There are two things which provide what Humphrey Lyttleton referred to as balm to my soul - complete and instant - a really good cup of coffee in my favourite coffee bar, and the music of Roy Harper (the latter I'll come back to at a later date in a more full post but more from him down below). I've always been a fan of the general romance of coffee bars, from the revolutionary meeting places in the 17th and 18th centuries, to the bohemian enclaves of the late 50s and early 60s with their frothy cappuccinos and cool jazz on the jukebox. I've heard it said in various places that the coffee bar you choose can act as the barometer of your personality, and I'd go along with that. Wherever you can relax and be yourself is going to allow the real you to show through and after a long search, I've found I can let my hair down in a tiny little coffee bar about five minutes away from where I live. My checklist was, on the surface at least, deceptively simple:
- friendly staff (there is one coffee bar in Brighton which shall remain nameless, but the staff are breathtakingly rude. And, I've never had my existence altered by their baked goods.)
- excellent, well-made, independent coffee (chain brand coffee sits around for too long and is not too good for your digestive system. Plus I like to support the locals.)
- a playlist that surprises even me (some favourites, some obscure tracks, and some that make me rush home to do a Google search)
- funky, arty atmosphere without being too hipster and arch about it (you know the places I mean)
- really comfy couches (if I'm going to sip and daydream then I need to be able to spread out a bit)
- cakes are not a deal breaker for me (although a bit of chocolate never goes amiss)
It's taken me a year and I've encountered some also-rans along the way - the chain store plan Bs (I know) where the coffee is so bad that I ended up with IBS, the places that spend a fortune on decor and then forget about the beverages, the great coffee but uncomfortable seating, the 90% fabulous that then went out of business. It was a hell of a search and you'd think it would be easier in a place like Brighton, but alas no. I actually found Redwood (and I'm risking everything by spilling the beans on this one because you might all nick my couch) pretty much by accident. They say that you fall in love when you aren't looking for love, when you've pretty much given up and resigned yourself to living with a cat. That was how it was with Redwood. It was a sunny day, one of the first of this year, and my feet were hurting, and I was almost home but not quite, and I needed a coffee.
And there it was. Phenomenal comfy couches, fantastic coffee, insanely good playlists, really laid-back atmosphere, lovely chatty staff, AND some actually rather good cake. If you have an americano, it comes in a comforting bowl cup that you can sip and gaze out of the window, or listen to the playlist and let your mind drift. I find that I get a lot of writing and thinking done there, and then I'm all empowered and energized for the rest of the day. I've even done some sketching and painting in there with my portable art kit and some sketchbooks. I feel immensely comfortable in there and thoroughly myself, and if you happen to stop by and I'm there I will probably buy you a coffee. My next mission is to get them to put some Roy Harper on the playlist and then I really will be blissed out.