There are a good number of choice places to eat and drink, in and around Lewes, with the Sussex town being notorious for having more pubs per square mile than anywhere else in Europe. I don’t know how factually correct that statement is, or has been in the past, but it’s a statement that I’ve grown up with and one that’s not hard to believe when strolling around the town.
Other news reports suggest that pubs have been closing at an alarming rate in recent years as economic uncertainty grips and supermarkets encourage the stay-at-home drinker to do just that, with rock bottom booze pricing. As a result, more and more pubs have been shifting their business models, offering themselves up as eateries and it certainly seems like Lewes pubs have followed suit in that regard.
There are, however, plenty of restaurants dotted around the town too, and if you were to combine all of these numbers together and divided by the square mile, I think my first statistic would stand and definitely suggests a town with a populous that likes to lunch. Our choice of destination for this edition of SBT is the small, but perfectly formed, Le Magasin, which is nestled along Cliffe High Street, just a couple of doors down from the birthplace of Bills Restaurant, which seems to have achieved a lofty status in Lewes, with out-of-towners visiting as some kind of pilgrimage to the hallowed ground, and in great numbers. As a result, it would be many people’s first thought if visiting Lewes, but there are a great number of fantastic alternatives on offer. One such as it turns out, is Le Magasin.
Having been steered onto the place by a good friend, (as all of the best places are, of course) my guest and I were a little surprised to see that Le Magasin is relatively small, with perhaps 50 covers. The initial impression was that of a coffee shop or maybe a cafe. Certainly, the atmosphere in the room was that of a meeting place; somewhere to talk, chat, eat and drink, in equal measure and certainly not a stuffy affair.
The relaxed approach was evident and that continued as we were shown to our table and handed our menus. Thankfully a simple choice of around eight to ten options, and all very appealing. My guest, Jeremy Ornellas of Blanch House fame, opted for the Toulouse Sausage & Garlic Mashed Potato with Pancetta, Shallot Rings and Jus, and I, the new addition to the constantly evolving menu, the Rare Thai Beef Salad with Kohlrabi, Carrot, Coriander, Chilli and Lime, served with pitta Bread. All accompanied by a large bottle of sparkling water.
We had spent so long entering into the spirit of the atmosphere that we were approached more than once to place our orders, but always in the most polite and friendly manner. The food itself was exciting. Unexpected, given the first impressions of the place but completely in line with the reports we’d heard ahead of our visit.
Not having been along in the evening, I can’t comment on how the room shifts in its personality, but I would imagine that it’s a lively place that would be great for socialising. The wine menu is extremely inviting and the staff appear to know a thing or two about the stuff, so I would imagine that you’ll be in safe hands when you visit.
The same can be said for the coffee; Le Magasin prides itself on sourcing and serving incredible coffee, retailing bag upon bag of the dark stuff, from the Monmouth Coffee Co. Being a fan, I had to try both a regular cappuccino and also a straight espresso before leaving with a bag to enjoy in my own time.
So there it is. I’m glad we took the advice to pay a visit. Le Magasin is a real jewel in Lewes’ crown and somewhere that should definitely be on your list of places to try.
Rare Thai Beef: £11.95
Large Sparkling Water: £3.80
White Coffee: £2.20
50A Cliffe High St