Eat and Drink: the best of Lewes, East Sussex

Updated on 30 June 2017 | 0 Comments

Simon Ward offers a tasty tourist trail around a historic county town.

Lewes is the county town of East Sussex and has a rich history, particularly politically, which is still commemorated today, most notably in its raucous Bonfire celebrations.

It also has a long tradition of brewing and the beer of independent brewery Harveys remains one of the town's most famous exports.

It's also slowly building a reputation as a food destination, helped by a plethora of independent shops and restaurants, which are showcased during its annual food festival Octoberfeast. This features a host of themed pop-up suppers in people's houses, tastings, a farmers' market and, this year, the UK's first soup festival.

The town even has its own currency: the Lewes Pound, which you can spend at many of the places mentioned in this article.

Down by the river

Lewes is a town that doesn't encourage chain shops, although it has spawned a mini-chain itself.

Opposite the main Harveys brewery site and its shop on the pedestrianised Cliffe High Street, where you can buy its entire range of ales, sits the original branch of Bill's Produce Store. It proudly boasts that it's open "breakfast to bedtime", serving home-cooked fare such as fish pie and BBQ pork ribs in very convival surroundings. Bill's now boasts branches from Exeter to Oxford, with several in London.

Terry's fishmongers in LewesCrossing over the River Ouse, you'll find a veritable foodie's paradise in the shape of the Riverside building, home to everything from Terrys the fishmongers, which sells catches from nearby Newhaven and Eastbourne, to David Links butchers, which specialises in free range meat.

In the pedestrianised area outside, there's a regular farmers' market on the first Saturday and third Sunday of every month, which sells artisan produce alongside staple fruit and veg.

Heading up the steep School Hill, you arrive at High Street and Cheese Please, which stocks a vast array of fromage from local cheesemakers across Sussex, along with artisan foreign varieties. It also holds regular tastings.

The Market Tower just across the way on Market Street hosts a weekly market on Fridays where the emphasis is on local produce from within a 30-mile radius. You'll find everything from farmed meat to homemade Turkish Delight. Local foodie The Lewes Nibbler particularly recommends investigating what interesting smoked goodies The Smoke House has to offer.

Coming back down Station Street towards the railway station, turn left onto Lansdown Place and make your way to Laporte's. This is a lovely teashop with a courtyard patio and has the occasional celebrity visitor.

Honorable mentions too for the Buttercup Cafe, Le Magasin, Limetree Kitchen and the Hearth bakery.

A bed for the night

The White Hart Hotel is a 16th-century coaching inn that has been modernised with the likes of a gym and swimming pool inside without losing its external character. Its terrace is also a great place for a sundowner with views stretching across to the chalky South Downs. You can raise a glass to local author and radical Thomas Paine, who drank here.

Meanwhile, the stylish town house hotel Pelham House also boasts centuries of history and serves very good food, holding regular special menu evenings. The tucked-away Shelleys on the High Street is also worth considering if you're pushing the boat out.

For B&Bs, head to the Lewes B&B website.

One for the road

Harveys brewery in LewesThere are too many good pubs in Lewes to mention them all, but the following would make a very decent pub crawl. Start at the Snowdrop Inn, named in commemoration of a famous avalanche that fell from the hills it sits below. It has a great array of ales and holds its own beer festival as part of Octoberfeast. Then head back into the town onto Cliffe High Street to drink Harveys beers a stone's throw from the brewery at the John Harvey Tavern and the Gardeners Arms.

If you can wobble your way up to the top of the town, the historic Lewes Arms is well worth a visit. Heading out of town, the Pelham Arms is a charming and friendly place that also dates back centuries.


Do you have a favourite foodie or drink destination in Lewes? Let us know where and why in the Comments section below.

Thanks to Viva Lewes and the Lewes Nibbler for their help with this article

For musings and info on Lewes food and drink, check out the above and the Gannet & Parrot blog

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