The Little Polka Cafe – a little ray of sunshine on the coast

The Little Polka Cafe in Eastbourne markets itself by saying there is only one “Little Polka” on the South coast. Which is basically my only complaint, I just wish there were more – one in London that I could get to more easily would be great.

I just loved this place. We walked in on a rather bleak bank holiday Saturday for a late lunch, to be warmly welcomed by the owner. The feeling this invoked was rather like the sun coming out. We had stepped into a beautiful Polish parlour. I think we easily spent the first 5 minutes looking round the room and complementing the owner on how lovely it was. With its terracotta walls and eclectic decor like the upright Piano and the dresser filled with Boleslawiec ceramics.

There was only one other customer, an obvious regular, so the level of service was perhaps more attentive than it would have been if the place had been busier. We ordered Pierogi’s for two and the Schabowy (pork cutlets fried in breadcrumbs and egg).

There were 3 types of Pierogi’s – one filled with cheese, potato and onion, another filled with lentils and the third filled with fried mushrooms mixed with pickled cabbage and onions – they were served with beautifully fresh beetroot and a delicious cabbage and carrot salad. They were a meal in themselves (and even now, days later I can still remember how good they were). The Schabowy was also excellent, you could really taste the pork.

Initially I had no room for dessert, so we just sat back and had some more tea. Then after a gap I did order a light piece of lemon zest roll, just to complete the lovely meal.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.9

Service 7.9

Ambience 7

Little Polka Cafe on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

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UPDATE: February 2012 – Sadly Little Polka has closed see comment for details.

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The Grand Hotel Eastbourne – Afternoon Tea at The White Palace

The Grand Hotel Eastbourne has a lot of history associated with it.  Lots of musical connections – Debussy completed  ‘La Mer’ here in 1905. The BBC Palm Court Orchestra used to broadcast live from The Grand Hall and Dennis Potter’s Cream in My Coffee was filmed here.

Visually “The White Palace” is quite stunning, it’s very much a remnant of a bygone era.  Just the sort of place where you would expect to see Miss Marple sitting in the corner knitting.

Our visit on Easter Sunday when The Palm Court Strings were playing was my first opportunity to have a formal “Afternoon Tea” outside London.

We arrived early enough to check out the bar.  The drinks selection was not as extensive or as special as it could have been, just some fairly standard Whiskeys, some common brands of  Rum and a couple of Sherries. The Cocktail list was much more interesting and the ones we had were very nice indeed.  Even if they were expensive – i.e., London cocktail prices, but then again The Grand is a 5 star hotel. So after a leisurely start we made our way to the far end of  The Grand Hall where Afternoon Tea is served.   The  layout was a bit awkward, set up as it was to accommodate The Palm Court Strings, which made it difficult for the staff to serve tea and rather limited our ability to order anything beyond the Champagne Afternoon Tea we had already paid for.

However I have to say, it was the string quartet that really made this an occasion. They only play on the last Sunday of each month and the very conventional Afternoon Tea would have been something of a disappointment without them.  Not that there was anything wrong with what we had to eat. The Cake Stand contained a selection of perfectly fine sandwiches, scones and cakes. It was all just a bit too conventional for my taste.

We also had a brief look at the menu for the Hotels main restaurant.  Nothing very exciting there either. The pricing structure for a la carte dishes was a bit odd, in that the price quoted per dish was on top of the £27 set menu price which meant that if you went entirely a la carte you had to remember that there was an extra £27 to add to your bill – What’s wrong with just having a set menu and showing “the real prices” for the a la carte dishes? (maybe  Miss Marple can get to the bottom of that mystery!).

When we left the Hotel at about 6 o’clock, we were very surprised to still see people sun bathing by the outdoor pool, indeed Eastbourne (on the Sunshine coast)  is certainly a sweet spot for a Staycation when you get the kind of weather we had on our visit.

Marks out of 10

Food 5

Service 5

Ambience 7

LOCATION INFORMATION

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The Hungry Monk in Jevington – Birthplace of Banoffee Pie

I do like my desserts, so a visit to The Hungry Monk in Jevington was a no brainer.  Banoffee Pie was invented here way back in 1974 and as far as claims to fame go, inventing Banoffee Pie is a good one in my book.

37 years later the Banoffee Pie is still going strong, as is The Hungry Monk.

Banoffee Pie

The previous evening I deliberately ordered Banoffee Pie in another Restaurant, which will be nameless – mainly because I have no intention of returning there as the food was mediocre to say the least.

Verdict on the Banoffee Pies (pictured) :-

The Hungry Monk – cost £7.50 (less when part of a set menu)  – 7/10 : Homemade, with a pastry base – you could really taste the condensed milk, bananas and toffee, I would have prefered less cream, but otherwise it was a very nice dessert.

The unnamed Restaurant – cost £3.85 – 2/10 : Factory made I suspect – faintly metallic taste, mostly cream and toffee sauce and some soggy banana’s on an overly crumbly biscuit base.

A prime example of how the invention has been corrupted over the years, even at half the price the “factory” made one was not worth it.

The Hungry Monk

The Hungry Monk Restaurant is in a quaint 14th century building in the tiny village of Jevington on the outskirts of Eastbourne.  The building is a bit of a maze – there is a series of small sitting rooms to left of the entrance, where you can have drinks before you are escorted to your table.

The menu on our visit was fairly typical for a Sunday lunch with main courses of Lamb, Roast Beef etc.

To start we had a fairly conventional Scallop dish (Seared Scallops with Crisp Bacon and Minted Pea Dressing) and a smoked salmon dish described as being with New Potato salad (it was actually with potatoes and lettuce), so not exactly as expected, but perfectly acceptable.

The most  interesting dish on the menu was the Rabbit Roasted in Prosciutto and Stuffed with Leek and Bacon, served with a Mild Mustard Sauce. I ordered that and certainly had no cause for complaint. My companion ordered the Roasted Rump of Sussex Lamb with Redcurrant and Rosemary Sauce which was nicely cooked, but pretty much what you would expect to get in most pubs for Sunday lunch, so nothing special there. It would have been good to choose from a small selection of vegetables rather than just the ones provided with the lamb.

For dessert I ordered the Banoffie Pie described earlier and we had a generous selection of English cheeses.

We also had coffee with home made chocolates. Something my companion who runs chocolate making courses was keen to try – they were very disappointing to say the least.  I can actually say here in all honesty, that I make better chocolates and I have only been on one course!

The Wine list was very reasonable, indeed some wines seemed to have hardly any mark up at all!

Jevington and Willingdon

The area has another claim to fame in that Jevington is in the same parish as Willingdon.  Willingdon was the base for the local village of the same name in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. We drove round Willingdon which has now been subsumed by Eastbourne, although there is still a couple of interesting looking pubs and houses and a windmill which looked very out of place on the edge of a housing estate. Jevington is more picturesque with a lovely church and access to country walks.

Marks out of 10

Food 5

Service 4.9

Ambience 5

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Update – September 2012 : After 44 years The Hungry Monk Restaurant has now closed.

LOCATION INFORMATION

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The Waterside – no not the famous one!

Dinner at The Waterside, the one in Eastbourne on the seafront that is, rather than the way more famous one in Bray on the riverside.

This Waterside is actually a very attractive boutique hotel close to the Pier. There is no formal reception area as the focus on entering is the stylish bar and restaurant.  We had booked our table for 7:00 mainly so we could get back to London at a reasonable time, and were shown to our table in the conservatory area – probably ideal in the summer but rather cold in atmosphere and temperature in the winter, despite the heating.  So with a bit of persuasion we got them to move us into the main restaurant area, which although fully booked could handle the change if we were able to vacate our table by 8:30.

The Waterside - Mustard Bread

I do like it when restaurants make an effort with the bread. The Waterside presented us with two different olive oils, some butter and a single piece of bread.  Does not sound that great does it, but when that single slice is a delicious piece of mustard bread, I have no complaints at all. Give me quality over quantity anytime.

I ordered the scallop dish for starters, and my companion went for the scotch egg with coronation style chicken and pickled onions, which on arrival looked very nice. However it was totally eclipsed by my scallop dish – Apsleys take note here – not 5 wafer thin slivers of scallop but 5 large juicy beautifully cooked scallops, accompanied by a mustard crème brulée and cashew nut baklava – yes there was quantity here, but it delivered on the quality too along with some imagination. For main course we ordered Plaice and Game Pudding.   There was nothing conventional about the Plaice, being served as it was with Dukkah and cauliflower – I really enjoyed this dish.  The delicate use of spices worked well, you could really taste the fish and the cauliflower. The potato cake it was served on was also good, really fluffy and light.  My companion enjoyed her Game Pudding too,  but did feel it was missing something and a little short of gravy. For dessert I had the carrot cake with caramelized banana and nuts and my companion had the more spectacular looking trio of crème brulée ABC (Amaretto – very nice, Bailey’s – subtle, Cognac – too subtle).

The Waterside has one AA Rosette, but in my view actually met the criteria for 2 Rosettes to the letter.

“Innovation, greater technical skill and more consistency and judgement in combining and balancing ingredients are all needed at this level.”

The timing on food delivery and service was quick, so there was no problem vacating the table for the next sitting.  It was a shame we had to leave,  as it would have been nice to relax in the bar and try out some of their reasonably priced cocktails (well reasonable by London prices at about £6 each). Eastbourne also looked lovely at night, beautifully lit and very grand.

Marks out of 10 for The Waterside

Food 6.8

Service 5.1

Ambience 5.5

UPDATE : April 2011 – Made a return visit to The Waterside to try more of the menu. There were a couple of dishes from the previous visit still on the menu, but enough had changed to make the return worthwhile. I had a lovely Mackerel dish to start, beautifully flavoured with lime juice. Then a Skate and gnocchi dish for main course (not the best cooked Skate, it was a bit stringy, but the gnocchi was very good), my companion had the Plaice, which was perfectly cooked.

We just had to try the Basil Ice Cream for dessert – a triumph. The Waterside is such a good find. I am sure I will be back to try a few more of the chefs innovations.

UPDATE : May 2011 – Just heard that The Waterside has won a  2nd AA Rosette.  I did see that one coming.  Well done to Lori Parsons and the restaurant team.

The Waterside Restaurant on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION – The Waterside

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Morgans

Another Restaurant in Eastbourne worth mentioning is Morgans, we did a walk in here for their set lunch (for the price of a cocktail in The Waterside). The food was well cooked and seriously good value – check out the picture of the pâté starter which came with hot fresh bread drizzled with olive oil, that alone was worth the money.

So it was a very productive day, with two good restaurant finds.

Marks out of 10 for Morgans

Food 5.5

Service 4.5

Ambience 4

Morgans on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION – Morgans

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Thai Marina – The Waterfront, Sovereign harbour

Another visit to the South coast to make the most of our Summer – Eastbourne this time.  Rather impressed actually. Eastbourne sea front is like a better kept Brighton. A short drive or a two miles walk along the coast path, heading south and you will reach Sovereign Harbour.

Sovereign Harbour is a huge rather attractive marina, which unfortunately seems to be somewhat lacking in bars and restaurants.  The rather small Waterfront complex is where the restaurants and bars are located, the  restaurant that looked the most interesting to us was called Thai Marina (only found out its name when we got the bill as the awning hides it and there was nothing on the menu but a logo as far as I could see).

This was a good find, I enjoyed their selection of Dim Sum and the dessert options though limited were good. I had a delicious coconut custard dish and my companion had an attractively presented coconut ice cream. Serving truffles with the Green Tea was also a nice touch.

Very relaxing, especially if like us, you get the weather and can sit out on the large terrace.

Marks out of 10 for Thai Marina during the day

Food 5.5

Service 5

Ambience 5

UPDATE : April 2011 – Made a return visit to Thai Marina, this time in the evening. I found the service to be particularly good. Too much lemon grass spoilt one of my companion’s dishes, but on the whole the food quality was well above average.  For my main course I ordered a Green Curry, which was not exactly as expected, much hotter with some red peppers and British Aubergines rather than Thai ones. However it worked, the sauce was delicious. It went well with the lovely fluffy coconut rice. The drinks/wine list was a surprise, it included a really good selection of spirits and several less common wines. We had a bottle of Picpoul De Pinet which complimented my curry beautifully.

UPDATE : May and August 2011 – Another two visits and another two very good meals. The Prawns and the Fish Cakes were perfect, I loved the Snow Crab with Wasabi dip and the Octopus I had was so tender that I managed to cut it easily with my spoon.  I also loved the vegetable carvings, they added that extra level of fun to the meal.

Marks out of 10 for Thai Marina in the Evening

Food 6.5

Service 6

Ambience 5

Thai Marina on Urbanspoon

Simply Italian – another option

The Waterfront complex also houses a Simply Italian restaurant, this is part of a small chain of Italian Restaurants. It’s also worth a visit.  The Calzone I had was definitely better than anything Pizza Express can deliver and the pasta wasn’t bad either.

Marks out 10 for Simply Italian

Food 5

Service 5

Ambience 5

Simply Italian on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

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