Sea Kale is a small cafe in London Rd near the centre of St.Leonards. Opened early this year by Matt and Emma Kennard-Bowen, it’s on the shady side of the street, but the decor, the colours of sea-buffed glass, gives a light, open feel.  The coffee is excellent and the white tea exquisite, but what’s really distinctive is their presentation, service and the sheer quality of their menu. They serve light lunches and breakfasts, at very fair prices, from a menu which changes all the time, depending on what local suppliers deliver. Little Gate Farm’s mystery box is a regular. Then Matt works his alchemy and produces tastes that are subtle and original. His relishes are extraordinary – just as you think there is no more perfect companion to a sausage roll, he invents another.

Matt has been abseiling into international catering situations for most of his professional life. Getting a call from the V and A or the Ashmolean for 550 canapés while standing in a supermarket buying for his kitchen in Shoreditch is standard fare for him. He has prepared food for film crews, classical music events, rock bands, (Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Bryan Ferry, P.J.Harvey) for thirty years. He has run kitchens for festivals and sent several start-up businesses on course for a speedy vertical trajectory. (Benugo is one.)

Emma, with assistants Jenny and Maria, provides a warm and discreetly attentive front of house. She has a Fine Art degree and has worked as business P.A. to an advertising photographic agent working for Paul Smith and Dan McCullen. Ten years at the Institute of Directors led to an account management for a Printers, then events management for the Health Training Service.

You might expect such a wealth of experience to make them insouciant about setting up a small cafe in St. Leonards, but they both had opening day nerves and kept inventing reasons to delay letting in the first customers.

Moving to Hastings was a lifestyle choice, but allows Matt the freedom to be at the apogee of his creative skill. ‘Start with a vegan concept and work up’ he says, happy to tailor recipes to the customer, or put on evening supper parties for private clients and in the cafe.

They work well together and wear their talents lightly; their engaging, generous and friendly manner makes you relax unawares into what’s essentially Michelin quality product and service.

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