In association with Long live the local

My Pub: the Crown, Hastings, East Sussex

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Crown inn glory: Families, foodies, beer and wine enthusiasts have been targeted by Andrew and Tess Swan
Crown inn glory: Families, foodies, beer and wine enthusiasts have been targeted by Andrew and Tess Swan
Five years ago, the Crown in Hastings was taken over by Tess and Andrew Swan and can now boast of being a thriving site with a great food offer thanks, in no small part, to the great seafood on the south coast. Tess explains all...

Facts 'n' stats

Name: The Crown Hastings

Address: 64-66 All Saints Street, Hastings, TN34 3BN

Email: hello@thecrownhastings.co.uk

Licencees: Tess and Andrew Swan

Wet:dry split: 55:45

The pub

The Crown is a small, independently run freehouse in the heart of Hastings old town, at the foot of the country park and a stone’s throw from the beach.

Recently celebrating its fifth anniversary since myself and Andrew reopened the pub, it has exceeded expectations and has scooped national awards – most notably The Observer Food Monthly​ ‘Best Place to Drink 2018’.

The publican

We moved from our professional jobs in Leeds to Hastings in 2013, attracted by the prospect of working together, being our own bosses, living in a coastal town and with the idea of starting an hospitality business of some kind.

Stumbling across a boarded-up pub one evening, and a chance meeting with (the now sadly finished) Hastings Brewery, we were introduced to Helmut and Alex Kleinschrod who had bought the Crown as a freehouse on the open market after it was put up for sale by a pub company.

Luckily, they had decided to keep the building as a pub rather than converting it to another use and had been busy renovating the building’s structure while they quietly looked for tenants.

Crown Inn (8)

The trade, team, drink, food and events

All the stars aligned, we signed a lease and we were able to open the pub just as the summer started in Hastings in 2014.

We enlisted the help of local crafts people, friends and family to get the doors open. We scoured the junk shops for chairs, our friends Henry and Rupert made tables, ‘Ben the Blacksmith’ was on hand to make table legs and bar stools, and Leigh Dyer and Phillip Oakley made our not-so-traditional Crown signage/sculpture.

Our favourite job at this time was visiting local suppliers; breweries, cheese makers and distilleries – tasting our way through ideas for our menus.

We gathered a small team of staff around us, many of whom are still with us to this day, and flung open the doors on a sunny July evening. The rest is history, we haven’t stopped since; we open 364 days a year, for 12 hours a day and serve food for 8.5 hours each day – but our team isn’t quite so small anymore.

Our initial thoughts for food were of a low-key offering of charcuterie and cheeseboards, a sandwich or two and a brownie. This quickly escalated with the addition of a fryer due to the customer pressure for us to serve chips. From there we have progressed to a full seasonal menu, all cooked from scratch, in-house, and a team of 11 kitchen staff, lead by Andrew and our head chef James Favell.

We have a list of local suppliers as long as our arm, but our best resource is the sea. Hastings is the home of the largest beach-launched fishing fleet in Europe and we get to choose the best of the catch. Currently on the menu are spider crabs, mackerel and sea trout.

Crown Inn (1)

We push ourselves to experiment with seasonal ingredients because there is a strict ban on exotic produce from abroad on the menu – no chocolate, no coffee, no bananas, no lemons, etc. We serve produce that can be grown/reared/ farmed in Sussex and Kent so that people get a true showcase of the region, we work directly with local producers to provide a true ‘farm to fork’ ethos.

By restricting the ingredients we have available to us, we have to work seasonally, changing the menu gradually throughout the year. Limiting the chefs to the availability of ingredients forces us to be more creative, so you won’t find your typical pub grub on offer.

We are very lucky to have a world famous in-house baker, Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, living on our doorstep; he bakes delicious bread most mornings at the pub when he is not touring the world on bread-baking courses. Our bread is made from home-made sourdough cultures and we have even started experimenting with milling our own flour. When we have extra loaves not required for the daily service, we sell it on the bar for lucky passers-by.

We believe you need to give customers a reason to visit your establishment, over and above staying in the comfort of their own homes with the temptation to buy cheaper supermarket beer. So we keep on our toes with the tastiest local brews – our friends at Three Legs make some of the best real ales, ciders and kegged beers around.

Crown Inn (2)

As a freehouse, we love the freedom to choose whatever we like, and our customers love it too. How about a 7% IPA from Burning Sky, or a traditional Best Bitter from Romney Marsh?

We choose a wide range of beers from low ABV to ones that will knock your socks off. We are championing smallscale brewers, and it is a delight to chat to them about new brews, create collaboration beers with them, greet them when they deliver, and enjoy selling their beer and promoting it on social media.

Across the industry, gin and whisky is having its moment in the spotlight, and our shelves are filled with rare specialities from local distilleries, as well as some exciting ones from further afield.

We can’t really sum up our target audience other than ‘anyone who likes the things that we do’, so you could say we appeal to people who are interested in quality and traceability. Our pub doors really are open to anyone, whatever age they are and even if they have four legs. If you don’t see your usual branded drink on display, tell us what you like and we’ll give you some tasters and try our best to make you happy.

Although slightly off the beaten track (we are not directly on the seafront), we have plenty of tourists who seek us out, or stumble across us – although this is not our bread and butter. Our core customers are the amazing bunch of locals who live nearby; notably our neighbour Eric who folds our napkins in exchange for a cup of tea each morning. There are days when you can walk into the building during a busy lunch and we will know most people by their name. They are a big part of the family too.

Our wall space is filled with exhibitions by local artists, in fact the space has proved so popular we have a waiting list that extends many years. We host regular events for the community such as storytelling, haircuts and crafting, which take place in our snug. There is a popular Christmas wreath workshop and we host live music as part of local events from time to time. Once a week, our chefs cook a big tray of food for the Dom’s Food Mission charity – a local group that provides food for those in need. Our tables are filled with flowers grown by my mum as another sign of the changing seasons.

On the menu

Crown Inn (9)
  • Twice cooked chips, herb salt - £3
  • Crispy pickled whelks, seaweed mayo - £4
  • Beetroot tartare, egg yolk, beetroot crisps - £7.50 (V)
  • Cold roast beef, pickled and crispy onions, horseradish dressing, egg yolk - £8
  • Summer roast veg salad, vegan ‘feta cheese’, aubergine baba ganoush, chilli jam dressing - £13 (Ve)
  • Roast sea trout fillet, cuttlefish, mussels, cockles, tomato and chilli sauce, chimichurri salsa, chips - £17
  • Smoked bacon steak, eggs, chips, brown sauce - £12
  • Chilled cherry flan, Hastings rum and honey ice cream, nut crumb - £6 (V)
  • Gooseberry drizzle cake, plum and raspberry compote, gooseberry and vodka sorbet, nut crumb - £6 (Ve)
  • Cheeseboard: Brighton Blue, Sussex Charmer, Sussex Brie, crudités, bread, pickles, chutney - £15 to share/£8 for one

(V) – Vegetarian. (Ve) – Vegan

The reinvention

When we took over the Crown and reopened it in July 2014, the pub had been given a new lease of life. The focus had turned to families, foodies, beer enthusiasts and wine lovers.

Now a freehouse, the pub was able to open itself up to a much wider audience, and many licensing restrictions such as no children after 7pm were dispensed with.

There was a real interest from customers in the local area, who wanted the food side of the business to be pushed. There weren’t many relaxed, family friendly gastro-style pubs in the area at this time, and we were able to fill a gap in the market by serving food all day, every day. Our loyal and local customers have continued to support us, and the tourists and national newspapers have continued their interest too.

We have provided 25 jobs for local people, and we are proud of our list of local suppliers – publishing them in our menus and on our website so that they can gain recognition.

We have been lucky to attract a certain level of national press, therefore, getting the name out there that Hastings is a place to visit for top-quality food and drink.

Crown Inn (4)

The future

Our wish for the future is just to keep going as we are – maintaining our trade levels and keeping our customers happy. In the face of rising costs from all directions, mainly the looming business rates increases, we hope to be able to continue our business, serving the local community with both jobs and somewhere to eat and drink.

We aim to have a happy business, a boost in positivity was brought about by our new son Dylan, as we can all watch him grow up in the friendly, welcoming environment of a pub, as he learns to polish cutlery and wave at customers.

Our team of staff are like a family; opening the doors of the pub on time each morning and greeting the customers with a smile. We are into our sixth year of trading and sometimes you can feel like you are just starting to get into the swing of it – and then, of course, the ice machine breaks on the hottest day of the year!

We would like to thank all of the small local suppliers who keep turning up at our door with exciting, delicious, unique and inspiring produce, which we in turn can supply to our customers. It’s as simple as that.

Vital role in the community

Long Live The Local is a campaign that celebrates the vital role local pubs play in our community, culture and economy while highlighting the pressure they face from a range of taxes and the jeopardy of closure. Last year, more than 19,000 pubs supported the campaign.

To show your support for the campaign order your pub kit and sign the petition at www.longlivethelocal.pub​.

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