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A Weekend In Deal

A Weekend In Deal
It’s no secret that the Kent coast has been on an upward trajectory for a while now. Folks have been flocking to hip and gritty Margate, unique and atmospheric Dungeness and sleepy and quaint Broadstairs in their hoards.

In bygone times, the area had a reputation as a dated and unfashionable corner of the country, but the last decade or so has seen big changes; and big investment. This has seen certain towns gain notoriety for things that would previously have seemed improbable.
 
Rewind a couple of decades and few would have foreseen Whitstable becoming a foodie hotspot or Margate becoming a haven for speciality coffee, for example. There is one spot in this neck of the woods, however, that remained out of the headlines for longer than its illustrious neighbours; until now.
 
Like many others, I am a sucker for middle class house porn. I was surprised to see architecturally sexed-up cottages in Deal appear on both Wallpaper and The Modern House within a few days of each other.
 
I’m also a big foodie so, alongside unattainable pads, my newsfeed is regularly clogged up with restaurant openings. Therefore, it was less of a surprise to see an article pop up regarding a new collaboration between Lisbon’s superstar chef Nuno Mendes and a slick looking gastro pub. That was until I saw that it wasn’t in North London, but instead in Deal.
 
It was at this point I started furiously Googling a market town that I had never given any thought to prior, and it wasn’t long before an Air BnB cottage, a return from St. Pancras and a couple of restaurant bookings were in the bag (not the Nuno Mendes one, predictably I was too slow off the mark for a table this side of the decade).
 
I found Deal to be a charming place, packing a lot in to a small area. It appears to almost be split in two parts - the Old Town area which has of a myriad of tiny, winding lanes and alleys and a more modern town centre area offering more practical conveniences. It’s a place that definitely has a distinct identity.
 
The close proximity to France can be felt here too, with more than a passing resemblance to Northern French market towns. There is plenty to do for a couple of relaxing days away, making it an ideal weekend getaway from London. Here are my top picks should you choose to head to Deal anytime soon.
 
 
Drinks
 
Smugglers Record Shop

 
We were fortunate to find that just around the corner from our holiday cottage in the older part of the town was this absolute gem.
 
Part old-school, rough around the edges record shop, part craft beer boozer it’s the type of establishment that cool cats would try to mimic in edgy areas of East London. Only this one is the real deal - you can feel it, smell it, taste it immediately.
 
Grab a jar of whatever tickles your pickle from the varied and interesting rotation, have a flick through some vinyl and listen to the superbly curated tunes. What could be better?
 
Apparently these guys organise a yearly festival too, one to add to the calendar for sure.
 
 
The Zetland Arms

 
OK, so this class act of a pub is actually situated just outside of Deal in picturesque Kingsdown. But it’s well worth the delightful coastal stroll to get here.
 
Head straight past the historic castle, away from the town centre and keep walking alongside the beach for a couple of level miles to earn your pint with a view. You’ll pass fisherman’s boats, traditional timber huts and parkland en route, so you won’t be bored.
 
Once at your destination, grab a table on the immediately adjoining pebbled beach to enjoy your well poured bevvy in the shadow of the towering white cliffs, synonymous of the area. You’ll struggle to find a better “beer garden” anywhere.
 
If you worked up a hunger on the walk then a good pub food offering is available which champions fresh local fish.
 
 
Coffee
 
 
Pop Up Cafe

 
Situated in the more modern part of the High Street is this large, bright and welcoming coffee shop and brunch/lunch spot.
 
Nab a table by the window if you can to watch the world go by whilst you sip on an expertly crafted brew. They offer all of the usual espresso based favourites here as well as a great filter selection.
 
When I visited I was offered two choices of blends to have on V60, the friendly and knowledgeable staff steering me to the one which they felt I would like the best.
 
 
Food
 
 
Victuals & Co.

 
There are plentiful food options here, so much so that it was hard to narrow it down to a couple of places to go for dinner amongst all the choices. However, on my online research one name kept popping up time and again - Victuals & Co.
 
This well regarded eaterie is located in an old, double fronted building down a tiny pedestrian only twitten in the Old Town. You’d struggle to find it without the help of your trusty phone map but that’s all part of the charm really. Visiting here makes you feel like you’re being let into a local secret.
 
We booked in for Sunday lunch, and I have to say that it was one of the best I’ve had outside of family surroundings. The chicken was moist and noticeably high quality, the vegetables still slightly firm and the potatoes both crisp and fluffy. No mean feat when you’re cooking the stuff on a commercial scale.
 
It must also be said that the service was excellent. Calm and attentive, they took the time to chat to you as well as serve you, and the whole thing felt very relaxed and un-rushed. A world away from some of the manic Sunday roast operations back in the Capital.
 
 
81 Beach Street

 
Occupying a deceptively spacious town house type property; predictably opposite the beach; is 81 Beach Street.
 
It’s the sort of place that takes you back in time a little to restaurants of yesteryear, and I mean that in a complimentary way. Somewhere between a bistro and an early gastropub, it offers filling and well presented food without the fuss.
 
Think steaks with thick cut chips, slow cooked pork belly, herb crusted cod and chocolate mousse. It’s not groundbreaking but it is very tasty, with everything cooked perfectly.
 
It’s also clear to see that everyone who works here takes a great deal of pride in what they serve and the environment that they create. The service is slick and professional without being stuffy.
 
 
Shopping
 
 
Hoxton Store

 
The owner of this eclectic homewares store ran Hoxton Boutique in East London before uprooting and heading to the Kent coast.
 
Whilst it may not be one for the minimalist, this quirky and bold shop is a great place to find a unique present or interesting items for your own home, all thoughtfully curated and presented.
 
From neon candlesticks to tropical animal themed ceramics, you won’t be bored browsing in here.
 
Will & Yates

 
If your homewares taste is more relaxed and pared back then make the short trot further down the High Street to Will & Yates.
 
Part art gallery, part lifestyle store, it offers a lovely selection of upcycled furniture, ceramics from local makers and organic toiletries.
 
The store has a very relaxed and rustic vibe, and you’ll be sure to pick up something that you won’t see anywhere else.
 
The Saturday Market

 
The bustling local Saturday market offers a host of stalls from fruit and veg to local crafts and bric-a-brac.
 
There is a real focus on local produce here, with local artisans including Kingsdown Breads and The Kentish Provender, who specialise in all manner of cheese.
 
Whilst you’re here it’d be rude not to pick up a drop of wine to go with that cheese selection, right? Well fear not, for Authentique Wines have got you covered.
 
 
So there you have it, my rec’s for a trip to delightful Deal. And that’s without mentioning the obligatory bracing dip in the North Sea, should you visit in the fairer months!

 

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