Super-chic for shoppers in West Sussex

TheWest Sussex city that dares to be different

It’s hard being different. As in, it’s difficult to stand out. Particularly when you’re dressed |in a uniform, like the one worn by British high streets. Credit to Chichester, then, for managing |to differentiate itself from the crowd.

You have to pay attention to spot the differences. Arriving in the city centre at 9am, my first impression (Waterstone’s, Russell & Bromley, Starbucks, HMV, Superdrug, Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser) was of a pleasant ubiquity. That’s perhaps because I was expecting something uniquely boutiquey: it’s known as Chic-hester now.

But, looking a little closer, I saw character poking through the shopping surface. The centre, which spreads out from the focal Market Cross (a beautiful ancient monument) along the straightforwardly named North, East, West and South Streets, has an Edinburgh Woollen Mill, a Laura Ashley and a Past

Times, all playing to the old-world atmosphere. And in among these shops, there are a number of engagingly quirky independent names, such as Marigold, Stephen Lawrence and Liberté.

I needed a proper breakfast. Manfully ignoring Caffè Nero, I became the day’s first customer at Crispins Café. The china here has swirly avocado edging and the cappuccino comes with lots of chocolate on top. There’s a sign on the wall protesting at the number of coffee shop chains around, below a blackboard citing numerous sandwich filling and cooked breakfast variations, with which Crispins is determined to beat off the upstart competition.

Dazed by the level of choice, I mumbled “full English” and knuckled down, emerging altogether better equipped to read between Chichester’s lines.

There are, in fact, lots of one-off shops selling designer kit here. I cracked the code behind the emphatically named Little London Boutique, Pushka Boutique and Mousetrap... Boutique. And once I’d cottoned on to these islands of difference, I found they were numerous enough to navigate by. In particular, I island-hopped chocolate shops: there are enough original confectioners (Montezuma’s, Hotel Chocolat and the Sweet Jar, to name a few) to satisfy the sweetest tooth.

It struck me that, just as savvy schoolchildren manage to stand out by wearing their uniform differently to the rest, so Chichester has reworked its high street with these studs of tasty uniqueness.

Apart from the shops, there’s a great cathedral to visit. Sitting close to the central crossroads, it towers above the pedestrian precincts, the city walls, the nearby Chichester Harbour, and the surrounding Sussex countryside. The history of Chichester Cathedral stretches back to AD681, when St Wilfrid brought Christianity to Sussex and established a cathedral in Selsey, south of Chichester. After 1066, the Norman policy was for cathedrals to serve large population centres rather than small communities. The groundwork for the cathedral was laid in 1076 and it was finally consecrated in 1108. In 1861, the centuries-old spire collapsed, whereupon the Victorians rebuilt it a few feet higher. Don’t miss Marc Chagall’s stained-glass window and the extensive cathedral gardens tucked around the back.

Chichester’s award-winning Pallant House Gallery is also inside the city walls – and therefore within easy walking distance. It has a terrific modern British art collection, including works by John Piper, Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore, as well as a great programme of temporary and touring exhibitions. The gallery fuses an 18th-century Queen Anne town house with a sharp-edged contemporary wing opened in 2006.

Wandering from room to room means criss-crossing from old to new and back again. You’ll work up quite an appetite doing this and the Field & Fork restaurant, in the courtyard to the rear of the gallery, is just the place to fill up. It serves imaginative, locally sourced food in a chic setting. I can vouch for the maple-glazed, slow-roasted pork belly, and carrot coleslaw.

The city is also known for the Chichester Festival Theatre, which opened in 1962 under the artistic directorship of Sir Laurence Olivier. It was the first modern theatre in this country to have an open “thrust” stage, around which the audience sits on three sides. The theatre still attracts big names: Patrick Stewart starred in Macbeth recently and Joseph Fiennes in Cyrano de Bergerac. The show I saw – 42nd Street – played to a capacity (1,200) crowd, many of whom appeared to know all the words.

The surrounding countryside ranges from the sandy beaches at Selsey and West Wittering to the rolling South Downs (part of Britain’s newest national park). I visited Goodwood House, seat of the Duke of Richmond, and the centrepiece of a 12,000-acre estate famous for its horse racing (Glorious Goodwood) and vintage motorsports (Goodwood Revival and the Festival of Speed). Celebrities flock to these events, but nothing was racing the day I went, so I enjoyed the English parkscape and countryside undisturbed by hoof-beats, revving engines, or Sharon Osbourne, who, along with Kate Moss and Keith Richards, has been spotted locally of late.

They weren’t out that evening in Chichester’s nightclubs, either. I knew that because, over a superb dinner at The Royal Oak in nearby East Lavant, with the owner, Charles Ullmann, I learnt that there aren’t any nightclubs in the centre of Chichester. This helps to keep it chic: another little difference buried beneath the surface.

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

* Crispins café, 46 East Street (01243 533 544)

* Chichester Cathedral, (01243 782 595; chichestercathedral.org.uk). Admission: free

* Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant (01243 774 557; pallant.org.uk ). Admission: £7.50

* The Field & Fork, 9 North Pallant (01243 770 827; fieldandfork.co.uk )

* Goodwood (horse racing, motorsport: 01243 755 055; goodwood.co.uk ).

* Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park (01243 784 437; cft.org.uk )

* The Royal Oak, Pook Lane, East Lavant (01243 527 434; royaloakeastlavant.co.uk )

More information

* visitchichester.org

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower