Orient, art, est

East meets West

The opulent, lavish Royal Pavilion thrives on jarring viewers, its Anglo-Indian design now a symbol of Brighton.

Some places refuse to choose, preferring to continent-hop instead. We thought we were in the studenty, seaside town of Brighton in the south of England, but find ourselves on an unknown page of the Thousand and One Nights. White openwork onion domes, stone pagodas, carved foliagean architectural meringue, some say, replacing sugar with stucco; a palatial fantasy to others, a residence for the future King George IV during his summer sojourns. Built between 1815 and 1823, the Royal Pavilion became the epitome of the Anglo-Indian style that gave the British Empire its train stations, universities and palaces.

It’s an Oriental mirage that might be home to a maharaja lost between eras, a magnate returning from his travels with porcelain, a Mughal princess sighing under silk-satin ceilings. Here the prince regent, fleeing rigid London, held grand receptions, concerts and dinners (a menu by French chef Antonin Carême was a bacchanalia of 8 soups, 40 starters and 32 desserts). His guests were astonished by the extravagantly equipped kitchens, with range hoods resembling Chinese temples and palm-tree columns sprouting copper leaves. Under the dome of the banquet hall, a huge chandelier hangs from a dragon’s silvered claws, as six small reptiles spit fire of lotus leaves. Need to get your bearings? Enjoy a scone and a cup of Earl Grey in the tearoom overlooking the elms in the garden.

The Royal Pavilion

Noburo Ofuji, animation, art


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