A Short Stay in St Leonards & Hastings Old Town

Many many years ago, when I was in my 20’s, my best friend relocated to Richmond in Surrey. She had met a boy on holiday in Greece and followed him there. Stick with me on this as this is heading somewhere & is connected to my stay in St Leonards.

Pauls dad (that was the boy) had a carvan in St Leonards and one sunny summer weekend, he loaned it to us. We spent that weekend exploring the area, visiting the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill (once an architect geek, always an architect geek!) We visited the pretty town of Rye, more on that in a later post and we drove to Hastings for the afternoon, but surprisingly we didn’t bother much at all with St Leonards. Too old and genteel, too much faded grandeur, for us bright young things!

Well recently I had been hearing that St Leonards was far from that slow and faded town now and was the new Brighton or Margate in the making, full of smart, cool London migrants, opening bars and restaurants and making St Leonards their home. So last September as the summer was slowly turning to autumn, we decided to spend a few days there to discover it for oursleves.

The perfect apartment for our stay was found on Instagram @oldtownhaus. I’d followed Nicola for ages and loved her style and just as fate would have it, she and her partner, had recently renovated a mansion flat, with sea views and we booked it for 4 nights.

It was the perfect staycation. Large and airy, with lots of period features, very contemporary furnishings and fixtures, a very well equipped kitchen and comfortable beds. With that magnificent sea view, there was understandably no TV, so we could immediately unwind. We cooked, we read, we listened to music and we watched the changing tides and weather from the large bay window in the lounge.

St Leonards, as we had read, is quite the culinary destination for foodies. Home to many great restaurants and old victorian pubs, that have been gentrified, such as The Royal which appears in The Michelin Guide and is run by James Hickson, latterly of Moro London.

A favourite place for us to have a drink and a snack during our stay was The Goat ledge which was right opposite our apartment on Warrior Square. A brightly coloured shack of a building, sitting on the shingle beach, which serves locally caught fish snacks and is a great place to have a sundowner. Open from breakfast until around 9.00pm, this is the place where many of the locals gather to listen to the live music acts which often appear and have a pint whilst watching the sun sink into the ocean, which is exactly what we did.

St Clements has earned itself a Michelin star and although we didn’t eat there, prefering to have a casual relaxing holiday with no plans in place, this restaurant is definitely on the culinary map.

ST CLEMENTS RESTAURANT SHOOT BY GEORGINA COOK, MAY 2021

Farmyard is a completely sustainable restaurant, serving only seasonal and local produce, natural wine and no bottled water. A beautiful fresh and constantly changing menu makes it a favourite of locals and visitors.

Image from farmyard.com

If you’re looking for something more casual and drop in as we were, then Heist Market is fantastic. A Street food bar and cafe with several restaurants under one roof, craft beer and natural wine and a great atmosphere. This was definitely a favourite during our stay.

We always like to ask locals where they eat when we visit anywhere, and several people recommended Three Faces of del Parc to us, which by day is a deli, by night a pop up tapas bar. The food is off menu so you are served what the chefs have made that day. If you’re a fussy eater, maybe this isn’t for you. I’m not, but I am unfortunately coelaic, however, a Facebook dm to the guys that run it, sorted that out for me and it was all fantastic and delicious. It’s not open every evening but if you check their facebook page, the days that they are open will be on there.

If you love vintage and antique shopping, then you’ll love the selection of shops in St Leonards. There are too many to mention individually and most of them don’t have websites to link to anyway, but one of the best vintage clothes shops that I’ve ever been in is here. Sunless Antiques is a fantastic shop run by a lovely couple who moved from London 8 years ago. They make regular monthly trips to France to source beautiful clothes for women and loads of fantastic French work wear for men, as well as the odd antique.

Image from Sunless Antiques

Shop on the corner of Norman Road is a beautiful store with a great mix of vintage and new homewares and clothes, some reloved.

Image @shop

The other great thing about staying in St Leonards is that you are only a 15 minute walk, along the sea front, to Hastings Old Town.

I can’t recommend anywhere to eat in Hastings, as we only went for the day. We walked there and as the weather was wet and windy, we just nipped into a cafe for a quick lunch, some warm lentil soup and some shelter from the rain, but there are some fantastic shops here, many of which I’ve been wanting to visit for some time, after fixating on their beautiful instagram feeds.

One of them is A G Hendy & Co which is literally like stepping back in time. Alistair Hendy the highly creative proprietor, has created a beautiful hardware store, from a time gone by. Situated on two floors, although the upper floor was closed, at the time of our visit, the store is a plethora of new and antique kitchen ware and the type of hardware items you didn’t know you needed until you stepped inside and then can’t possibly leave without. There are no amount of decriptive words I can use here to conjure up the atmosphere, you simply have to go for yourself.

Another must go to destination for antique lovers and general nic nacs and interesting gifts, is Butlers Emporium. The shop, which retains it’s orginal antique frontage, was originally a hardware shop and the shop fittings remain, instantly creating a wonderful visual atmosphere.

Another one of the loveliest shops we have visited, was Warp & Weft. On first entering, it looks like just another lovely small independant clothes boutique, but it’s much more than is at first revealed. As you climb the stairs you enter the atelier, where each garment on display has been hand made and can be recreated for you, made to measure, in a range of fabrics of your choice. It is a wonderful shop, with beautiful linen and wool garments and accessories made from the finest leather. A real treat.

There are also some very good antique and vintage shops in Hastings, again many without websites, so as you walk around you’ll find them, but one of my favourites, with a beautiful curation of garments, was Hawk & Dove. Feminine, gothic and other wordly would best describe the selection.

I loved this part of the country so much. there is much to see and do. St Leonards is still evolving, it’s not completely gentrified, which I’m really glad to say. It’s a little rough around the edges still, but in an interesting way which gives it an edge and character, like all the best places, I think. For my next post, I’ll cover the day we spent in Rye, which is a lovely cinque port town, completely the opposite and very smart, but full of history and lovely for it.

Oh and just in case you were wondering if my friend stayed with the boy, yes she did. They married and have two beautiful girls, one of them my god daughter, and have relocated back to Manchester. She loves Paul but not as much as she loves Manchester 🙂

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