By Rod Webb

Walking into the Edge café opposite Azur, you enter the comfortably exotic world of Ed & Rosie. Their numerous business ventures since arriving in Hastings 12 years ago have always featured an eclectic mix of design. They started with Treasure Island, a tropical paradise on the pier selling seaside memorabilia with a pirate flavour, but moved quickly back on land; similar décor, similar merchandise with the addition of slogan T-shirts for kids called Little Voice.

Two years later they moved to a shop in St Leonards, and then, continuing the theme of itchy feet, next door to a new venture in coffee and food. Décor once again paramount, the café featured an acrobat hanging from the ceiling inside, and an enormous mural of a giraffe and dancing lady outside – painted after the original mural by the famous street artist Ben Eine had been vandalised. The new painting was captured in oils by local artist James MacKinnon and, as befits the links that seem to join everything in St Leonards, he was filmed while painting it as part of a series of BFI films called Stranger on the Shore.

Ed & Rosie had originally come to town on a week’s visit in 2006 but liked it so much they rented a house and never went back to live in London – although Ed continued working as a black cab driver in Streatham, commuting three times a week. Ed says they were initially drawn to Whitstable but ended up falling for the edgy atmosphere of St Leonards. Echoing Alistair Crowley’s curse and the Eagles lyrics, Ed says about Hastings: “You can check out, but you can never leave.”

Moving on from the Love cafe, they had a brief residence at the Observer building selling food and drinks from a bright yellow converted horsebox – how they got it in and out is a story all of its own – and then relocated to the seafront opposite the Royal Victoria Hotel. Moving the horse box to and from the site was a challenge and decisions to stay at home on a dull day would often be ruined by unexpected sun, hungry punters and missed opportunity. The horsebox was eventually put out to pasture, but locals at the Horse & Groom pub still have fond memories of Ed’s many failed attempts to back it into his driveway.

Now installed at The Edge – the name perhaps reflecting their initial impression of the town – they continued to evolve their “off the wall” approach to business. Starting with an expanded menu from the horsebox, they concentrated on simple dishes with the best ingredients. Listening to Ed talk lovingly about chilli con carne made with ‘proper cuts of meat’, a range of spices and five hours in the cooking is enough to convince you. Creativity is clearly in the blood, but there is also a passion for food, passed down from both sets of parents.

Now with two seasons under their belt, a recent liquor licence and the Spanish/Mexican vision almost fully evolved, they have become a fully paid up part of the stylish regeneration of this seafront section of the town.

To see Stranger on the Shore, visit: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-stranger-on-the-shore-2016-online (painting 11 minutes in)

To see the completed James MacKinnon painting, visit: www.jamesmackinnonfineart.com/index.php/gallery

To see the Ben Eine painting, visit: www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2010/oct/16/royal-portraits#img-6


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