by Dan Britten and Dean Whitbread 

We are Dan and Dean, founders of the extremely brand-new Hastings record label, Rock-a-Nore Records, and this is our favourite café in Hastings. 

Nestling into between the lower slopes of the fast-rising hill to the North-East of Morrisons and between the Hastings to Ore railway line is the Britannia Enterprise Centre, and it is there that you will find the café that we gravitate towards most often, The Earlybird. As welcome as Base Camp One would be to an unfit mountaineer, the Earlybird is an oasis of certainty in a world of turmeric and turmoil.

In café terms, who could ask for a more stable café currency than the promise of warmth, big portions, big value, Sandra’s home cooking and the best Bubble and Squeak to be found anywhere in the Northern hemisphere (and you get asked if you want onions or not). That’s the big five covered, in our opinion, and like most main café main criteria, each one is primarily centred around effective hangover soakage. But The Earlybird goes one further for us – and the title clincher was… No music. Aaaaaaaah bliss.

The big menu, the belting value all-day breakfasts and lunches, the mugs of good strong tea and the presence of quiet background chatter makes for the perfect environment for thinking about music. 

‘Rock-a-Nore Records shall be’, we decided, because we could think straight, because there was no inane DJ dribbling on about someone whose dog found their front door key Sellotaped to their wind chime after 30 years when it blew down and killed their Auntie Peg, ‘a label created to celebrate Hastings as, pound for euro, the most musical town in Europe’. To develop this idea and to muse upon the amazing variety and diversity of the bands and musicians in this area you need to be well clear of any music of any kind. It’s quite difficult to call to mind the joyous energy of The Great Malarkey or the sublime tone of Marie White if you have an fledgling Nicey or Smashy blasting out ‘You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet’; just as it is impossible to get into the zone to contemplate Matilda’s Scoundrels’ swagger or Buddah Triangle’s flair if you have bleedin’ Sting filling your brain with a lot of guff about Fields of Gold or Barley or Rape or whatever. Or indeed, if you’re trying to think on the wealth of rockin’, rootsy retro acts we have down here, like the soul swinging Sister Suzie or yer main man, the elemental King Size Slim, the last thing you want to hear is some bi-polar (probably) disc jockey announcing, “‘today’s golden hour is 1984 and here’s a young man you may have heard of, who, incredibly, having left Genesis went on to sell 123 trillion records worldwide as a solo artist – yes, listeners, it’s Phil ‘Coming in The Air Tonight but standing up this time and not playing the drums as he sings’ Collins and, Eeeeeeeasy Loverz…”  It just can’t be done… so that is why we particularly like Earlybird…  It nourishes the brain with silence and the belly with massive fry ups and big steaming plates of comfort food, for contemplation.

The final unique and lovely thing about The Earlybird that is worth pointing out is its setting. It is off the road and surrounded on three sides by artists’ studios and craftspeople’s and artisans’ workshops. If you, like us at
Rock-a-Nore Records, like to go out somewhere to eat and think then there is nothing nicer than to be in a peaceful place with a conducive atmosphere. And what could be more conducive than to be in a pared -down, unpretentious and productive enclave, free from corporate branding and attention -sucking advertising hoardings or weekly special offers vying for your precious bit of thinking time. 

The Earlybird has done well for us and won our favourite Hastings Café prize (sorry, Earlybird, there is no actual prize). Our criteria were, I suppose, quite specific but when you consider how many fantastic cafes and restaurants there are in Hasting and St Leonards these days we feel that it must be doing a lot of things right.

Sandra has been running the Earlybird at the back of the Britannia Enterprise Centre for the past six years, but the café dates back “perhaps another 15 years”. As well as the famed Earlybird 7:30am breakfasts, this hidden-away café provides hugely filling traditional lunches for between £3 and £6, is a pleasant respite from local Queens Road shopping, and serves really good-sized mugs of tea. The blackboard carries a huge variety of options from every kind of breakfast to liver and bacon, cottage pie, vegetarian dishes, including Quorn sausages, and excellent pastries and desserts. The price and quality of the food attract an unusually broad clientele which add much to the relaxed feeling of the eatery. If you miss traditional food but want to remain in 2019, The Earlybird gets 10/10 for
good value, excellent food and unpretentious ambience, and it’s not often you can say that.

• Dan and Dean (Rock-a-Nore Records) were at: The Earlybird Café, Britannia Enterprise Centre, Waterworks Road, Hastings. Opening Hours: 7.30am to 3.00pm, Monday to Saturday.

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