Chain stores everywhere you look. That’s not to detract from the loveliness of Chi (as it’s sometimes called) – as it is rather smashing in places. The foursquare streets (East, West, North, South) are walkable and friendly, the town laid out on an easy-to-follow grid, Roman and medieval influences to the fore. But there are so many chains. From Prezzo to Next, from TK Maxx to M&S, bog-standard stores rule the school.
Car Wheels On A Gravel Road - Lucinda Williams
Thai green curry
The Belle Isle
There are some independent places still hanging on – sometimes pricey, sometimes not – and the pubs and bars are plentiful. But even they feel stripped out to cater for the masses, all leatherette seating and plum/magnolia-combo walls. There is a fun and easygoing vibe to Chichester, partly due to the plethora of students, partly due to the hangover from when it was a squaddie town, partly due to the fact that you can get drunk and roll home easily as it’s compact, within the city walls, within the historic grid.
Go further afield for seaside kiss-me-quickness (Bognor) and for more classy water-based pursuits (Bracklesham / Bosham). Otherwise stay here and drink. Not to excess but, you know, just until you’re feeling good. Cider is cheap. Life is good here in West Sussex. Just don’t stand out from the crowd too much.
Duke & Rye
In an old church opposite the cathedral (which seems a bit sacrilegious, maybe) is this cavernous pub with a nice selection of ales. They’ve kept it cosy by building pods along the sides of the church walls so you’re not sitting in a big draughty space, and the busy-ness of it kept the vibe going. Comfy armchairs, too.
The George & Dragon
This was cute from the outside, not quite so cute on the inside – pleather seating and the like. But hey. They had some great ciders on the go (Mortimers), and the music was good too (Bowie, Stone Roses, Jam). So not to be sniffed at, really.
They made Brad take off his baseball cap here. For ‘CCTV’ apparently. Utterly nuts – but there you go. We had an ok lunch (pub grub to the nth degree) and they have Stowford on draft. Just don’t, you know, wear a hat in there.
The Belle Isle
Restaurant and bar, this is a huge space tucked down a side road opposite the cathedral. It isn’t too cold and spacious, though, they’ve kept it friendly and non-chain-like. Bet it’s rammed when the students are in town. Didn’t try the food but they’ve got a decent-sounding menu.
Yes, it’s a chain, we know. We KNOW. But in a city of chains, it was one of the better options (and Côte was fully booked). There are other restaurants but they were expensive and… oh, we wanted to get some food, so we lamed out and went here. Sorry.
Not really a restaurant, more a collection of cute little shops, a coffee bar and some yummy cake and donut sellers. Fab to sit outside in the summer and eat chocolate brownies and drink coffee. Plus go shopping, if you feel so inclined.
Ooh, this was a delight – jammed to the rafters with second-hand books… most of which I wanted to buy. I got my ee cummings book here, and had to walk away from a gorgeous set of RF Scott’s Antarctic prints. Charming.
Hunt this place down as it’s tucked away behind an antique shop a little way out of the town centre. Long and narrow, it’s like a vintage vinyl time-tunnel, one you can spend a happy hour in browsing away.
What we did:
Walked the city walls, a high-line of a circuit around the town based on the old Roman fortifications. A good way to spy into people’s houses as they back onto the wall. There are some lush houses in Chi, as it happens. Visited the Cathedral, which is simple and small, but when we were there, had the choir practising and it was beautiful to hear. Plus it contains the famous Arundel Tomb, the one immortalised by Philip Larkin: ‘What will survive of us is love’.
Car Wheels On A Gravel Road – Lucinda Williams
A song for road-trippers and day-trippers everywhere. Get in to the car, get out there, see the world. Run from whatever it is you’re running from. Come on child, go for a ride! Thank you, Helter Skelter, for playing this.
What we bought:
A book of ee cummings’ poems (I could have got some Robert Frost, too, but decided not to go too crazy; steady on). A fuckload of ciders (Mortimers was the nicest, I thought). Resisted a load of cheap vinyl in Helter Skelter.
House Of The Dead / Crazy golf?:
No. Non. Not a sniff. Get to Bognor Regis or Portsmouth for your lowbrow pursuits, heathens.