The last and only time I was in Lewes must have been 15 years ago en route to Glyndebourne. Olly and I were going to the opera with some clients of his and Daffers was on her best behaviour as we boarded a routemaster bus the men in black tie and us ladies in our finery which took us to the famous opera house and grounds.
Nancy Bright Thompson suggested we might check the county town of Sussex out. She explained it had two eccentricities: its own currency and a fireworks night celebrating 5 martyrs which is lively to say the least as various processions move through the town not unlike a gang of unruly football fans. Most sensible people, Nancy explained, stay away. I found this difficult to square with the elegant residences of the high street not unlike Bath. It’s rich in history as its Norman castle is still in good enough condition to visit. It’s also the homes of Thomas Paine and Anne of Cleves.
We started as recommended by our Polly at the Magasin. The coffee was delicious and I enjoyed an Eggs Benedict which was well cooked and served. Polly explained to us that it was bought by a rich man for his daughter and he enticed a top chef from London. You cannot really judge a restaurant by breakfast but the service was friendly. It was a good place to pick up the beat of the town and I formed the impression based on the families and couples of rich writers and arts people frequenting it.
Proceeding up the high street we passed the law courts, castle and home of Thomas Paine before turning back on ourselves to a wine shop and restaurant called Symposium. This was owned by two young men. It was essentially a wine shop, but tables were set out and Sussex cheese and local meats were served with wine. The service was impressive. Much attention was given to the type of gin I wanted with my tonic, 6 different ones were proffered. Nancy and I chose a glass of New Zealand Pinot Noir with platter of local cheeses. Although the gastronomic skill required is minimal I still admired the sourcing of local produce and the wine was delicious.
It’s not really what Lewes seems to offer, more about what it lacks. Speaking later to a friend who lives nearby she recommended Bills which is next to Le Magasin, but I could not identify a high end restaurant which is odd as it seemed a wealthy milieu of foodies. Perhaps gastro pubs are more prevalent but we could not find any to entice. I must say I prefer naughty Brighton to haute bourgeois Lewes where you can let your hair and everything else down!!!!