‘Retro’ is having a resurgence in many different facets of culture. Vinyl, vintage clothes, analogue photography… In an increasingly digitalised world, our spending habits are driving us to more tangible and collectable products to find nostalgia. Tucked away neatly on the edge of Gardener Street in North Laine, Boo Diddley’s is playing its part in the retro gaming revival. The café is serving up snacks and sweet treats alongside the chance to play with different retro gaming consoles.
The café takes its name from Mario’s notorious ghost enemies, ‘Boos’, formerly known as ‘Boo Diddleys’ in the earlier games. They first appear in Super Mario Bros. 3, and continue to haunt Mario and his posse well into the franchise. Boo Diddley’s owner, Stephen Varley, discusses the ethos of the café and how he became interested in retro gaming.
Stephen has designed a café for customers to relax and play retro-style consoles and arcade games. “I’ve been running an online business selling video games for the past seven or eight years and a lot of these old consoles I grew up playing. Rather than open a generic shop, I thought I would try to create a social gaming space.” Now in its sixth month of business, the café is kitted out with a Space Invaders-themed arcade machine, a Nintendo 64 console, GameCube and much more. There are also video games and gaming merchandise available for purchase in-store.
On our table sits a SNES mini console, a modern replica of the original nineties Super Nintendo system. It’s preloaded with over 20 games for you to play while you enjoy your coffee, smoothie or milkshake, including Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Mario Kart. The wall of the café is suitably painted with an incredible mural featuring some of these iconic Nintendo world characters. Brighton-based illustrator, Chloe Batchelor (@chloe_studios), has interpreted these distinct gaming figures in her own unique, fun and friendly style.
In Brighton, coffee standards are high with such a large concentration of coffee shops in the city. Supplying authentic independent coffee from Italy, this makes Boo Diddley’s flat white excellently rich and smooth (£2.65). Alternatively, you can choose from one of their five gaming-themed smoothies. I chose Spyro’s Triple Berry, a perfect blend of strawberry, raspberry and blueberry (from £3.85).
The retro gaming café is constantly evolving the space as well as its menu. Originally starting out as a cake and coffee shop, Boo Diddley’s now offers toasted sandwiches and salads for a healthier option. “We’ve gradually grown the menu to find out what works,” Stephen tells me they recently adopted sourdough from Flour Pot Bakery for their toasted sandwiches. I try the Avocado, Tomato, and Red Onion Melt with a blend of mozzarella and cheddar cheese (£4.75). The sandwich is crisp with a soft, gooey centre (vegan cheese can be substituted in for just 30p).
Stephen explains how catering to different dietary requirements is a priority of the café. “We do want to be quite ethical on that front and not just offer a token gesture. We have quite an even spread of things.” Typically, on sale in the sweet section includes a vegan and gluten-free banana loaf, a gluten-free triple-tiered lemon drizzle cake, vegan cookies and brownies. The milkshakes on sale at Boo Diddley’s – with mouth-watering flavours such as Oreo and peanut butter (from £3.85) – can easily be made vegan, swapping in oat milk and dairy-free ice-cream. He adds: “There are business ethics and morals behind what we do too. We are powered by 100% green energy and all of our takeaway cups and straws are made from vegetables.”
The café is also available for private hire: “children’s birthdays, private parties, whatever your needs we can help make your event truly awesome!”. The café will be hosting a number of gaming nights and tournaments over the coming months, with it’s newly extended opening hours 11am-9pm and BYOB at £3/ head, so there is a lot to get excited about in this sweet little gem of a café.
Don’t forget! Boo Diddley’s is offering 20% off your next bill to customers who show the poster at the till! So take in your BN1 copy or take a snap of the poster opposite and show to a member of staff next time you’re in. Offer ends 31 October.
Boo Diddley’s is on 53 Gardner St, Brighton. Open daily, 11am-9pm.