Best coffee and cafes in St Leonard’s

After my post on Best Coffee Places in Hastings, I had many St Leonardsistas complaining that I had left their cafes out, despite me saying that I was only concentrating on Hastings Town Centre and the Old Town.  Well, now it is time to put that right, so off to St Leonard’s we go. 
    Once again, I apologise for any omissions – I can’t be calling in everywhere, I’d have extreme caffeine overload and be twenty stone.
    Also, I was asked about access for people with disabilities. I don’t actually think any of the places I’ve mentioned here have an accessible toilet, and some are downright awkward even for the able-bodied.
    Just to recap, to get my highest rating (and I’m introducing a star rating now), cafes must have:
–  a comfortable, pleasant and welcoming interior,
–  inside and and outside seating,
–  good quality coffee and tea,
–  nice cakes,
–  good clean loos,
–  pleasant, efficient, fast service,
–  interesting reading matter 
–  fresh, tasty, reasonably priced  food.
I don’t go for dark bar-type places full of pounding music and brooding youth.
    So, starting off on the sea-front opposite Warrior Square, it is good to find a seaside cafe. Position is great, but is exposed to any wind whipping along the front. No inside seating. Coffee is not good, cakes were stale last time we went, and I don’t like those Warrior Square loos. So, only ** I’m afraid, despite the location.

Sea front – somewhat exposed
A little basic….

     Just to agitate a few locals before I move on. Yes, I think the nearby fish and chip kiosk looks just fine. I gather there are plans to put more kiosks along the front, on top of Bottle Alley and I think it is an excellent plan. The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned, to bring more trade. However, I hope we’ll have some slightly better food and drink on offer, and some proper seating, like the places on the beachfront in Eastbourne.
     Anyway, on the other side of the road we have Gecko, Smiths and Kassa. I’m sure Gecko is fine but it doesn’t seem to be open at coffee time, and looks more like a bar hang-out aimed at youth. I’ve never been in there. I may be wrong, and it may be full of Guardian-reading persons of a certain age, but it doesn’t give that impression.

Kassa, Smiths and Gecko on Grand Parade

     Smiths is next door to Gecko, and we visit it often. Outside seating is limited and it can be noisy by the road. Inside, it can get hot from the sun and steamy in winter. They need an awning to provide shade, or blinds for the windows.
      Coffee is good, cakes are good but not much choice.  Menu is extensive, food is excellent and reasonably priced, and they do very good fresh juices. I love their egg dishes, their salads and their Welsh rarebit. Service is pleasant, but can be slow at busy times. Loo is OK, and there is usually plenty of reading matter. **** for Smiths, I think.

Sunny view from Smiths

      A few doors up, Kassa is a strange place – a middle-eastern cafe crossed with a coffee shop crossed with an opticians.  It is clearly popular, and feels like a local’s haunt, not always that welcoming for strangers. There is some outside seating, and plenty of comfortable seating inside. Coffee is fine, food is cheap and tasty and there is plenty of reading matter. Loos are fine. Last time we went we had to wait absolutely ages. I don’t know if this is typical but it was a bit off-putting. ***
      Round the corner into London Road, passing the One Cafe, which I have never visited. Looks quite quirky though.
      Opposite, on the corner of Norman Road is the Love Cafe. It is a real local landmark with a vibrant mural outside. The mural used to be a Ben Eine (as given by Cameron to Obama) pixilated Prince Charles, but that has been replaced. I have been into the cafe, but not for a long time, so I won’t give it a rating. It has plenty of outside seating, and a quirky interior, but when we did go, the service was totally chaotic. In my view, life is stressful enough without having to contend with chaotic catering.

Love Cafe

      Across the road is The Little Larder, with, in fine weather, an outside courtyard next door but one. The cafe is tiny, and feels quite cramped. When you can get a seat the food and drink are deliciously tasty and are served up pleasantly and promptly. They do particularly good savoury tarts with a choice of salads. Plenty of reading matter. There is a loo, but you have to scramble through the kitchen to reach it.***

Little Larder

      Just up the road is the Baker Mamonova Gallery – a fantastic and interesting space, specialising in Russian art, and now made even more fantastic with the addition of Michala’s Cute Cakes, which has moved across the road from Shop (which still has a cafe, but now looks a bit sad without the cakes). Michala’s cakes are really to die for – and I think after visiting here too often, one would indeed die. They only serve cakes, nothing savoury. The cakes are very rich, and the portions are enormous. The other day we shared lemon meringue pie, which was a bit lighter than the killer salted caramel we had the previous time. Coffee is very good, service is impersonal, but functional. No outside space.
     The loo is very strange, thorough an unmarked door across the gallery floor. On the wall, there is a faintly spooky stag’s head and a pair of crossed skis (that looks wrong, should it be ski’s?) for decoration. Last time I was in there the light suddenly went out and left me scrabbling around in total darkness. If it had been a comedy movie, I would have reeled out into the light wearing the head and clutching the skis, but no.  ****

Cake heaven
Gallery and cake…
Unusual loo decor

      The shops on Kings Road change round too often to keep up with. I see a new cafe is shortly to open in the wonderful old Art Nouveau-style shop – this looks promising, and let’s hope they preserve it. There was another place further up on the same side but it seems to have vanished. Moose’s Kitchen seems well-established but have never tried it – looks a bit healthy to me.
      Opposite Moose’s, Jempson’s took over a nice old shop a while ago and turned it into a bland, soulless cafe. Their sandwiches are boring and the coffee is flavourless, but I will still be requesting a Jempson’s doughnut on my deathbed. I just love them. Loo is up steep stairs. * for the doughnuts alone.
      Round the corner is Roomz. Yeah, like a too awesomely youth place for Battleaxe.
      Down on the sea-front, Poffley’s Coffee Shop has taken over the premises first occupied by Aardvark, and then by the Post Office Tearooms. We still miss David and Peter. In its current incarnation, Poffley’s has set up more outside seating, but many of the interior seats in the front of the cafe are hard wooden benches, leading to a slightly spartan feel. The coffee is good, so are the cakes, and indeed, so are the sandwiches. Service is fast and friendly. Loo is OK. ***


      Poffley’s is opposite the Azur, which I always think of as more of a restaurant, so I won’t include it. I think it could make much more of its beachside catering facility.
      Further along, beneath Marine Court, there is the Armenian Cafe Relax – never been there.
      I think that’s all. So which gets my top rating? (OK, only from the one’s I have visited).  For food, Smiths or the Little Larder. For coffee and cake – Michala’s Cute Cakes at the Baker Mamonova Gallery.
      Please let me know what I have left out or got wrong!

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