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 It won third prize but is now a bit out of date, and although scones are wonderful, a Battleaxe also wants cake.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|
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|
|Cafe des Arts|
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|
|Looking down over the West Hill Cafe across the Old Town|
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!|
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 think that is enough for now. Please comment on any omissions.