Where to eat
Eating in Winchelsea
On the junction of German Street and Hiham Gardens, at the western end of the High Street, opposite the Town Sign. 'New' actually means 1760s. Nice beer garden. Parking at the back. Serves food. Open all day. Does B&B. Under enthusiastic new management, John Towler and Declan Clancy, the place is undergoing something of a make-over, which has dramatically improved the atmosphere. All the reports of the food have been excellent too. The New Inn is also a good place for tea and coffee, and serves afternoon tea. 01797-226252.
Lodge at Winchelsea (formerly Winchelsea Lodge Motel)
Situated at the bottom of the hill as one approaches Winchelsea along the A259 from the direction of Icklesham and Hastings. Refurbished and under new management, the motel is acquiring a reputation for very good value food and accommodation. The restaurant offers a range of food, from 'light bites' to full meals, as well as a lunchtime carvery every Sunday. The restaurant and lounge bar are open seven days a week. There is also a function room, with meeting facilities, which is popular for weddings and parties.
Winchelsea Farm Kitchen
Thread your way past the butcher and through the delicatessen to a small tea room with a small courtyard (not open Sundays or all public holidays: last orders 4:30pm). The "overflow" tearoom, in what was briefly the Winchelsea Garden Shop, at the end of Castle Street, has been closed permanently, although it is still being advertised as open.
Eating near Winchelsea
Fish Café, Rye
Located in Tower Street (which leads up to the Landgate from Cinque Port Street) in a refurbished Arts and Craft warehouse (when it was built in 1907, it was the first fireproof building in the world). Downstairs is an informal café-style restaurant, which is open from 11:00am. On the first floor, there is a formal restaurant, which is open 6:00-9:00pm. Open all week. Some local fish: should be more. The proprietors also run the excellent Wild Mushroom in Westfield. The décor is a bit stark, so there is nothing to absorb the noise. 01797-222226 or 222210.
The George Inn, Rye
Located in the High Street (TN31 7JT). Indeed, The George is the focus of the Rye's main thoroughfare. This hotel is a classic 18th century coaching inn and has an assembly room that Jane Austen would feel at home in. There is a comfortable bar and a recently extended restaurant that is both good quality and good value. 01797-222114.
Landgate Bistro, Rye
In the Landgate, the street leading up to the Landgate tower (TN31 7LH). Modern British fare. 01797-222829.
One of the most famous hotels in the world, situated on equally famous and cobbled Mermaid Street. Rebuilt in 1420. Very atmospheric. Since a change of ownership, the hotel has been cleaned up, but some of the new paintings are a little out of place. The restaurant now seems to cater for unadventurous foreign tourists by playing it safe: the food is still good but gone are old glories like steak tartare and chateaubriand. Nice lounges to sit in before and after dinner. Small car park through the arch but it can be awkward to turn into. 01797-223065.
Queens Head, Icklesham
Take the A259 from Winchelsea towards Hastings. Drive into Icklesham (about 1 mile from Winchelsea) and, after about 100 metres, take the first right down a narrow lane (keep your eyes peeled for the entrance). Pub food. There is always an interesting selection of beers, including local brews. Occasional music in the evenings. Features in the Good Pub Guide. CAMRA Sussex Pub of the Year in 2005. Garden with lovely views towards Winchelsea. Play area for children. Large car park. Can get crowded at peak hours. Open all day. 01424-814552. There is a pleasant walk from Winchelsea across the fields or down side roads.
Plough, Cock Marling/Udimore
Situated on the Udimore Road out of Rye. There is also a very pleasant walk from Winchelsea across the Brede Valley. 01797-223381.
The Ship Inn, Winchelsea Beach
Opened in July 2011 to great local excitement. This dramatically refurbished local pub now boasts a restaurant, bar, cafe, delicatessen, butcher, art gallery and garden. The butcher is none other than Jamie Wickens, Rick Stein Food Hero and Times Top 10 UK butcher, formerly of Winchelsea (and much missed). As well as running the butcher's shop, Jamie supplies the restaurant. The restaurant also draws heavily on local fish and produce. Parking may be difficult. 01797-226767.
Tuscan Kitchen, Rye
8 Lion Street (TN31 7LB). Genuine Italian cooking produced by a husband and wife team. The pace of the restaurant is Italian. The food is excellent and the ambience lovely. Probably the best restaurant in Rye at the moment. 01797-223269.
Simply Spice, Rye
5 High Street. Best curry house in the locality. Excellent Tandoori. 01797-229304.
Ypres Castle, Rye
Known locally as the 'Wipers'. Built in 1640. Situated by the Gun Gardens off Church Square. There is also a footpath up from the Undercliff opposite the car park on the Salts. Good pub food including local fish. There is a detached garden looking across to the River Rother. 01797-223248.
Worth a trip from Winchelsea
Pilot Inn, Lydd/Dungeness
Lydd is a strange place, but has this gem. Excellent fish and chips. Good value. The Pilot sits on the beach at Lydd and is a dramatic location in rough winter weather. Pleasant and efficient staff. Local fish. Weird website. 01797-320314.
The Gallivant Hotel, Camber Sands
Although Camber Sands is one of the best beaches on the south coast, Camber itself takes its cue from Pontins. The Gallivant (formerly, The Place) is however from another world. Cool décor, good food, tables outside under an awning in the summer. Somewhere for ladies who lunch. Lots of local produce. Excellent accommodation. 01797-225057 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Just across the road from one of the Camber Sands car parks. It is about 3 miles from Rye on the New Lydd Road, which takes you past Rye Golf Club.
Royal Oak, Brookland
Take the A259 from Rye towards Ashford. Just off the road (TN29 9QR). A pleasant restaurant, friendly service and excellent food. The website says "casual yet classy", which is 100% correct. There is also a proper pub bar for drinkers and nice garden at the back. B&B available. 01797-344215.
St Clements, St Leonards
3 Mercatoria (TN38 0EB). Fish restaurant. Pleasant decor and nice atmosphere. Excellent food and huge portions. 01424-200355.
Wild Mushroom, Westfield
Woodgate House, Westfield Lane (TN35 4SB). Simply the best food in the district but first you have to find your way to Westfield. Not cheap, but superlative. The place for special occasions but should not be neglected at other times. 01424-751137.
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Rye Bay Scallop Festival
Every February. For more details.
Eat well in Sussex
Sussex is hidden treasure trove of good, honest food. Romney Marsh sheep and Sussex cattle are prime breeds. The High Weald is plentiful with game, including wild boar.
Rye and Hastings still have their own inshore fishing fleets and Rye Bay scallops are a celebrated harvest of the sea.
Like neighbouring Kent, Sussex is apple country. There is also local asparagus in May and soft fruits from July. And from March to October, there is the produce from some superb market gardens, not least, fabulous mixed salad leaves from Appledore Salads.
All this produce is available in local restaurants. If you want to cook it yourself, why not take the opportunity to visit the local farmers markets held on the Strand Quay at Rye on Wednesday mornings from 10:00am to 1:00pm.