, so I realised I was free to skip back down the street to take a better look. 

Inside Vacant clothing the shop is spread out over two levels with men's clothing as you walk in and women's on the lower level. On a table were some feather earrings, purses and a bobble hat, while on the wall were some cards with birds on a wire and generous looking scarves. Asking permission to take some pics for this blog from one of the owners Mhorag I also found out more about the clothes that I liked so much. Designed and manufactured by husband and wife team Mhorag and Simon Lomond they have three labels that they sell in their shop - Vacant for men, Pretty Vacant for women and another range Circus that they make in collaboration with a friend in Dublin. They have been open for about five years and their shop has become so popular that a couple of months ago they opened their second store in the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells. 

Heavily influenced by vintage styles I particularly loved a polka dot dress with a full skirt, that had a very 50s style. I also loved a navy sleeveless top, which I still liked even when it was on me (in the New Year I've got to stop treating myself to waistline increasing foods) and left very happy with my Pretty Vacant purchase.

Find them at 11-12 Trafalgar Street, Brighton UK
Facebook at Vacant-Clothing



The best hostel in the world, probably. The Royal York YHA, Brighton.

Named after the Prince Regent's cousin the Duke of York, the Royal York hotel first opened in 1819. Among its many claims to fame, Charles Dickens read from David Copperfield there in 1861, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was a guest and the soon to be King William and Queen Adelaide stood on the balcony and waved to a crowd singing God Save the King.
Royal York YHA Brighton
~ View from a Premium room
The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~

About a month ago on 17 November 2014 the lights were turned back on and the Royal York was once again opened for business, this time under the stewardship of the YHA.

Royal York YHA Brighton
~ Entrance to The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
Walking past this building hundreds of times I have always wanted to go in and find out about it, intrigued by the blue plaque on the wall and the glimpses of antique interior that you can see through the windows.
Royal York YHA Brighton blue plaque
~ William and Adelaide plaque,
The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
Becky Hudgell, the new manager kindly offered to show me around and let me take snaps to share on this blog. The rooms off the foyer are generous in size, to the left is a dining room with fabulous art on the walls and information about some fascinating Brighton eccentrics. One of the most famous, Martha Gunn known for dipping clients in the sea, was granted special privileges by the Prince Regent and allowed free access to the Royal Pavilion kitchens.
Royal York YHA Brighton, dining room ceiling
~ Ornate dining room ceiling
The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
Above us the ceiling is a show-stopper with the most delicate and pretty flourishes and patterns. At the back is an equally ornate fireplace, perfectly preserved and freshly painted.
Royal York YHA Brighton bar
~ Bar at The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
To the right of the foyer is a large seating area, with large art works on some of the walls and an enormous and generous bar. There are also photos of Brighton on other walls with interesting bits of information, such as the story about Charles II who was reputedly carried piggyback along Black Lion lane during his escape to France.
Royal York YHA Brighton
~ Photos of Regency architecture
The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
Becky and I head upstairs and the first room we go into is one of their premium rooms, which when booked guarantees you a sea view. In front of us we have a spectacular view of Brighton wheel, while through another window is an incredible view of the sea. The bed looks enormous and inviting and costs as little as £60 a night.
Royal York YHA Brighton premium bedroom
~ Bed in a premium double
The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
At this point I ask the obvious question, Can you book a specific room? (I've not actually seen any others, but I'm sold). No, says Becky, they cannot guarantee a particular room nor can they offer room service, but you can expect everything that you'd get in a hotel room.
Royal York YHA Brighton en suite
~ en suite bathroom
The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
Next Becky shows me some other smaller doubles that face the fountain in the Old Steine and are just as lovely and available for £40 a night, each with its own plush, en suite.
Royal York YHA Brighton standard double
~ Double room at The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
In total they have 51 rooms available and have 180 beds. So far I haven't mentioned their dorms, but these are just as nice, if a little less private! Most of the dorms are four or six bed, with only one eight bed and one specifically designed for wheel chair users. Each bunk has its own light point and electric socket and prices start from £14.50, again with an en-suite to every room. The YHA are definitely fulfilling their brief to make travel affordable.
Royal York YHA Brighton Queen Adelaide room
~ Queen Adelaide room at The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
Becky takes me to check out two dorms, the Queen Adelaide room with balcony and the King William suite, also known as room 112. It is from the balcony in the Queen Adelaide room where in 1829 the Duke and Duchess of Clarence, who were to become King William IV and Queen Adelaide a year later, were greeted by a joyful crowd singing patriotic songs.
Royal York YHA Brighton dorm
~ King William suite dorm at The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
Run as a Not for Profit organisation, over the next three years the YHA aim to reach over a million under 26 year olds as well as funding individual children to go on school trips. Although the YHA embraces all ages and has a large and loyal number of life members, their target market is still the under 26s.

As Becky put it, The YHA enables young people to have experiences they wouldn't have a chance to otherwise.
Royal York YHA Brighton ornate fireplace
~ Ornate fireplace at The Royal York YHA, Brighton ~
The aim of this particular YHA, the Royal York, is to become the best hostel in the world. With Becky's experience running the YHA in Oxford Street, London for five years and taking it to third best hostel in the world in its fourth year, I'd say their chances are pretty good. It's certainly the most outstanding hostel I've ever seen by far.

Click on YHA to find out more

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New ethical chicken restaurant called h.en opens in Brighton

This is just a quick post to share with you details of a new ethical chicken restaurant opening tomorrow in Brighton. Billed as Brighton's first local and happy (high welfare) chicken shop, politically involved, design led and with quick service. What's not to love. Thanks to a sneak peek I tried their burgers, salad and chicken tonight and it was delicious! In particular the chicken burgers.
h.en restaurant, Brighton
~ ~
Choose from grilled or fried chicken, or a vegetarian halloumi option, with sweet potato fries and seasonal nutritionally crafted salad bar. The chicken is marinated in a secret h.en sauce and either grilled or battered and fried in a healthier rice bran oil. 

Ethical chicken restaurant in Brighton H.en, owner Philip Ilic
~ h.en Owner Philip Ilic and sister, Interior Designer Amy ~
Ethical chicken restaurant in Brighton H.en, salad
~ h.en Brighton salad ~
Owner Philip Ilic is passionate about sourcing the right produce. He buys his chickens from Brookland Farm in Surrey, where the birds have the highest quality of life with plenty of outdoor space. Chris Pinard, the owner of Brookland Farm, produces 85 per cent of his own feed.

Ethical chicken restaurant in Brighton H.en, chicken burger
~ h.en restaurant, Brighton ~
~ h.en Brighton chicken burger ~
Philip Ilic said: “For me, it’s all about knowing our chickens have had a healthy, happy life, so I’m pleased to be Britain’s first fully ethical chicken restaurant. The current labelling system lulls people into a false sense of security. Ultimately, you can’t trust it and you have to make the effort to visit the farms to really know the conditions. It has been incredible to collaborate with Chris and see his passion for his chickens, and knowing they have had the highest welfare possible.”
Ilic further added “We aim to be completely transparent about where we source our ingredients from, and are also working hard to reduce waste and minimise any environmental impact,”
h.en restaurant menu, Brighton
h.en restaurant, Brighton

Ethical chicken restaurant in Brighton H.en
~ h.en ethical chicken restaurant, Brighton ~
h.en restaurant, Brighton
~ h.en restaurant, Brighton ~
The restaurant will also be serving brunch with eggs cooked in various ways (including traditionally soft boiled), as well as coffee and Dutch stroopwafels, which are apparently gluten and sugar free and made by an in-house nutritionist.

h.en’s interior design and emphasis on reusing materials comes from Philip’s sister, Amy Ilic and David Pentland, both from Ardour Design.

Find them on Trafalgar Street, just down from the Albert or on Twitter @HenBrighton
h.en restaurant, Brighton
h.en restaurant, Brighton
h.en restaurant exterior, Brighton
~ h.en restaurant, Brighton ~
Huge thanks to Sarah London for allowing me to include some of the photos she took at the event.
To find out more click on Sarah London Photography, or follow on Twitter @slondonphotog

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Debut novel by Sussex writer, Linda Chamberlain THE FIRST VET

The First Vet by Linda Chamberlain, about Bracy Clark
~ Detail from Eclipse by George Stubbs -
Bracy Clark was at the horse's post mortem before enrolling at the college ~
Sometimes a story can get lost to history, a struggle for a better future overcome by greater forces. In 1792 a man who believed passionately in the welfare of horses was fighting to be heard. His work was ridiculed and his ideas for improving the treatment of horses he loved discredited.

Bracy Clark, joined the newly opened veterinary college near London, where he fought against bits, spurs, heavy loads and horse shoes only to be tormented by a whisper campaign and refused a platform at the college that trained him.

He believed that the horses’ hoof was being treated as if it was a block of wood rather than a living, elastic organ. As a result of his observations, he had made a connection between nailing immovable shoes to hooves and serious health problems affecting horses as well as, in many cases an early death.

The book’s author, Linda Chamberlain, from Forest Row, said: ‘He is an unusual but ideal candidate for the hero of a novel. He was a campaigner who was ahead of his time. He talked about the rights of these animals and complained that so many died young. His work was ridiculed and suppressed but I knew it was time he was heard again.

‘The First Vet owes much of its fast pace to his battle with the head of the college, Professor Edward Coleman. It’s made more poignant by the forbidden love between Bracy and the Professor’s fictional sister, Christina.’

In those days, horses had a lot of work to do and Bracy complained that many died by the age of ten when they might live to thirty or more. Their life was hard. They fought in the wars; they brought food into the capital and took waste out again – but very few people knew how to care for them if they were ill or injured.

The First Vet by Linda Chamberlain, cover
~ The First Vet by Linda Chamberlain ~
‘Bracy gave up his surgeon’s apprenticeship to help these noble slaves by joining a profession no one had heard of. He took a great risk as the college faced bankruptcy in its early years but he vowed to family and friends that he had little need of money. He enrolled when the college opened in the heart of the countryside, in Camden, and led the first horse into its infirmary the following year.’

His relationship with the head of the college was difficult. Bracy wrote that Professor Coleman viewed him as a troublesome guest and complained that one of us must quit the college.

Linda explained: ‘The two men couldn’t have been more different. Bracy was a Quaker who shared his knowledge with the world and refused to profit from his discoveries. Coleman, who died a wealthy man, patented his medicines and shortened the veterinary course to three months. According to Bracy, he admitted uneducated pupils for the sake of the fee which he was pocketing.’

One of their most serious disputes was over the metal shoeing of horses. Bracy used scientific experiments to prove that horse shoes deform natural hooves. He warned the practice led to lameness and sometimes early death but he claimed the veterinary establishment buried his work.

Linda, who rides her own thoroughbred horse without shoes, explained: ‘They should have listened to him. Today we are discovering that he was right. More and more owners are finding a cure for crippling lameness by keeping their horses barefoot. My own horse was at risk of being put to sleep nearly ten years ago thanks to the condition of her feet. I gave her a home to save her from that fate and took her shoes off. She’s now 24 and still a wonderful ride. Bracy would be very pleased.’

The author and journalist has spent the last few years writing and researching her debut novel which is published as a paperback and ebook on Amazon. She discovered Bracy’s work on a number of websites about bitless bridles and barefoot trimming. She vowed to find out more and her research took her to the Royal Veterinary College and The British Library.
~ The veterinary college - architect's drawing 1792 ~
‘I spent many hours reading Bracy’s books,’ Linda said. ‘He was eloquent and passionate. He went on long journeys riding barefoot horses to see how they would manage and he rode a very lively stallion on his veterinary rounds in the city of London. He was a learned scientist who investigated so many diseases as well as the cause of cholera in humans. He even invented a wood burning stove. It disturbed him that with shoeing he had discovered an evil for which he had no remedy.

So why was he condemned by the veterinary profession without being heard. Linda determined to find out.

‘The answer wasn’t obvious but I think it was greed,’ she said. ‘Bracy withstood the whisper campaign against him in silence for 20 years but eventually he hit back. He accused Professor Coleman of corruption, said he had an open palm and was pocketing the student fees.

‘Bracy said Coleman had patented at least two of his own horse shoes which he was using at the college.

‘A greedy or corrupt professor was unlikely to lend a platform to such an honest man as Bracy Clark. He certainly wasn’t interested in hearing how his own horse shoes were doing such enormous harm.

‘Bracy was a successful and much-loved vet but I don’t think he could fight dirty enough against Coleman,’ Linda explained. ‘He suffered in silence too long. His later books talk of Coleman’s open palm and his greedy charm. He spared no ink in revealing the nature of his adversary and the harm his regime was causing the profession but by then Coleman was secure and entrenched. It might have been too late. It’s great that many of today’s barefoot trimmers recognise Bracy’s pioneering research. Owners of barefoot horses often battle against hostility from other riders but they are finding cures that sometimes elude the professionals. So many lame horses are surviving against the odds once they are free of their metal shoes.
The First Vet by Linda Chamberlain, author
~ Author, Linda Chamberlain ~
‘Today’s vets should take a look at Bracy’s work. They should continue his research and help barefoot riders create a better life for the horses in our care. As the hero of The First Vet once wrote – My book is a grateful offering to humanity in diminishing the intolerable sufferings of these abused animals. The foot moves for obvious reasons; to break all jar and concussion to the body and to save the foot from destruction. This has been overlooked in the horse. His foot is treated as a senseless block of wood rather than a living, elastic organ.’

The First Vet by Linda Chamberlain is published as a paperback and on Kindle through Amazon -


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Unique Christmas gifts at reduced prices, it makes sense

When the lovely Fifi McGee extended the Homesense blogging invite to me, I cancelled everything else to go. Already a fan of Homesense's mix of good prices and selection of homeware, so far I've bought a much loved mug, as well as presents for my Cardiff fella's mum (a pretty, white bird house and stalks of magnolia).
The plan for the blogging event was to enter a couple of comps, such as best tweet of the night, leaving a trail of Blogger Recommends tags behind us.  Easy, I thought give us another!  The other comp was to guess the total of four items.  Using my combined experience of Homesense visits and my iPhone calculator my guess was swiftly made and added to the jar. Winners announced later.
To add further joy to our tagging mish each of us were also handed a ten pound  gift card to spend as we wished.  Whoop!  So with card in back pocket I was off, like a crazy person on Black Friday.  By the time I'd reached the first floor of lamps, doggy fashion and sofa throws I'd already been tweeting for quite a while.  Phone in hand I reached into my back pocket to check for my card and it wasn't there. I'd also been using my back pocket for my phone in between tweets, despite having a bag and other pockets to put it in. Elation at having a tenner to spend suddenly evaporated. I started scouring for my card, retracing my steps. What a complete idiot I thought.
Back at the blogging event base and the winners had been announced for best tweet and nearest guess to total amount for the four items. No, you guessed it, I didn't win. But I was close, in fact I was five pound out and got the runners up prize. A ten pound gift card. 

This is what I bought. 

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