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Shelter Hall in Brighton – A Quick Review of the Victorian Food Hall

Shelter Hall in Brighton
Shelter Hall in Brighton on a warm summer night!

There are many complex decisions in life. Starting as a kid, you have to decide some pretty fundamental things in life. What do you want to be in this world? What do you want to do? Where do you want to live and what do you want to become? Life is full of questions, questions, questions, and the answers are always hard to come by.

If you have young kids, you can double, or even treble, the number of questions in your life. The Boy is currently going through his “interested in World War Two phase” and this week I have fielded questions on the range, calibre and capability of every gun ever manufactured since the age of musketry. This is normally when I’m trying to use the toilet.

Going on Mastermind would be a breeze in comparison; if you can answer a child’s questions through a locked door while attending to a call of nature, the black chair of Mastermind would seem like a welcome relief.

None of these questions are as hard as the one that is always asked in our house, which is “What shall we have for dinner?”. Mrs B is a semi-occasional vegetarian, The Girl isn’t interested in anything that isn’t chocolate and the Boy and I will eat meat and vegetables all day long but aren’t fussed about carbs.

So trying to cook something that everyone will enjoy is always a challenge at 5 pm when the children hit peak hunger. If only there was a place to eat where you could get a little bit of everything!

Shelter Hall in Brighton

The view of brighton pier from the Shelter hall
The view of Brighton from the Shelter Hall

Enter, surrounded by a glowing halo and angels singing, the solution that is Shelter Hall in Brighton, a relatively new offering on Brighton seafront at Kings Road Arches. Opened in 2020 as a food hall, it offers 10 different bar and restaurant options under one roof. Since opening, the kitchens have changed a little, but the fundamental concept and offering have not.

I for one am pretty glad something has opened up here. Up until about 2015, it was a bit of a shady area on the seafront. Flanked on one side by some terrifying-looking public toilets and the Brighton stalwart pub, the Fortune of War, on the other side, the original Shelter Hall was in a prime spot on the seafront.

A typically Victorian circular building, it was originally built in 1899 as a refuge from the frequent British rain for well-heeled holidaymakers – hence the name. Of course, over time, much like the rest of Brighton, it became a bit run down and a haunt for some of the more unsavoury elements of Brighton’s vibrant and well-established street-drinking-and-shouting-at-pigeons scene.

Fortunately, for those of us with teeth, the potential of the site was recognised by investors with pound signs for eyes, and after many years of patient refurbishment, Shelter Hall was transformed into a great dining location with some impressive seaside views.

Mrs B was keen to try it out as we were in town to see Van Gogh Alive! And, being child-free for a couple of hours, we decided that a nice, grown-up dinner would round off the evening nicely.

Booking Shelter Hall Brighton

a view of the old pier at Brighton beach
The other view from the Shelter Hall, a fantastic place to eat out in Brighton

Firstly, and this goes without saying, you’ll be well advised to book in advance, like most restaurants in Brighton. On a nice hot summer evening, Brighton is bustling and it’s a wildly popular location. Get on the website and make a booking.

Depending on your preferences, there are tables inside, or for a small premium, you can sit on one of the balconies for the full sea view experience. Balcony reservations require a minimum prepayment spend of £30 per person, which you paid at the time of booking, but don’t worry, Shelter Hall will turn that into a voucher for you to spend your prepayment inside.

Be warned though, that while the balcony seats have a lovely view of the beach, this works both ways because the seagulls on the beach have a lovely view of your food and are not averse to swooping in for some snacks if you leave your table unguarded for anything more than four or five milliseconds. 

Get the Shelter Hall App

The other thing you’ll need to do in advance is download the Shelter Hall app to your smartphone. All orders are taken via the app and from there you can browse the menus and drinks and pay in advance via card or Apple/Google Pay.

This is great if you’re short of time and need to exit quickly to get back home for babysitters, or the fact that parking in central Brighton will set you back ten million pounds an hour. All your orders, and the status of them, are updated in the app and also confirmed by email.

Inside Shelter Hall

the view of the ground floor at Shelter Hall
The lower hall of Shelter Hall with the kitchens for all to sea

We were greeted at the entrance by one of the very friendly team and once we’d confirmed that we had indeed booked, we were informed that as it was a quieter time, we had a choice of indoor (upstairs) seating, or outdoor (street level) seating.

Ever mindful of the seagull threat, and reasoning that we might get a bit of a view upstairs anyway, we opted for upstairs, which turned out to be a good call as the interior was nicely cool on a summer’s day.

Our table was near the window anyway, so it was as good as damnit as a balcony table. Once sat down, we perused the app.

chicken wrap on a plate
The chicken wrap

The kitchens at the moment are Chick ‘n’ Bun (American-inspired fried chicken buns, wraps and salads), Coffee and Cake (Seasonal macarons and cakes), Amalfi (Tasty, authentic Neapolitan pizza, meat and cheese direct from the Amalfi Coast), Patty Guy (smash burgers, milkshake and sides from MasterChef winner Kenny Tutt), Sear (grilled meats & sides, courtesy of the Salt Shed team), Cairovan (contemporary Egyptian street food), RYBKA (fish and chips), the Skylark Cocktail Bar and the Shelter Hall Bar.

Ordering was easy – push a few buttons on the app, pay online and your order goes straight through to the relevant kitchen.  Mrs B and I were heavily tempted by the range of food from Cairovan, both opting for the chicken wraps (£12 each) with a side of the Zaatar humous (£6), with coffee from the Bar for Mrs B (£3.70) and a lemonade (£2.50) for me.

a view of the old Brighton pier from Shelter Hall in Brighton
View from our table. Whilst a balcony is a lovely thought, being on the first floor still gives you great views

What seemed like only a few minutes later, our food and drink were in front of us. Now, a bit like eating in Wagamamas, as you’re ordering from different places, stuff comes out as and when it’s ready, so be prepared to have a mix of plates turning up at different times.

The chicken wraps were delicious – hot, fresh and accompanied by generous sides, although Mrs B found the chilli sauce a little too hot for her tastes. If you’re not into burning your mouth, probably ask for that to be left off.

It was then over to Coffee and Cake for after-dinner coffee and cake and again, we both opted for the same thing – an individual strawberry cheesecake (£6 each).

But be prepared, I was expecting a sort of traditional cheesecake, but what appeared was more of a modern interpretation of a cheesecake, which was unexpected in terms of texture but otherwise good.

looking through a circular window at Brighton Shelter hall
Plenty of photo opportunities from this window

Having been sat down for nearly an hour, and having enjoyed a brief flirtation with freedom it was probably time to return back home to let the babysitters in the shape of Grandma and Grandad B escape back home.

It was here that prepaying really is a good idea, because as soon as you’re good to go, you can just stroll out and thank the staff instead of the normal tortuous charade at the end of a meal where you give the international signal for “Can I have the bill please?”, someone brings you the bill, you pretend to study it, you ask for them to come back with the card machine, you die of old age, and so forth.

None of that here. Up. Gone. Home.

Brighton beach at sunset

So if you’re sitting at home wondering what to have for dinner with your better half, and you’re not sure, the answer is definitely Shelter Hall. It was with a little bit of regret that we left, but that was mostly because I was sure I would return to several questions from my son on the effective range of a Tommy Gun.

Maybe he’s the one preparing for Mastermind.

Shelter Hall is located at the Kings Road Arches, Brighton, BN1 1NB. You can drop them an email at hello@shelterhall.co.uk and they’re open Monday to Thursday between 11:30 am—11 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am—12 am and on Sunday 11:30 am—10 pm. Happy eating.

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