Photography by Steve Painter
Published in Issue #5 Spring 2024

St Leonards on Sea has passed through many incarnations since its Victorian heyday, when Decimus Burton’s glamourous villas brought the fashionable crowd down from London to take in the sea air. Of late, however, it is arguably our ever-growing food scene which is tempting locals and weekend breakers to visit. 

This is good news for a town reliant on tourism. Our hospitality industry took a massive blow during the pandemic and many bars, restaurants and cafés are still struggling to get back on their feet.

One of the highlights of dining in St Leonards is the wide range of cuisines on offer to meet all budgets, from traditional British fare to delicious, international menus and community cafés that celebrate the diverse food cultures that you can now find in St Leonards. You can embark on a culinary journey without ever leaving town, and with many restaurants sourcing their ingredients locally, you can feel good about supporting the community whilst enjoying a delicious meal.

So, whether you are local, or just visiting, we’ve put together a handy guide to some of the best places to eat and drink in St Leonards, which is a surprising number for a town of its size!

Our hospitality industry took a massive blow during the pandemic and many bars, restaurants and cafés are still struggling to get back on their feet.

St Leonards was once a favoured resort of Queen Victoria, and right opposite St Leonards Warrior Square station, is the aptly named The Royal, a handsomely proportioned, grand Victorian pub, with plant-filled interiors decorated in modish dark green.  Owner James Hickson has an impressive hospitality pedigree, culled from St John, Great Queen Street, The Canton Arms and Moro. Feeling that there was a market for a higher level of cuisine in the town, he took a punt and opened in October 2019. He now operates The Royal with head chef Andrew Taylor Gray (ex Canton Arms, Hix, Petersham Nurseries and Winemakers Club). The gastropub has been accredited Michelin Bib Gourmand status and specialises in unpretentious yet imaginative menus which make the most of the wealth of local produce the area has to offer. It was important to James that the venue had an accessible vibe, with a bar snack menu also available for those preferring to just pop in for a pint and a cheese toastie. The Royal now also offers a Prix Fixe menu from Monday to Thursday evenings, with two courses for £22 and three courses for £26. 

“Things have certainly changed and keep on changing down here,” says James. “It makes me really excited that St Leonards now has a real food scene and has become a destination in its own right.” 

— James Hickson, Owner of The Royal

Half Man! Half Burger! came to St Leonards having started out as a pop-up at street food events in Brighton and Hackney, and festivals including Glastonbury and Sonisphere. “There was next to nothing around on the food scene when we opened, and the town was certainly a little rougher round the edges” says co-owner Rory Myers, a burger aficionado whose search for patty perfection had taken him as far afield as Berlin and New York. With an ambitious mission to “create the best burgers on planet Earth”, they quickly accumulated a cult following, offering up fully traceable fresh beef and vegan burgers (developed by Matt’s wife, Hannah) in an industrial setting on the seafront beneath art deco landmark, Marine Court. Retro poster art, great music and craft beers complete their offering, alongside a raft of tempting sides including house Slawsome Slaw and fully loaded Voodoo Fries. 

Marine Court is now abuzz with international food options, from Sri Lankan fusion restaurant Colombo 16 and Pizzarelli to Liban Coast who offer up a mix of delicious Lebanese and Syrian food. 

Take a meander along the seafront to West St Leonards and you’ll find two great cafés. The Bathing Hut Café is right on the beach serving up an innovative fully plant-based menu for almost all tastes with excellent views along the coast and across the Channel. The Dove Café on Bexhill Road, founded by The Refugee Buddy Project, serves a delicious, hearty menu of home-cooked dishes and treats that celebrate the diverse food cultures of the refugees who run the café, and provides a warm and welcoming space for the whole community to enjoy. They also run a pay-it-forward scheme: by simply purchasing an extra coffee or buddy meal, customers can make a positive impact on someone else’s day and spread a little bit of joy in the process.

Back on bustling Kings Road, new kids on the block, Bayte recently opened on the site of a former indoor antiques market. The restaurant is the brainchild of Ruby Boglione (Petersham Nurseries) and Silvy Pilkington, with a kitchen run jointly by chef/farmer Joshua Dickinson (Le Chateaubriand, Paris) and Christopher Trundle (formerly head chef at Lyle’s and Brawn in London). Bayte’s menu pays particular reference to the Italian recipes that Ruby grew up with, and all of their meat is free-range and reared on organic farms. Alongside an inventive, seasonally inspired menu, Bayte also offers up bar snacks as well as a cocktail list including their decadent signature cocktail, The Bayte (Bayou Dark Louisiana Rum, Amaro Del Capo, Luxardo Cherry and bitters).

Neighbouring Sleeper Store, meanwhile, have brought their hand-rolled small-batch freshly baked bagels to town. As well as their amazing salt beef option that has people travelling from afar, they surprise with additions such as ‘bagel and butter pudding’ which has been going down a storm. They also host pop-ups with guest chefs, usually on a Sunday, and have recently launched the Wermut Bar which opens on Thursday through to Saturday evenings. The cosy atmosphere invites you to sit back and relax as you sip on expertly crafted cocktails accompanied by freshly baked flatbread snacks. 

Also on the Kings Road, Farmyard is a popular restaurant and wine shop specialising in natural wines. Sustainability is key, not only in supporting small wine producers and organic farms but also evident in their eco energy and tap water only policies. The restaurant runs from small plates to hearty group chef’s menus, where a selection of pre-arranged sharing platters are brought to the table in waves and can be pre-ordered for groups of 9-15 people. Ever popular is the Farmyard Sunday lunch, where cuts may include rare roast beef from Montague Farm in Pevensey or Salt Marsh Lamb and a creative, plant-based main that is no afterthought. These are accompanied by all the expected trimmings including that all important, bottomless red wine gravy and extras that may include truffled cauliflower cheese or roasted bone marrow with garlic and thyme. 

Sticking with Kings Road, Jerome Odibi’s vibrant neighbourhood eatery, the much-loved Mama Putts restaurant is in its twelfth year, serving up contemporary and authentic West African and Caribbean cuisine, from their famous fried dumplings with stew sauce to goat curry, sautéed yams and sizzling jerk chicken, plus a full vegan menu. 

For those preferring seafood and fishy fare, Farmyard’s sister restaurant Boatyard focuses on local catches from the Hastings fishing fleet and responsibly sourced seafood from surrounding areas. The restaurant offers great value, small plates lunch on weekdays and is situated within the indoor food market, Heist.

Wittily named after its former incarnation as a bank, Heist’s vibrant, street food feel is like something straight out of Borough Market and you can visit for coffee or drinks or eat your way through an international street food map encompassing Thai food, tapas, tacos, dirty burgers and hotdogs. With laid-back DJs on Sundays and talk of a karaoke basement bar to open soon, Heist is currently open seven days a week and no reservations are required (except for Boatyard).

Hastings boasts Europe’s largest fleet of beach-launched fishing boats and one of the restaurants to make the most of this is Galleria located on Norman Road. Their entire focus is local and seasonal, therefore the menu changes daily, depending on what the fishermen and women have caught during the night. Puglian chef Gianluca’s treats might include Whitstable oysters or wild bream with creamed fennel, orange, crab and ricotta bon bon and shellfish bisque. 

However, if you’re craving good old-fashioned fish and chips, head to Blue Fish at 31 London Road for the crispiest batter and some of the best chips in town (plus rumour has it that nice, friendly customers get bigger portions of chips – so remember to smile!) The restaurant also offers grilled fish on request for those wanting a healthier option. 


The much-lauded Three Faces is tucked away round a corner off Norman Road. Originating as Del Parc in North London, the restaurant is famous for its chef’s menu, where you are only asked about any dietary requirements or allergies before being treated to a tapas feast by chef Steve. There’s no set price but 5-6 dishes per person typically works out at between £35-£45 a head, plus there’s a great selection of Iberian wines and a fantastic Balearic house soundtrack too! 

Also combining dancefloor decadence with dining, recently launched Supernature is named after the Cerrone floor-filler and specialises in wood-fired cookery with an eclectic seasonal menu developed by chefs Mark Edwards and Tia Fuller, offering up everything from street food bar snacks to affordable mains, plus that all-important DJ booth. Their ‘Disco Roasts’ are a must-visit for those in search of some groove with their gravy!  

Also Visit:

  • Arigato — Japanese restaurant, serving up dishes such as miso soup, gyoza dumplings, salmon sashimi and vegan options.
  • Collected Fictions — Tiny and quirky craft beer and natural wine bar and bottleshop on London Road. 
  • Dandelion Deli — Delicatessen and café with a record shop in the basement, with daily changing vegan, meat and fish specials and an amazing selection of Scotch eggs!
  • Fika — A Swedish word for a coffee and cake break. This Scandi cafe offers breakfasts, lunch with salads, soups and bakes and garden covered in gorgeous foliage.
  • Goat Ledge — Expect Balearic vibes in this colourful and popular beachside bar serving up fish or halloumi baps, coffees, ice creams and sundowners.
  • Graze On Grand — Wine/food/gallery concept with a view and small plate dishes, delicious charcuterie and British cheese platters to share.
  • La Bella Vista — a firm favourite on the St Leonards seafront, offering a traditional Italian menu using fresh, local and quality ingredients.
  • Reel at Kino — Great brunch and mind-blowing Bloody Marys are to be had in the restaurant adjoining the quirky Kino cinema and art gallery on Norman Road. Stay on for an indie film, a Ted talk event or a recital.
  • Starsky and Hatch — Tucked along Bottle Alley underneath the promenade is the vibrant festooned café serving up delights including creamy avocado and feta or smoked mackerel on sourdough and much more.
  • St Clement’s — Another seafood restaurant using local fishing fleets, traditional butchers, local farms and non-intensive dairies.
  • The Selkie Seafood Bar — Newly opened bar on Bottle Alley specialising in oysters and seafood charcuterie.
  • And After Hours:
  • The St Leonard — Super-friendly, cool, club-style pub on the London Road, originally the The Warrior’s Gate that closed in 2006 and reopened as The St Leonard in 2012 by owners Chris and Phil, with regular exhibitions by local artists and events including a popular pub quiz.
  • Cactus Hound — Glitzy bar with a stonking Tequila selection and events including open mic nights.
  • The Piper — Late night venue with an impressive programme of live gigs and DJs. Norman Jay and Don Letts have played recently. Always a party vibe.