A town guide to Deal, Kent
- Credit: Archant
Closer to Calais than London and with a thriving arts scene and growing reputation as a foodie destination, get away from it all in delightful Deal
So far Deal is doing a great job of juggling its dual roles; remaining true to its roots while appealing to newcomers looking for the next trendy hotspot. It’s a traditional seaside town, away from it all, and with the kind of friendly community and slower pace of life that’s ideal for those escaping the rat race. With a long stretch of pebble beach, an iconic pier and a thriving foodie scene, Deal is one of those places visitors fall in love with and never leave.
Overlooking the Channel (you’ll see France on a clear day), this town became a ‘limb’ of the Cinque Ports in 1278 and one of the busiest ports in England. Today it is a peaceful seaside resort but its history – a mix of fishing, mining and military – adds to its character. The picturesque town has a large conservation area, with the ancient, pastel-coloured houses of Middle Street at its heart. Recognised for its architectural importance early on, it was the first designated conservation area in Kent.
For lovers of history, there are Tudor castles overlooking the sea at both Deal and nearby Walmer. Under the care of English Heritage, the former artillery forts were constructed on the orders of Henry VIII and designed to look like a Tudor Rose from above. Then there’s Deal Maritime & Local History Museum. Currently closed for the winter, but due to reopen in April, it has excellent collections and archives.
Launched last year, a two-hour walking trail through Deal and Walmer looks into the area’s close links with the Royal Marines, which go back some 350 years. Pointing out some of the remaining landmarks of the former RM Depot, it’s a great way to explore the town and its military legacy.
Due to open at the end of March is Kent Mining Museum, which will be based at Betteshanger Sustainable Parks. Just one of the environmentally sustainable projects being set up on this 121-hectare site, which was the last of Kent’s collieries to close, the museum will include interactive displays about how coal was discovered, how it was mined and the day-to-day lives of the miners themselves.
Opened last spring, Deal’s Kent Museum of the Moving Image is a not-for-profit museum that explores the history of the moving image, from magic lantern performances to the heyday of cinema. It was founded by Professor Joss Marsh and David Francis, one of the originators of the award-winning London MOMI.
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Deal has an active community and a thriving arts scene, with plenty of writers, photographers, artists and musicians. Live music can be found at one of many small venues every weekend and The Astor Theatre is an important part of local life. Head to the annual Deal Music & Arts Festival (28 June to 13 July) to enjoy some world class music, dance and film.
Shopping and eating
Known for its mix of independent businesses, there’s a treat in store for lovers of quirky gift shops, antiques and art.
Some to visit include Taylor-Jones & Son, Tamarisk, Dunlin & Diver, Hoxton Store, Mileage Vintage, The Deal Bookshop and Smuggler’s Records (now a café as well as an excellent record shop). Art lovers will enjoy Linden Hall Gallery and its family business John Corley Stained Glass Studio, plus the Don’t Walk Gallery.
New businesses include Brooklyn Greenspa, whose American owner relocated here last summer and is passionate about using organic and natural products in her wellbeing treatments.
For light snacks try places like The Black Douglas coffee shop, Little Harriette’s tea room, Hope & Lane or Goose on the Green at Walmer (independent café of the year in our Kent Life Food & Drink Awards 2018). Great restaurants include Victuals & Co, Frog and Scot, The Dining Club, The Lane, 81 Beach Street and The Court Yard. Hythe Bay is the excellent seafood restaurant right on the seafront run by Turrloo Parrett.
There are traditional pubs to relax in, along with The Just Reproach micropub, The Taphouse beer café, The Freed Man micropub in Walmer, The Lighthouse arts and music pub and Le Pinardier wine bar.
As you’d expect of a seaside resort, there are plenty of hotels, bed and breakfasts and holiday cottages. The Royal Hotel is right on the beach, and The Telegraph called The Rose in Deal ‘the coolest new boutique hotel on the Kentish coast’, while The Observer named it one of the UK’s best 50 hotels.
Deal Pier Kitchen
After much anticipation, the new Deal Pier Kitchen opened in December. Housed within the RIBA award-winning structure at the of Deal’s pier, and owned by Dover District Council, the new leaseholders launched the venue with a series of soft opening events over the festive period.
Business partners Tim Biggs and Rebecca Hodson took over the former Jasin’s café last year and it was fully refurbished before reopening as a trendy new eatery. Focused on fresh, organic, local food and on drawing visitors to the end of the town’s unique pier, it’s a whole new lease of life for the café – which even featured in ITV drama Liar.
Rebecca says: “Tim and I met through our work together at a Kent wedding venue and quickly bonded, with a shared passion for high-quality customer service and a love of all things food. Discussing our experiences and goals, it quickly became apparent that we should work together and we’ve been searching for the right opportunity to get our teeth into and create something special. Deal Pier Kitchen is that opportunity.
“Our company ethos is to create a fun, meaningful, safe environment without judgement for our patrons, 364 days of the year. We will also be creating 20 jobs throughout 2019, including a head chef and general manager.”
Deal writer’s debut novel
In January, local writer Anstey Harris launched her debut novel with publisher Simon & Schuster. With launch parties in both London and Deal, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton has already gained an excellent reception.
The local end of the celebrations took place at The Deal Bookshop, with people queuing out of the door to get their book signed by the author.
The uplifting story of a woman who ‘falls out of love and into life’, it’s a powerful tale about embracing your flaws and forgiving yourself. As the main character runs a violin shop and the theme of classical music flows throughout the book, it’s no surprise to hear that Anstey is married to a violin maker in real life.
She teaches creative writing at Canterbury Christ Church University College and in the community.
Postcard from Deal
My name is Benoit Dezecot and together with my wife Sarah we own Frog and Scot, a lively French bistro on Deal’s award-winning High Street. Building on the success of our wine shop and bar,
Le Pinardier, just a few doors down, in 2016 we combined our passion for fantastic wines and great food creating
a ‘bistronomique’ experience in a warm, fun and relaxed environment.
With daily changing menus chalked up on blackboards, our dishes are beautifully prepared using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients and our range of classic and contemporary dishes have earned us a place in both the Michelin Guide and The Good Food Guide for the last two years.
Having spent much of my childhood growing up in my parents’ traditional bar/café in the Loire Valley, where my mother was cooking up rustic dishes and my father served wine behind the bar to friends and locals, it felt only natural to take my 12 years’ experience in the wine trade and recreate a lively French bistro-style eatery in our wonderful town.
It is Deal’s buzzing musical, artistic and bohemian feel which first drew me to the town. With a constant stream of festivals, exhibitions and live music gigs throughout the year you are never short of things to do. It is also a hive of fantastic, independent businesses with beautiful shops, galleries, boutiques, bars and eateries on every corner. Some of our favourites include Linden Hall Art Gallery, The Lighthouse Music & Arts Pub, The Black Pig butchers, The Ship Inn, The Rose Hotel, and not forgetting Deal’s busy vintage market every Saturday.