Cassoulet of pancetta, sausage,
Guinea fowl & baked apple.”
“Beetroot risotto, horseradish
cream & red mullet”.
“Sardines Venetian style with
white onions, pine nuts & golden
With: “Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine
de Belle Mare”- delicate, mineral,
Or: “San Vincenzo (Garganega)
Anselmi”- melon, nut, orange

Is this heaven? It’s certainly as near as I want to be for the foreseeable.

What would be your wish list for a café/restaurant in the town? I’d like a place I could swing by during the day for a coffee and a quiet chat or some reading space, somewhere with a warm welcome, a calm, classy, relaxed ambience; some beautiful art to induce reverie while I’m working. It would haveto be a place where I might have a light business lunch, or, in the evening, where I can chill out and meet friends for a glass of something special, and perhaps I’ll decide to add an elegant platter, or maybe something more substantial. Ingredients sourced from our local specialist suppliers, naturally, and prepared lovingly by someone with skills I could never hope to reach;wines which will zhush or stroke my palette, according to mood, and a touch of live cool jazz or smoky blues to set the whole thing off. Of course, I want to leave with a comfortable wallet too.

Ideally, perhaps I could even just pop in to buy a bottle of special wine for a gift, or to go with some new recipe I’ve been trying out. Anyone who knows me knows that even the verticality of the simple scone can defeat me: that new recipe is a fantasy, but there’s no need to wish for the ideal eaterie.It’s here. It’s in St Leonards. It’s Graze on Grand.

Graze provides for all the diverse functions we need in one place, and does so with a quiet, unhurried elegance. There’s a big difference between the chill of pretension and the cool equilibrium of just getting things right. You won’t find potato foam on the menu, but you will find an occasional happy tail wagging from beneath a chair.

Stephanie Goj who co-created it, has all the physical delicacy of a wren and her restrained demeanour conceals an unusually rich and diverse experience. She is half Polish and was brought up in New Zealand. That’s just for starters. After a pull towards ceramics, (making them, that is,) she trained as a shiatsu practitioner, a career she followed for twenty years. Since then, her story has been a plait of her aesthetic and therapeutic skills, and great business nous. In London she was part of a Hair, Health & Beauty concept that brought complimentary medicine into the 21st Century. Developing a diverse team of 50 health professionals over 12 years she leaves her legacy to the communities of Stoke Newington and Newington Green.

So, what brought her here? It took an elaborate mesh of happenstance and intuition and is a trajectory which may not be so strange to many of us. It all began a long time ago with a chance conversation just overheard in the tiny Black Truffle shoe shop in Broadway market. (Finally: proof that looking at shoes need not be a trivial pursuit.) The conversation was about the opportunities for interesting spaces in Hastings, and the way the community continually pulls in creative people. Stephanie locked this away (in something exquisite made of porcelain, no doubt) for eight years. One day she came on a whim to visit. It took but a day of walking up and down the sea-front for the town to work its usual magic and she fell for the light, the sea, which recalled her New Zealand childhood, the architecture and the sense of possibility which is created by the sheer energy and invention of the projects going on here. Still, it wasn’t until 2011 that she became a more frequent visitor and St Leonard’s got under her skin…

Some of us remember those dark days before Norman Rd became Spitalfields-on-sea.

There has been a sea-change since then, starting with Eddie and Rosie who took a huge punt on the ramshackle print works at the junction with London Rd, turning it into the much loved ‘Love Café’. (Under new management and still loved.) This transformed that end of the road, opening the way for businesses such as: Shop, Omega Workshop, the Fleet Gallery, Lucy Bell, Craft Box, and Kino-teatr. More importantly for our story, was Christine Shepherd’s The Kula, with whose sleek mid-twentieth century style Stephanie immediately connected. She used to check on The Kula at every visit, and it was Christine who gave her the headsup that the shop which had been two delicatessens was available.

‘When I saw the space, I just got goose bumps and I thought this could be the pull away from London I’d been waiting for’, she said. So it was that she left behind her London career, and with it her passion for ballroom dancing, and down she came with her partner from Berlin. She transformed that space combining an innate sense of harmony and balance with a Berlin industrial aesthetic and she put in place just what we needed. This is the way Hastings works.

She is doing her best to maintain entente cordiale, despite Brexit. Her artists are drawn from Europe as well as Hastings. Denise Franklin, Sally Cole and Karin Marie Wach have all had successful shows there. Her European wine list is truly bespoke, well researched and always being updated. It’s a wine shop open ten a.m.- ten p.m (six pm Sunday).You can call in for a glass then take a bottle home. Prices range from £10-£49 with discounts for quantity. Stephanie is happy to recommend a wine for you. You can join in one of her wine tasting evenings, though you are still welcome if you don’t want to join in, and perhaps for free hear Helen Sharpe, Clive Barker, Chantelle Duncan, Jonas Larsson, or Greg Heath and John Donaldson, Tazina Frank and Andy Williams, all while enjoying delicacies prepared by the very imaginative chef and being waited on by the charming Adan & Basil. You can have a really special lunch for £12.50- £16.50, or enjoy their pretheatre menu.

You can appreciate that the business keeps her from coming out to meet us as much as she’d like, but you know where to find her: where London Rd meets the sea and just a few doors along. She would like to hear from musicians and artists, from anyone who wants a place to meet, or to have an event. Don’t delay any bookings for Christmas.!

Graze Gallery. Graze Grapes. Graze Grooves. Enjoy!

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