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Sea Kale

Sea Kale in London Road. All photos in this article © Sea Kale 2018.

Sea Kale – a local beauty

Joining the growing number of great local eateries, Sea Kale opened earlier this year on London Road, just moments from the promenade in St Leonards on Sea. The brain child of Emma and Matt Kennard-Bowen, Sea Kale celebrates seasonal, local produce in a calm, vintage environment. A. Vasudevan spoke to the couple to find out more about their venture.

Sea Kale takes its name from the tasty sea cabbage that grows freely along the coastline. ‘Locals are very familiar with this beauty [a flowering plant from the Brassicaceae family],’ says Matt. ‘And we really wanted to use the name of something that people could connect with. Funnily enough, we first spotted it on St Leonards beach just before we opened.’

Offering an innovative choice of dishes, from breakfast/brunch to salads and more substantial fare, Matt uses the vast array of great ingredients found locally to weave his food magic. The menu changes regularly to accommodate seasonal produce and it caters pretty much to every palate. ‘It’s good to choose what’s in abundance, with low mileage and handling, and build a dish around it,’ Matt comments. ‘The Hastings area is like a mini Mediterranean: there is so much on our doorstep in the way of vegetables, meat and fish. Not to mention the booze.’

Originally from Eastbourne, the couple have lived in different places, but ended up in London. Matt worked in catering and event planning (‘everything from Scottish, Indian and fusion weddings to Korean street food’) and Emma as a business PA, most recently for the Institute of Directors, but having their own place was always the dream. With a child and two dogs, they chose to move out of London, first trying Kent, which proved too quiet for them, and then this part of East Sussex.

‘It was the restless creativity of Hastings and St Leonards that attracted us to the area. It really has a vibe all of its own, quite bonkers and always with something going on.’

Sea Kale in situ

Sea Kale growing in situ on our coastline.

When they moved to Hastings, Matt cheffed at local restaurants such as Graze on Grand, while he and Emma looked for the perfect location, finally setting their sights on 29 London Road. After considerable renovation, Sea Kale was born.

It’s a lovely place to pass time; food apart, the café’s furnished with an eclectic mix of vintage furniture, ceramics and books. Art by local talents line the walls. It’s a warm, attractive and relaxed environment, a perfect reflection of Emma’s front of house style.

Before opening, they decided that if the coffee was great everything else would follow. ‘We had noticed how important good coffee is to the area and knew we had to get that right before anything else,’ Matt says. ‘We feel we’ve cracked that with our suppliers, Roasted, who have been amazing. The menu came from realizing that people in the area appreciated café food. Locals are usually always on the go and we thought we could offer something new, fun and colourful.’

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From the beginning, they thought of ways to maximise interest in their business. They offered gourmet Friday ‘take away’ meals to heat up at home, for locals and out-of-towners wanting to eat something lovely, but not cook for themselves; a monthly supper club and private event catering followed.

‘That was always behind the thinking of starting Sea Kale, to offer the options that we can deliver with confidence. The supper clubs are a way for us to open for an evening, which work around our family commitments and, of course, they are good fun. They’ve been a joy so far with lots of happy people.’

Other events include chocolate and tea tastings with The C Note owner Sophie Meyer. ‘Her artisan chocolate is amazing and the way it pairs with our teas just takes both off on a very crazy journey. It really has been surprising to see just what works.’

Both Matt and Emma take pride in supporting local enterprises, believing in paying forward. ‘We have the mystery veg box from Little Gate Farm in Beckley which offers work training to adults and children with learning difficulties,’ says Emma.

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Other suppliers include local veg company, Carrolls, St Leonards-based butcher Appleyards, Northiam Dairy, which supplies the barista’s milk, as well as ‘fantastic butter and crème fraîche’, Downsview Farm ice-cream and, of course, the various Hastings fishermen who provide Matt with an array of fresh fish. More recently, Matt and Emma have taken on real ales, from Battle Brewery, and Tillingham Wine and Starvecrove Cider, from Peasmarsh near Rye.

Ingredients alone, though, will only take you so far, and it’s the food that draws punters to Sea Kale. Beautifully presented and well thought through, the dishes that Matt devises quite often sing. I ask him what he thinks best showcases what he and Emma do. ‘I guess the new salads … We try and use lots of colourful items, pickled vegetables from Little Gate Farm and roasted fruits [such as apricots] alongside the meat or fish, although with a constantly changing menu, we tend to mix things up from week to week.’

It’s this attention to detail that keeps Sea Kale busy. That and the fact it’s a vibrant business, run by two passionate individuals who care.

Sea Kale, 29 London Road, St Leonards on Sea, TN37 6AJ, t: 01424 444977 . www.facebook.com/SeaKaleHastings

Posted 07:37 Sunday, Sep 2, 2018 In: Food & Drink

3 Comments


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT
  1. Anne Gordon

    Really nice atmosphere, pleasant surroundings and delicious, original food and drinks. So glad it’s only three minutes from where I live!!

    Comment by Anne Gordon — Monday, Oct 15, 2018 @ 00:42

  2. Sunbear

    And after the wonderful savoury food, fresh, original, often unusual, don’t forget the glorious home made fruit scones with wondrous conserves also made by by Matt. But leave one for me.

    Comment by Sunbear — Sunday, Sep 2, 2018 @ 23:10

  3. Ms.Doubtfire

    All best wishes to Emma and Matt for this exciting new venture but please be aware that the sea kale, yellow horned poppies and other vegetation growing on the beaches in this town are protected and it is illegal to cut them or pull them out of the ground…..this is why this particular beach is so amazing!!

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Sunday, Sep 2, 2018 @ 08:19

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