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Sustainable Dining at Boatyard, Hasting.
Hastings sits on the South Coast between the refined charms of Bexhill and the expansive dunes of Camber Sands. The town has been in the process of reinventing itself over the last few years with a resurgent artistic community regenerating the town with projects such as Hastings Contemporary, the ex-Jerwood art gallery, leading the way. The gallery has just opened a new ‘modern restaurant and café-bar with a focus on sustainable food and drink’ in the gallery’s first-floor café space called Boatyard. It’s the sister restaurant to FARMYARD in St Leonards-On-Sea (see my review here) that I really enjoyed and reviewed recently, and is again owned by Kate and Ben O’Norum with Nick Leonard as head chef.
Hastings Contemporary is a fine modern gallery in Hastings Old Town right on the seafront with a spectacular outlook both onto the fishing boats whose catch you will be eating and onto the sea itself.
As with Farmyard, the menu at Boatyard is all about locally sourced, sustainable ingredients with a hefty list of natural wines with many sourced from coastal areas to match the seafood menu and some of which are on tap.
Boatyard is open for breakfast with service running through until 5 pm. There is always a ‘Catch of the Day’ and specials built around Hastings fish, there are oysters, starters and small plates and rather excitingly a ‘surf and turf’ dish consisting of bone marrow and oysters. They also do a steak and chips! The interior feels very contemporary with varnished wooden tables, attractive copper light fittings and suitably sea-green walls.
If you are a natural wine fan then Boatyard is for you. The wine list features 80 natural, biodynamic and low-intervention wines without a London mark-up featuring local wines and fizz as well as some really interesting European bottles. We kicked off with a refreshingly saline and slight sparkling Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne from the Loire – available on tap) which was an ideal seaside aperitif.
Our starter was the Boatyard Platter served on a slice of tree! This was a wonderful seafood collation with a tantalising sequence of flavours that avoided the clichés – perfect for a pescatarian like me; there were crisp nuggets of deep-fried cockle popcorn, a salt cod brandade with a dollop of yellow, garlicky aioli on the side, tangy pickled anchovies (boquerones) and pickled herring, deliciously salty Old Town sprats, spiced shrimp lubricated by lightly curried sauce, crusty sourdough bread and a beautifully dressed lettuce salad. With a glass of Judith Beck, Zweigelt/St Laurent, 2016, Burgenland, Austria and its ripe summer berries and spice notes to wash down the fishy feast we couldn’t have been happier.
When eating by the sea it’s great to eat something that looks that it might have actually resided in the briny depths. My flounder was perfectly cooked, still moist but easy to fillet, and slathered with the aforementioned shrimp with some crisp fries on the side. The local matched glass of Tillingham White from Peasmarsh in East Sussex, 2018, a natural blend of mostly German grapes, had vibrant stone fruit and apple flavours.
A plate of properly seared and full-of-flavour scallops with smoked bacon and cabbage was probably the prettiest of the meal. It was paired with a very drinkable natural Baglio Bianco Catarrato, 2018 from Sicily with its salty fermenting apple flavours.
Rieslings can be a great match with spicy food and the Dajoar Riesling, Andreas Bender, Riesling 2015 from the Mosel, Germany was no exception. It has a light, honeyed flavour with ripe apricot notes that really brought out the lime pickle in the exceptional Boatyard Kedgeree, made with Hastings smoked haddock, fluffy spiced rice, boiled eggs, and crispy shallots.
It’s a great moment to be a vegan right now – this dessert of poached pear with an intense vegan chocolate ice cream and the crunch of pine nuts is proof of the pudding…
For more indulgence, a rich, unctuous chocolate brownie came with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and toasted hazelnuts.
And if that’s not enough a perfect, moist, pink vegan cupcake with great icing – what’s not to love!
Boatyard is open from 11 am – 5 pm on Tuesdays to Sundays as part of general admission to the gallery and Hastings Contemporary members can bring up to 3 free guests to Boatyard on any visit so if you’re a local becoming a member gives you a great base in the old town where you can stop for a coffee and cake or something more substantial. There’s a real integrity and quality to what Kate and Ben O’Norum are doing at FARMYARD and Boatyard so if you’re heading down to the South Coast or are in the area let’s support them!
Hastings Old Town,