Rye has some great restaurants, and most of them take full advantage of the area’s local produce, from Romney Marsh lamb to Hastings crab. If you want to dine out at the weekend, it’s best to book.
A friendly steakhouse (fish-lovers and veggies are also catered for) in a stripped-back former pub full of cow-themed artwork. Choose from simple steaks, ribs and burgers or cuts from more special 30-day aged beef.
The wine and beer list includes a unique steak-compatible brew by the local Old Dairy Brewery. And for pudding, the Key Lime pie is pretty amazing.
A locals’ favourite, this low-beamed restaurant serves authentic Italian cooking, such as roast saddle of pork, and potato and thyme tortellini in a ragu sauce, complemented by a similarly Italian wine list. Many of the ingredients, including the delicious cured meats and cheeses, are sourced from the owners’ Tuscan contacts. Lovely friendly service.
The George, an 18th-century coaching inn in the heart of Rye, has a modern dining room that’s always buzzing. Expect classics like steak frites, pork belly, and local scallops pan-fried with chorizo.
Passionate staff and great local ingredients add to up the perfect neighbourhood bistro. It offers a great set dinner on Wednesday and Thursday (also available weekend lunchtimes). Leave room for the English cheeses, if you can.
Every town needs a no-nonsense, family-friendly Italian, and this is Rye’s. Pizza and pasta galore, plus seasonal specials.
This modern and airy Arts and Crafts-era former warehouse can make a nice change from the low beams and crooked staircases that characterise many of Rye’s eateries. The open kitchen serves up the freshest fish and seafood, including rock oysters, Hastings crab and pan-fried sea bass.
You can get fish and chips in loads of places in Rye, but (after extensive research) we think this is the best. In addition to being a takeaway it has a licensed restaurant.
37-38 The Mint TN31 7EN // 01797 223268
This weatherboarded pub is more of an informal restaurant, with an emphasis on local food. The interior is partly inspired by the rustic shepherd’s huts that pepper Romney Marsh (hence the corrugated-steel walls and straw-bale seating) and partly by the area’s maritime history (lobster pots turned into pendant lights). The bombastic menu and novelty decor might grate a bit – it’s like the management of Bubba Gumps decided to try and repeat their winning formula in East Sussex. But there’s no doubting the quality of the food, which includes local lamb and fish and daily specials, the drinks (including wine and beer from nearby Chapel Down and Gusbourne) and the warm atmosphere. No reservations.
All your drinking requirements are catered for in Rye. Ancient beamed bars and historic pubs (most of them freehouses) serve local beers, fine wines, and good food. We’ve drunk in all of them but these are the ones we go back to.
One of Rye’s most ancient drinking establishments (it dates to the early 15th century) has reopened as a fashionably stripped-back pub, with a tiled floor, bare-wood window frames and scrubbed wooden tables, softened by distressed blue paintwork. Candles, an open fire and some wonkily beautiful beamwork add to the atmosphere; this is a place for loud, buzzy conversation, not hushed tones, just as a pub should be.
The bar serves local beers (Old Dairy and Curious Brew) and the food includes a pate of the day and catch of the day as well as pub classics like fish and chips.
Originally built as Rye’s pump house, this charming little building has had several guises since, including as a soup kitchen in the early 20th century, public toilets, and most recently an antiques emporium. Its current use suits it very well, as a micropub serving only local ales and ciders, including Three Legs, New Romney and Hop Fuzz. This intimate and very friendly spot is a go-to for a quick drink before an evening meal, a pint outside in the sunshine watching the world go by, or a bit more of a session.
The antiques shop (sort of) lives on, in that many of the pieces of furniture and objects that adorn the interior are for sale.
Originally a 16th-century warehouse that stored the contraband seized from smugglers, The Ship covers every possible base – great local ales (try something from the Old Dairy brewery), a hearty menu, cocktails, board games and newspapers.
Inside is a nice mix of scruffy sofas, mismatched chairs and big, low-hanging pendant lights, pepped up with a sort of mid-century tally-ho vintage spin. The staff go out of their way to merrily accommodate the mix of locals and tourists.
If you’re not up for cooking breakfast at Bee Cottage, come here for eggs benedict, waffles or a full English, a good way to set yourself up for the day.
‘The Wipers’ has such a pretty run-up – through cobbly Church Square, past the 14th-century Ypres Tower, before descending down the ancient Gun Garden steps. By the time you set eyes on its white clapboard exterior, you’ll be thirsty for a pint.
Inside there are usually three or four ales on, plus locally sourced food such as lamb hotpot and smoked haddock risotto.
This is the only pub in the citadel with a proper beer garden, which overlooks the river and Romney Marsh. There’s live music here on Fridays and Sundays, and also in the garden on special occasions such as during August’s Rye Jazz Festival.
An alehouse since medieval times, the Mermaid’s cellars date from the 12th century, although what you see now is a mere 700 years old or so, with thick beams, elegant panelling and crooked floors.
Now a popular hotel – famously reputed to be haunted by the smugglers that used to hang out here in the 18th century – it also has an extraordinary lounge bar, dominated by an enormous inglenook ‘giant’s fireplace’, so big that it even accommodates a priest’s hole in the chimney breast.
The uniformed bar staff serve local ale and cider and there’s a good wine list. It’s a particularly welcome spot on a cold night, or after a big walk.
A big, bustling freehouse with zero pretentions, the Queen’s Head is a lively locals’ pub, with pool table, piano and more than a few good pints. Stand at the bar, get comfy in a big squashy chairs around the stove or be seated for a meal.
The pub is becoming increasingly well known for its food, which is hearty and lovingly cooked from scratch on the premises.
There’s often live music on Saturdays, and Sundays between 4 and 6pm is happy hour, when drinks are half price. You don’t get that very often these days.
Refresh and refuel with a stop-off at one of Rye’s cafes and tea shops.
An all-day dining spot in one of Rye’s loveliest buildings, a 16th-century house with a handsome Georgian frontage. As well as serving breakfast and lunch, it is also a base for The Lazy Baker, who sells the most delicious bread over the counter; the bread is also a significant feature of the menu, from eggs benedict on sourdough for breakfast to healthy and hearty sandwiches. The two dining areas feature original fireplaces and Elizabethan panelling, contrasting with chic modern furniture and lighting.
Occupying a prime spot at the foot of pretty Mermaid Street, this cafe could be thoroughly mediocre and still turn a profit – but thankfully, it’s a little wonder, with jolly, slightly beachy decor that’s thoroughly welcoming. The front counter groans with cakes, pastries and other treats; pop in for a takeaway coffee or ice-cream, or take a seat for a great breakfast (prepared by the hotel kitchen upstairs), a cream tea or a light lunch – the Scotch eggs are recommended.
Probably the best hot chocolate you’ll ever have: select a type of chocolate (from white to super-strong dark), then add extras like orange zest, cinnamon and even a shot of booze. Very bad. But very good.
Set on a tiny cobbled side-street, this is the place to go for the traditional afternoon tea treatment. A good selection of loose-leaf teas are served, along with cakes, scones and light lunches.
Get your Monmouth Coffee fix at this airy modern cafe. Also serves salads and sandwiches, and does a really tasty breakfast (opens at 10am).
Pop down to the harbour for a fry-up or lunch at this little cafe. It does the full English and various breakfast permutations, plus family-friendly food like burgers and paninis at lunch. You can burn it off afterwards with a walk round the Rye Habour nature reserve next door.
The Point, Rye Harbour TN31 7TU // 07834 730528