Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Love Cafe

Best coffee places 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. Stephanie Gaunt, aka Hastings Battleaxe, continues her reviews.

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.

Seafront Cafe - a little basic

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.

Seafront - somewhat exposed


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. 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 and Smiths 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 we pass 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

the Little Larder

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.

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.***

Cake heaven

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,

Gallery and cake...

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, through 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.  ****

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 Philip. 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!

Posted 11:24 Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 In: Food & Drink


  1. Stephanie Gaunt

    Well, my piece has certainly generated some lively comments.
    Any piece like this is all about presenting a personal viewpoint, and we are all different. These differences are one of the great strengths of our area.
    This is all great stuff, and in fact, excellent publicity for the cafés. Interestingly, the places I praised have attracted no attention in the comments, the ones I criticised or omitted have had heaps of publicity generated for them, far more powerful than anything I could write.
    I don’t know Cath Tajima-Powell but I do particularly relish her feisty and provocative style. Cath, you sound like a woman after Battleaxe’s own heart!

    Comment by Stephanie Gaunt — Saturday, Aug 23, 2014 @ 15:38

  2. Cath Tajima-Powell

    “Gratuitously insulting” would be this writer using words like- chaotic, sad, stale, awkward, bland, souless, boring, flavourless, seating limited, not welcoming, windy, strange- to denigrate perfectly good cafes, businesses and livelihoods that depend on having a good reputation. Its not alright to criticise so publicly, on such slim research. Her readers asked her about accessible toilets yet she doesn’t bother to find any useful or accurate information. Azur, Mikis, Love cafe, Beach cafe, Roomz are five that I know of. Its difficult and expensive to provide facilities and impossible to cater to all types of wheelchairs but hardworking respectful business owners in St Leonards provide many options, and different styles for visitors and residents to enjoy. What a shame not to support that.

    Comment by Cath Tajima-Powell — Saturday, Aug 23, 2014 @ 13:19

  3. Janet Lyon

    Dear Stephanie,
    I was deeply disappointed having just read your blog.The whole of St Leonard’s is going through an amazing few years of regeneration.With all the local businesses old and new working very hard for success.The area is finding new fans from all over the country.
    So it is very sad that your comments are so negative.Dwelling on mainly the size of a slice of cake and dirty toilets .Shame on you.

    Janet L Lyon

    Comment by Janet Lyon — Saturday, Aug 23, 2014 @ 12:03

  4. Alexander

    I have been following the comments re: The Battleaxe’s reviews of watering holes in St. Leonard’s. This morning there was a poignant comment by someone called Diane that I wanted to agree with. Much to my surprise, it is no longer there. Did the author delete this or have you? I hope it is not the latter as the points made were valid and I wanted to respond. Is this an open forum for debate and opinion or do you just choose what you want to appear. Censorship is a slippery slope.

    Editor: I edit out potentially libellous and/or gratuitously insulting comments. I am also aware that comments have been made by people purporting to be someone they weren’t. At the request of the latter, I deleted that comment. Within certain bounds it is an open forum.

    Comment by Alexander — Friday, Aug 22, 2014 @ 22:22

  5. Cath Tajima-Powell

    Why not send a reviewer who has some interest in trying out cafes instead of going to the same one as she admits- Michela’s and Jempson’s. Incredibly not bothering to go into so many great cafes but thinking she should pass comment nevertheless- Shop (“sad without cakes)”, Roomz (“too young!!!!), Moose’s (“looks healthy”), Geckos-(“hang out aimed at youth”), One Cafe (“quirky”), Azur. Relax ( “never been there.’) many more… she didn’t even deign to enter. Incredible. Not professional in the least. Hey -no one is interested in reviews based on non experience! What nonsense really. For your information Shop is a great cafe with great cake, One cafe is really friendly, Kassa IS very welcoming and very international, Pofley benches are comfortable, Relax even has Armenian coffee and tapas, Roomz is not aimed at young but rather music lovers, Moose’ kitchen is vegan, I could go on and on.
    St Leonards has a fantastic variety of Cafes that cater for all tastes. I wonder if “the Battleaxe” has any understanding of how hardworking these businesses are, they really contribute to our vibrant cafe culture and diverse community. I hope this writer spares us any more of her rubbishy pronouncements, keep it to your blog please, and out of this popular online newspaper, your review is pointless you are just misleading readers.

    Editor’s comment: The review was produced in response to demands by people from St Leonards not to exclude St Leonards from Battleaxe’s last ‘Hastings’ review. As Stephanie admits herself, it is difficult to produce a comprehensive review without experiencing a calorie and caffeine blowout. Comments seeking to rectify errors and omissions are welcome and really part of the point of the whole piece, but gratuitous insults are not.

    Comment by Cath Tajima-Powell — Friday, Aug 22, 2014 @ 18:55

  6. Tessa Sambrook

    I was interested that in your criteria you mention assessing disability access and by default presumably the loos too… Love Café, which you completely failed to consider, has disability access and a disabled toilet. They dish up fantastic fresh food and it is popular for the good reason that it is fabulous. Some of us go to cafes to meet and chat as well as read and chillax. As a shop proprietor I recommend all the cafes in the St. Leonards area to visitors – they all have individual styles and food so the public are well catered for across the spectrum. Leaving SHOP out of your review was a sad omission as again they bring another facet to café life to St. Leonards. I think two stars only for a lack lustre and less than positive piece. **

    Comment by Tessa Sambrook — Friday, Aug 22, 2014 @ 15:01

  7. DAR

    Good try, Stephanie, but, as Diane Granger says, it’s seems remiss of you to mention places you didn’t visit so it’s a bit of an incomplete “guide”. Better than nothing, though. By the way, “skis” is correct: apostrophes only needed a) when letters are missing in a shortened word e.g.”don’t” for “do not”, or b)when possession is indicated e.g. “cafe’s loo” for “loo belonging to the café”. So, therefore, “ski’s” is incorrect. So – now spot the apostrophe error in your last paragraph!

    Comment by DAR — Friday, Aug 22, 2014 @ 10:19

  8. Michele

    I think it’s a shame that the reviews here have not properly included SHOP on Norman Road in it’s own right as a coffee house. It serves the best coffee in town and some of the most inventive, delicious sandwich fillers and toasties to die for! I find Helen, Holly and all the staff welcoming and friendly and I love the decor, it reminds me of being in some of the most up and coming places in London. Well done I say and who listens to reviews before trying things out for themselves!

    Comment by Michele — Friday, Aug 22, 2014 @ 09:20

  9. Andrew Wood

    Best coffee in Shop without a doubt – professionally trained baristas!. Great sandwiches, too. Fail to see why you wouldn’t appreciate the space and feel of the place. Everything is displayed beautifully with superb attention to detail. And then there’s the browsing in the Shop itself. What’s not to like.

    Comment by Andrew Wood — Friday, Aug 22, 2014 @ 09:11

  10. Diane Granger

    I think that reviews should be objective based on certain criteria,clearly set out at the start.
    I have to say I find the stream of ‘reviews’ anything but objective.It springs to mind that one cannot review something that one hasn’t tried??Am I being tiresome?
    I for one think the coffee in SHOP is the best in St Leonards. One can always taste the difference between good coffee and bad,I can tell one cafe in particular that I’ve had in the locality clearly doesn’t clean its coffee machine!The ambience in Shop is good,friendly and spotlessly clean.Cleanliness being number one on my criteria list!

    Comment by Diane Granger — Thursday, Aug 21, 2014 @ 18:15

  11. Helen Robinson

    Dear Stephanie what a shame that you decided to comment on our Cafe without at least tasting our fantastic coffee or hand made cakes. I admit the slices are of normal size which as we are all supposed to be trying to be healthy is a bonus . We also do freshly made to order sandwiches. Next time your in Norman Rd drop by introduce yourself and do us the service of trying before judging , oh and sorry you dont like our decor but there you go ,yours Helen Robinson

    Comment by Helen Robinson — Thursday, Aug 21, 2014 @ 16:36

  12. Sally Walton

    Well that was fun. I used to photograph and rate local coffee a while ago too.
    Next time you’re in Norman Road take the time to go into SHOP as they serve the
    famous and delicious Monmouth coffee. To miss it out because you thought it
    looked sparse without the cakes is sad. Paul serves the coffees with a sweet
    smile &there’s plenty of good reading matter too. You’d like it a lot.

    Comment by Sally Walton — Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 @ 17:27

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