There are no two ways about it; Hastings is a mad place. This East Sussex coastal town celebrates pirate day once a year and everyone from grandmas on mobility scooters to babies in buggies sport bandanas and eye-patches. There’s an annual competition to cycle up the steepest hill on vintage bikes without raising your bum from the saddle and thus losing the £10 note sequestered under there. In May there’s a pagan festival to celebrate the release of Jack in the Green – the spirit of summer, Morris Dancing at any opportunity and a seafood festival with live music. Pretty much every weekend there is some kind of wacky celebration to get stuck in to.
We stayed at The Zanzibar hotel (above) which is right on the seafront near St Leonard’s – Hastings’ more subdued sister town, a brisk walk from the historic centre. There are just eight rooms here and each is inspired by the owner Max’s favourite travel destinations. We stayed in Japan, which had a traditional standing Japanese bath (with Jacuzzi function), a choice of lovely REN products, an extremely comfortable futon bed and chic, simple décor - Marie Kondo would approve. ‘Manhattan’ is the penthouse suite, complete with open kitchen and living room and impressive sea views, but were we to stay again we’d book into ‘South America’, officially the honeymoon suite – who could resist the views of the sea from the giant freestanding bathtub, whether it’s your wedding night or not.
The hotel is in a traditional Regency townhouse and the ground floor restaurant Pier Nine benefits from high ceilings, open fireplaces and a full-frontal view of the sea and pebble beach, just across the road. The white grand piano, candelabras and chandeliers set the tone of the interiors and the food is good too. We enjoyed a 36-day aged Sussex fillet steak and pan-fried turbot (below) served with crispy fish crackling.
While in town exploring the many antique shops, don’t miss the Jerwood Gallery, which holds a collection of exceptional drawings plus eclectic visiting exhibitions. The Dragon Bar is the best spot for a cocktail, and The Crown is one of the nicest new pubs – all a short walk from each other.
The best time to check in to the Zanzibar though is summer when Hastings hedonism is in full swing – there is no better place to recover after a Pirate party.
Rooms are from £135 (last minute mid-week garden view in winter) up to around £325 for the penthouse suite in the middle of summer. Prices are for 2 people and include breakfast.
T: 01424 460109