The faded yellow, the old sash windows painted dark green, that weathered cafe table and chairs for red-wine drinking. If it wasn’t for the address above the door – a major giveaway we’re still in England – everything about this place would suggest I’d whisked you to the French countryside. However, today readers, we’re visiting a hidden gem in the pretty town of Lewes, Sussex, just a few miles out of Brighton.
Surrounded by chalky cliffs and the rolling South Downs, Lewes is the perfect weekend city escape hatch. With cobbled streets, cosy pubs and cafes, plenty of little shops to browse. It’s the kind of place you’ll find work-weary Londoners catching their breath, Brightonians escaping the weekend crowds, and well-heeled country folk hanging out, everyone meandering the cobbled streets. So, next time you’re in town or planning a visit, here’s a place to add to your itinerary.
To find it, take the scenic route east through town along Cliffe High Street, over the bridge across the river Ouse, and past the Harvey’s Brewery until you get to Malling Street. Turn left when onto it and a little way up you’ll spot this beautiful faded yellow building on your right. Make your way through the grand entrance…
… past all the fascinating bric a brac…
… until you emerge into a pretty courtyard filled with tables and chairs.
Welcome to Cafe du Jardin, a cute French-style cafe-bar set inside the courtyard of Pastorale Antiques, which in turn is located in an old coaching inn steeped in history. Feel free to spend some time taking in your surroundings.
It’s open during the day for tasty French-style breakfasts – think coffee, croissants and pastries, omelettes and eggs – and tasty lunches, like baked camembert, crepes, croque monsieur and steak frites.
If the weather’s bad, there are lots of cosy nooks in the atmospheric wine cellar, which is also open on weekend evenings for drinks, cheese boards and cocktails. The cherry on this hidden gem cake? They also host pop-up supper clubs and jazz nights.
I’ll wager a bet that during your break a vintage find has caught your eye. Pastorale Antiques’ collection is vast, spreading out onto the courtyard, from the warehouse inside, and up and down the stairs. Their speciality? French stuff, obviously, like those big old weathered farmhouse tables, desks, wardrobes and chests of drawers, as well as more unusual pieces – think 1960s pinball machines, toy cars, and motor scooters – all of which the owners travel around the country and across Europe to gather.