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Looking down over the West Hill Cafe across to the Old Town

Best coffee places in Hastings

I love a good cup of coffee and a nice piece of cake. Philosopher and I indulge most days. Hastings Battleaxe, aka Stephanie Gaunt, lists her favourites.

Card in the Antiques Warehouse. How life has moved on!

Back in November 2012 , I wrote ‘The Good Scone Guide to Hastings’ for  the Writers’ Group Travel Writing competition. It won third prize but is now a bit out of date, and wonderful though scones are, Battleaxe also wants cake.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 focusing on Hastings town centre and the Old Town. I like decent coffee and tea, nice cakes, pleasant service in a relaxing, comfortable environment, and good loos. Newspapers, preferably tabloids which we don’t get at home, and outside tables for warm days are also desirable.

Hastings town centre - Cafe Nero and Costa viewed from Jempsons

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. 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.

Rye Bay kitchen

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.

Waterfalls

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.

Cafe des Arts

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 little off-putting. Round the corner in Trinity Street is Tutti-Frutti’s Tearoom. Inside1940s/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.

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

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.

Eat@The Stade

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,

View from the Jerwood cafe - a wet day!

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.

The Land of Green Ginger, in the Old Town High Street, is good. 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 nice little garden out the back, full of plants and flowers.

Hanushka's

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.  Thank 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.

Posted 16:01 Tuesday, Jun 3, 2014 In: Food & Drink

17 Comments

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  1. Jane Watson

    I frequently visit Tutti Frutti’s in Trinity Street. Delicious food at very reasonable prices, friendly service and lovely nostalgic surroundings!

    Comment by Jane Watson — Thursday, Jun 19, 2014 @ 09:22

  2. coffee online

    GARY ROUTE STREET LEONARDS The Russian Gallery, fab java, natural wonderful cakes almost all with beautiful environment as well as an art gallery, the particular java is to kick the bucket fir advertisement would be the cakes, incredibly retro. Additional is really a brand new Bohemian “feel” to this particular area as well as you’ll find really ohydrates couple of excellent cafes/coffee stores.

    coffee

    online

    Comment by coffee online — Friday, Jun 13, 2014 @ 06:20

  3. Chris Green

    I love the West Hill cafe. I think the cakes and coffee compare to any in the Old Town. The food has always been tasty and good quality when I’ve had a meal and reasonably priced. I hope that some upmarket outfit doesn’t get it’s hands on this lovely,beautifully situated venue. I like it just as it is. Dave is a friendly helpful guy who supports local events and has become part of the West Hill community. Long may he remain serving lovely food.

    Comment by Chris Green — Thursday, Jun 12, 2014 @ 14:04

  4. Belinda Cockburn

    Hanoushka has the best loo in town! It’s our absolute favourite coffee shop and people watching and meeting venue!

    Comment by Belinda Cockburn — Thursday, Jun 5, 2014 @ 18:29

  5. Barbara Rogers

    I agree with Janey, Harcourt’s is really worth checking out. Very personal, friendly service. Sadly, though, not wheelchair-accessible.

    Comment by Barbara Rogers — Thursday, Jun 5, 2014 @ 09:56

  6. Janey

    Tutti-Frutti’s is fabulous! I went on Shrove Tuesday for pancakes, which were the perfect pre-Mardi Gras feast. I’ve also to one of their movie nights, where guests vote for the film they would like to see which is then projected onto an old curtain. There is an intermission with tea and sandwiches. It’s just charming!

    Harcourt’s is also worth a visit. The lovely owner (whose name I’ve forgotten … sorry) has an amazing selection of unusual teas which she can guide you through and where possible the food is local, including the most amazing cheese scones. Yummy!

    Comment by Janey — Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 @ 20:58

  7. Peter Mann

    OOPS! RELAX IS MOLDOVIAN.

    Comment by Peter Mann — Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 @ 18:51

  8. Peter Mann

    THE MORAVIAN OWNED ESTABLISHMENT CALLED RELAX IN MARINE COURT HAS IT ALL-FINE COFFEES,TEAS,ESPECIALLY THEIR PRESSED MORAVIAN TEA,EXCELLENT HOMEMADE CAKES.LOTS OF PAINTINGS AND SEAVIEW OF COURSE.HOT FOOD ALSO PROVIDED.

    THE PERSIAN OWNED KASSA IN GRAND PARADE PROVIDES EXCELLENT TEAS,COFFEES,HOMEMADE CAKES AS WELL AS HOT FOOD AND IT OPENS EARLY.THERE ARE COMFORTABLE SOFAS,NEWSPAPERS,A LEISURELY ATTITUDE AND SURELY IT MUST BE THE ONLY CAFE IN THE UK WITH A QUALIFIED OPTICIANS.

    BUT THE FINEST VIEW AND BEST CREAM TEAS IN TOWN(REAL RASPBERRY JAM,NOT THIN STRAWBERRY WITH NO STRAWBERRIES)MUST OF COURSE BE AZUR ON THE PROMENADE.NO VEHICLE FUMES AND TRAFFIC NOISE THERE AS THE BUILDING PROTECTS YOU AS YOU SIT IN THE SUN OVERLOOKING THE BEACH.

    Comment by Peter Mann — Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 @ 18:40

  9. David Williams

    We seem to have been missed in your ramblings around Hastings & St Leonards. Gecko Bars, at 22 Grand Parade, just west of Warrior Square, serves coffee, cappuccino, latte, mocha, leaf tea *and* has one of the few sea views in Hastings and St Leonards. We also slice up a cake of the day and have an art exhibition every six weeks to two months.

    Comment by David Williams — Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 @ 17:50

  10. Stephanie Gaunt

    As Chris says above, I will do St Leonard’s coffee places shortly. Not long ago I did a post on St Leonard’s antique shops which mentioned quite a few coffee shops, which also appeared on HOT,(see ‘A Rummage with the Battleaxe’, in Shops and Things), so I thought I would focus on Hastings town centre and Old Town this time. Battleaxe can’t spend all day eating cake….

    Comment by Stephanie Gaunt — Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 @ 13:36

  11. Chris Cormack

    I am advised that Stephanie has an article on St Leonards Coffee- and tea-houses in the pipeline

    Comment by Chris Cormack — Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 @ 13:18

  12. Despo Hawkins

    Plato’s is another really good place to go for coffee and cake and the views are great . Bang on the seafront !

    Comment by Despo Hawkins — Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 @ 12:34

  13. Clive Gross

    Happy to write a similar article reviewing all the excellent coffee options in St Leonards if you like, seeing as this article completely ignores the town…?

    Comment by Clive Gross — Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 @ 10:21

  14. Stu

    Great article! I could not agree more with your comments regarding West Hill café a completely wasted Hastings asset. The question is who at HBC is responsible for permitting this embarrassment to Hastings to continue year after year?

    Comment by Stu — Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 @ 06:11

  15. Tess Courage

    NORMAN ROAD ST LEONARDS The Russian Gallery, fab coffee, home made amazing cakes all in beautiful surroundings and an art gallery, the coffee is to die fir ad are the cakes, very retro.Other is a new Bohemian “feel” to this area and there are quite s few good cafes/coffee shops

    Comment by Tess Courage — Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 @ 04:56

  16. Fiona

    @ Rose: There is a great website called disabledGo which provides access information for almost every cafe/ venue in hastings and normally features detailed comments on the venue and photos of toilets, just search for cafe in hastings: http://www.disabledgo.com/

    Comment by Fiona — Tuesday, Jun 3, 2014 @ 21:14

  17. Rose Austen

    A very useful article – would have been even better if there had been info about accessible/disabled loos as that’s the main constraint on my consumption of coffee and cake! Of the one’s you mention – Cafe des Artes and the Jerwood have excellent accessible loos and I think Mr Bean has a down stairs one. Waterfalls is obviously out as is the West Hill. I expect Eat at the Stade has one as it is a new build. I haven’t tried the others.

    Comment by Rose Austen — Tuesday, Jun 3, 2014 @ 18:44

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