Top 10: Hastings, East Sussex

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The popular coastal resort has seen a slew of changes in 2016. Here’s what we recommend, both old and new


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View from the window table at the legendary Maggie's. Photo: SE
View over the working beach from a window table at the legendary Maggie’s. Photo: SE

1. THE MOOCH

It’s all very scenic: wind your way through independent shops like Hendy’s Home Stores (for posh kitchen gear), Robert’s Rummage (for second-hand novels), Rock-a-Nore fisheries (for everything from sardines to turbot), Hare & Hawthorn (for books with feel appeal) and two lovely delis, Penbuckles and Judges. Climb up to the West Hill, where there’s a view of the sea over the jumble of architecture, and Norman ruin on the clifftop. A pint? The Hastings Arms, real ale pub First In Last Out and Dragon Bar, an institution on George Street, excellent for people-watching.

The Crown is arguably Hastings' poshest pub. Photo: PR
The Crown is arguably Hastings’ smartest pub. Photo: PR

2. THE LOCAL

A convivial corner boozer in the All Saints area, The Crown boasts locally-sourced food, sharing platters, Kentish and Sussex breweries on tap, cosy nooks and corners aplenty, art on the walls and a (sea) dog or two slumped on the floor. Sip an ale outside and expect a typically Hastings mix of bar flies, laptop-wielding freelancers and weekenders all tucking into first pints. 64-66 All Saints St

3. THE GALLERY

Low-key in deference to Rock-a-Nore’s unique fishermen’s net shops, the Jerwood building is clad in black ceramic tiles to reflect the changing seaside light. The gallery is compact and designed without fuss simply to view the work on display. Afterwards, sit on the cafe terrace, surveying the full panorama – nets, engines, masts, anchors, tiny railway, swooping gulls, fun fair. Current exhibition (till Oct 16th) is British sculptor Marcus Harvey, his largest exhibition to date. Open daily 10am-5pm, Rock-A-Nore Rd

The Jerwood has given Hastings some big art balls. Photo: PR
The Jerwood has given Hastings some big art balls. Photo: PR

4. THE FISH & CHIPS PLACE

Longstanding chippie Maggie’s is a must – and yet invariably booked up so plan ahead. Accessed by wooden steps near the fisherman’s huts, it’s a simple dining room that serves outstanding fish and chips: a special of skate will come in the lightest tempura batter (£10.50), while perfectly opaque cod (£7.50) is better still. Bag a table with a sea view (see main pic above) and you’ll be in heaven. Originally opened by Maggie Banfield, it’s just been taken over by new owner Lindsay Wright, who’s starting an evening service too on Fridays and Saturdays. Daily, 6-8 Rock-A-Nore Road

5. THE PIER

Reopened this summer, the new pier is surprisingly pared-back, allowing the views back over to the beach and the majesty of the structure to speak for themselves. Originally built in 1872, it became a popular music venue in the 1960s, before being closed completely in 2008, a fire two years later destroying it almost entirely. Now there’s good coffee, streetfood stalls and a programme of events, circuses and rock gigs to enjoy.

Opened this year - the very cool underground skate park. Photo: Kevin Kalkoff
Opened this year – the very cool underground skate park. Photo: Kevin Kalkoff

6. THE SKATE PARK

A creative use of the former swimming baths, Source Park opened this year, an entertaining excursion, whether you like skateboarding (or BMXing) or not. Dating back to 1876, the building was originally a Turkish Baths; since then it has been a cinema, pool and ice rink. Now you can gaze at sporty kids doing spectacular stunts across the swirling ramps from a 360 degree balcony – or, of course, join them. Open 10am-10pm daily, White Rock

7. THE POSH EVENING MEAL

Newish seafront bistro the Old Custom House is from the owners of the renowned St Clement’s over in St Leonards. Expect decent sharing platters (smoked fish, cured salmon, fishcakes) to start, and mains like spaghetti with mussels, or Spanish fish stew packed with salt cod, bass, clams and chorizo. Cocktails are potent, especially a sharp raspberry bramble (made with St George rye gin), and the signature Jeremiah Curtis (£9): named after a renowned smuggler, this pirate-style twist on a negroni is studded with cognac, spiced rum and tobacco liqueur. Mains £11-15. Open Wed-Sun until 9pm, 9 East Parade

Finally stretching back out into the sea. Photo: Pier Ramboll
The new pier: finally stretching back out into the sea. Photo: Ramboll/PR

8. THE LIVE DIVE

George Street newbie The Albion reopened last November under new management and has been refurbished with the help of local designers, artists and crafts-types. As well as Sussex beers and top grub, gigs are managed by the team behind Hastings Fat Tuesday, so expect roots, blues, orchestral and jazz. Open daily, 33 George Street

9. THE SOCIAL SPACE

A characterful late-night venue, Printworks is in up-and-coming America Ground, the ‘downtown’ of Hastings. Upstairs is a boutique bed and breakfast in this renovated Observer newspaper building, and on the ground floor expect DJ sets, striking video and art installations. Interior shop Dyke & Dean is open Thurs-Sat, who also have a pop-up at Design Junction in King’s Cross. Open till 1am at weekends, 14 Claremont

Maggies is #1 for fish and chips. Photo: SE
Maggies is #1 for fish and chips. Photo: SE

10. THE BRUNCH JOINT

The Pelican Diner is recommended for a sunny start to the day, with its retro Americana stylings and cute seafront location. Try the eggs benedict (£7.50), full ‘lumberjack’ breakfast, pancakes or waffles. Plus there are juices, smoothies and coffee. Burgers take over as brunch leaks into lunch. 19 East Parade

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Stay & Getting There

Swan House was one of Hastings' first upmarket b'n'bs. Photo: PR
Swan House was one of Hastings’ first upmarket b’n’bs. Photo: PR
Recommended is Swan House , a gorgeous boutique b’n’b in the heart of the old town, or try their sister place The Old Rectory, an architectural mix of 17th century and Georgian with a grand Victorian façade. Printworks over in America Ground is also worth a look. By train: London St Pancras, Charing Cross or Victoria to Hastings takes about 90 mins+ off peak on Southern.

This feature also appears in the October print issue of our London title Gasholder. Get a free copy from these outlets. With thanks to James Thomas and David O’Brien for being such brilliant and tireless tour guides.

And don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten St Leonard’s, which will be a separate feature in itself early next year.


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