I love a good cup of coffee and a nice piece of cake. Philosopher and I indulge most days.
Back in November 2012, I wrote ‘The Good Scone Guide to Hastings’ for the Hastings Writers’ Group Travel Writing competition. It won third prize but is now a bit out of date, and although scones are wonderful, a Battleaxe also wants cake.
I am concentrating on coffee/teashops, not cafes where cooked food takes prominence, and I know I will have missed some gems. For this post I am only focusing on Hastings town centre and the Old Town.
I need decent coffee and tea, nice cakes, pleasant service in a relaxing, comfortable environment, and good loos. Newspapers, preferably tabloids which we don’t read at home, and outside tables for warm days are also desirable.
Let’s start with the town centre.
The first thing that strikes me is how coffee drinking has taken root in this area. There are three coffee places on the three corners of the main junction – Cafe Nero, Costa and Jempson’s, all with outside tables, and they seem just as busy as the grungy town centre pubs. I am not bothering with chain places so I’ll only say that Nero has particularly good sunny (too sunny – maybe some umbrellas or blinds?) people-watching tables, and I like their iced frappe latte. I love Jempson’s doughnuts and gooey buns, but their coffee is not so good. All these places have poor loos – why? Nero’s is best, but miles away upstairs, Costa’s is both upstairs and dingy, Jempson’s loos are cramped and grim.
|Hastings town centre – Cafe Nero and Costa viewed from Jempsons|
Costa has another branch in Waterstones which is quieter. Also, don’t forget the Debenhams cafe. The coffee and cakes are not the best, but it has great sea views.
Moving on down Robertson Street, you first see the Rye Bay Kitchen. If our old friend +Joe Fearn is reading this in Hull – look away now. This place, next to the Creative Media Centre, was once the F-ish Gallery, where Joe worked, and he was upset when it closed. Now, it is an up-market kitchen shop with coffee place attached. The coffee is excellent, they do nice biscuits, the loos are good, and there are sitting-out tables, but it still feels a bit new and impersonal.
|Rye Bay kitchen|
Across the road, Waterfalls gift shop has a coffee lounge above the shop, run by the same company as Rye Bay. This reminds me very much of the old-style genteel places one visited with one’s mother – scones under glass domes, waitress service, Lloyd Loom wicker chairs, and ladies eating cake with little forks. My mother would have just popped into the hairdresser for ‘a comb-out, dear’, or tried on a Windsmoor two-piece put aside for her at Maud’s Modes. However, don’t go to Waterfalls if you are in a hurry – the service can be slow.
Just nearby is the very popular Cafe des Arts, one of the winners of Hastings Best Scone. It is a nice old building, run as a social enterprise to support people with autism, many of whom work in the cafe. The service can sometimes be a little wild, but it is comfortable, and the cakes, scones and coffee are excellent. It has outside seating, but without much sun, and the wind whipping up Robertson Street from the sea can be a trifle chilly.
|Cafe des Arts|
Round the corner in Trinity Street is Tutti-Frutti’s Tearoom. 1940s/50s themed, this looks a great little place, but Battleaxe has never been in it! If any readers care to comment, this would be welcome. Same applies to a new place, Harcourt’s in Cambridge Road.
Elsewhere in town, the long-established Mr Bean, at the Queens Road end of Priory Meadow, has the best sitting out area of all. Lots of space, wicker chairs and sofas, big umbrellas and free wifi. The only criticism I have is that all their cakes, buns and sandwiches are vast. The Belgian buns would feed four. I think they cater for the larger Hastingas with appetites to match. Again, loos are a steep climb upstairs.
|Mr Bean – good for sitting out|
Moving along to the Old Town, make a detour via the West Hill funicular up to the West Hill Cafe, which must have one of the best views of any eating place in the country. On a fine day, that terrace is simply fabulous, looking out to sea, across the West Hill, over to the Country Park. I’ve mentioned this before but will say it again, that place is a potential gold-mine waiting to be snapped up by some gastro-foodie entrepreneur. As it is now, the decor is dated, outside plastic tables are cracked and wobbly, the jugs and pots pour their contents all over the table rather than in the cup, the loo is outside and chilly, the coffee is variable, but the date slices are fine if sometimes soggy. Still, even with all that, it is one of our most-visited places. Of course, if it was properly run, it would be heaving and you’d never get near it.
|Looking down over the West Hill Cafe across the Old Town|
One of the downsides of Hastings (in my view) is the shortage of sea-view cafes. It is good to see one open in St Leonard’s, but there need to be more on the sea side of the main road and along the front, like in Eastbourne, where cafes are built out onto the beach on decks.
Eat@ The Stade is close, but all you see is that bleak open space. No sea. But it has a good sitting out area, and particularly good home-made biscuits. Inside, it is bright and modern with big windows, but tends to get full of screaming children.The same outfit also run the very nice cafe in Alexandra Park.
The best sea-view is from the cafe at the Jerwood Gallery. They do good coffee, nice cakes and biscuits but of course the downside is getting access to it. You can be a gallery member, which works out quite reasonably. Providing you visit relatively often, it adds about £1 to the cafe prices. Otherwise, you have to pay an entrance fee. Few would want to do this even for a coffee in nice surroundings and a luxury loo.
|View from the Jerwood cafe – a wet day!|
The Land of Green Ginger, in the Old Town High Street, is nice. The coffee is excellent, served with spicy little home-made shortbread biscuits, and we like their ginger parkin, even though we are not vegan. Inside, the cafe can get crowded, hot and very steamy, but they also have a pretty little garden out the back, full of plants and flowers.
George Street is full of pubs, cafes and eating places – it is hard to keep up with them.
However, our absolute favourite is the Hanushka Coffee House. Cosy and comfortable, with book-lined walls, plenty of newspapers, good coffee, tasty cakes and sofas as well as tables, this is a real gem. It also has outside seating. Thanks goodness it survived the recent bad fire in the Old Town. Sadly, the Rebel Gallery next door did not.
I saw this card this morning in the Antiques Warehouse. How life has moved on!
I think that is enough for now. Please comment on any omissions.