When I visited Bom-Bane’s in Brighton it was a stereotypical autumnal evening; very cold, very dark, and very windy. Said breeze had helpfully whetted our appetites, and so stumbling into Bom-Banes to be greeted by a truly wonderful aroma wafting from the open kitchen was very, very welcome. We were also greeted, not two steps through the door, by Jane Bom-Bane herself.
Now I may be biased as Jane has been somewhat of an idol of mine since I first saw her play the Edinburgh Festival ten years ago, but personally I don’t think you could ask for a lovelier host to welcome you. She has looks that Snow White and any self-respecting 1950s pin up girl would be envious of, and puts you immediately at ease with a brilliantly warm and simultaneously mischievous smile. Jane has been running Bom-Bane’s - a café-come-restaurant which you can (and should) find in Brighton, at 24 George Street – for just over five years, and it’s easy to see why the place is so popular among locals and visitors alike.
Once inside, the atmosphere is cosy and convivial: think steamed up windows, warm lighting, and a brilliantly eclectic playlist in the background – more on music later. There are two floors to Bom-Bane’s and sadly I didn’t glimpse downstairs on this visit, but I gather that it’s a little bigger than upstairs, and so is suitable for larger groups. Never mind about missing down below though as upstairs had plenty to keep my beady eyes busy. One wall was a collage of younger visitors’ doodles (to which, of course, I contributed), while others proudly display posters for bands and gigs or showcase local artists’ work. Different instruments scatter the restaurant; from violins to dulcimers and even a harmonium. Music really is a huge part of the charm of Bom-Bane’s: we went on a Tuesday which is their weekly live music night (films on Wednesdays), so from downstairs there came the delicate sounds of guitar, double bass, elfin-like male and female voices, and I’m sure at one point spoons. The music added to the atmosphere of the place beautifully! I mentioned before that I had seen Jane perform at the fringe: she plays the harmonium while singing exquisitely delicate songs which are brilliantly bizarre (a firm favourite of mine is ‘President Pompidou’) and yet bursting with heartfelt thought and emotion. I was pleased to hear then that the playlist prior to downstairs’ gig showcased some of Jane’s best songs, as well as a fair few stunningly intricate Nick Pynn pieces (another hero of mine), all of which were nestled in among other musical treats from the likes of Talking Heads and Blondie (yet more heroes).
The other feature of Jane’s performances which captivated my younger self was her collection of homemade mechanical hats. Yes, I said mechanical hats. Examples include a goldfish bowl and - my personal favourite - a hat which accompanies the song ‘Edinburgh Rock’ and features a replica Edinburgh castle which has flashing lights and a small train circling around the base. I didn’t see the hats on this visit (although I hear they do make appearances) however I was treated instead to probably my favourite part of the whole restaurant – the tables! Each is entirely unique – from the ‘Uns-table’ which seemingly rises and falls throughout the evening, to the ‘Water Table’ which contains a miniature replica of the Brighton Pier complete with waves, working roundabouts and twinkling lights. We were seated at a table which I presumed had no special feature as there was nothing immediately obvious, however my Dad - who is an even bigger fan of Bom-Bane’s than I am - subtly pointed out that if you lifted the salt shaker from the middle of our table a gentle tinkling sound began, which came from a set of chimes mounted on the wall: we had been seated at the ‘Twenty-Seven Chimes Table’ – simply magnificent!
I’ve come all this way without even mentioning the food – testament, I feel, to the fact that there’s plenty to keep you contentedly distracted from your belly while you wait. The fare is simple, homely, and oh-so delicious. There’s a bit of a Belgian theme going on so there’s stoemp, sausages and waffles on the menu, as well as some tasty looking daily soups, curry, and a vegetable hotpot I was sorely tempted by. I chose one ostrich sausage and one Oxford pork sausage to go with some stoemp and a lovely thick gravy - it was beautifully presented and tasted amazing. A little bit of spice in the sausages was balanced perfectly with the creamy taste of the potato. The impressive selection of Belgian beers was difficult to choose from, but in the end a bottle of Hapkin and another of Leifmans Kriekbeer helped to wash everything down a treat. To top it all off I had a homemade chocolate and walnut brownie – a spot on mix of chewy and gooey - accompanied by a seriously good coffee which woke me up just enough to make it back home.
My night at Bom-Bane’s had all it needed; warmth, colour, beautiful music and delicious food, all finished off with a great big helping of quirk and mild eccentricity. What more could you ask for? I’d highly recommend a visit if you’re near Brighton: here’s the website more information http://www.bom-banes.co.uk/ .
Say hello from me to the star of the show, the ever lovely Jane Bom-Bane!