Do you ever those weeks where every night you have a nightmare? Over the last week I’ve been chased by a ghost that looked remarkably like Maggie Thatcher and a couple of nights ago I was bitten by a rabid dog. I’ve done what everyone does in the modern age and that is consult the internet as to what it means. After bypassing the ads for dream-catchers and mood rings, I got to the verdict: I’m bloody stressed. Anyway, last night I had pretty much the nicest dream I’ve ever had. I was a good couple of stone slimmer, at least half a foot taller and everything was just great. The sun was shining and I was casually strolling around Brighton as if seeing it for the first time, all to an amalgamation of my favourite songs. My mood, when I woke up, could have only been bettered by turning round, looking in a mirror and seeing I’d managed to keep the couple of stone off, so when I got told I was off to a cool new hangout to drink and eat pizza, I must have looked like the Cheshire Cat.
Velvet Jacks opposite Norfolk Square on Western Road has that awesome welcoming vibe that places all too often try to emulate, but all too often fail at. It’s an atmosphere that not only radiates warmth, but also feels like invisible hands are excitedly coaxing you into it. This feeling overwhelmed me as I walked up to the café-bar and immediately, we were greeted with customers who had the same sort of Cheshire Cat smiles I had worn myself earlier in the day. The rustic wooden tables are accentuated not only by lovely bursts of colour throughout the bar, but also by the ornate and interesting dappled effect that spreads over the ceiling, making the place look like a friendly cave. A quick trip to the toilet confirmed its continuation of effective and unique décor as I noted the rainbow lights going down the stairs, the sparkly loo seat and flamingo wallpaper!
I was surprised it was so busy mid-week and on such a sunny day, when most locals normally stomp in herds to the beach with a cheap four pack… however this place has some seriously appealing deals during in their Happy Hour (4-7pm), such as two cocktails for a tenner and 3 for 2 on bottles of beer.
I overheard someone talking about the quiz and asked why this one was so special (because let’s be honest, there is some stiff competition in the Brighton world of quizzes). Costing £2.50 to enter but including pizza – yes really – Velvet Jacks run it like a crazy version of the National Lottery by all accounts, with some rounds involving hands-on tasks like ‘what’s in the bag’ and a choice at the end of picking three envelopes; a booby prize, a boozy prize and cash. If the money isn’t picked then off it rolls to the next week. Making a mental note of the date (every other Tuesday, but more often if its current popularity continues), I sat down with my first drink. It was an exceptionally lovely and smooth Pinot Noir (175ml £4.80) that really did taste of the cherries that it purported to. I heard that the wines had been rigorously selected by friends of owners Eve and Jackie, who ‘sampled’ a whole selection of possibilities, narrowing it down to their favourites.
Surveying the pizza menu, there was only one option for me – The Meat Treat (£7.90), while my dining companion opted for the Classic Jack (£7.50). The pizzas are ten inches of wood fired gorgeousness and have that really tasty stringy mozzarella that makes the whole thing a messy but incredibly rewarding experience. I’m not usually a fan of chicken on pizza, but the smoky flavour and succulence made this a cut-above, complimenting the salami and pepperoni perfectly. The olives were excellent, as were all the ingredients and it was clear that they had gone to some length to ensure that only the highest quality fare made the cut. In the daytime they serve sandwiches and cakes, all of which sounded like the sort of food that would ensure I never attained the lithe figure from last night’s dream. I washed the lovely slices down with an Espresso Martini, which were two for a tenner as it was 6.30pm, and can genuinely say it was one of the nicest I’ve had. This was due to the high quality of the coffee used, and the liberal glug of booze. Velvet Jacks is LGBT, Dog/People friendly and it really was very unusual to find somewhere so welcoming. I left feeling incredibly happy and full, more than a little tipsy and can say with absolute certainty that I’ll be back- not only for the food but for the quiz night too. So if you see an overly competitive blonde girl with mozzarella running down her face and many empty martini glasses at her side, then you know who it is.