Deal, in the White Cliff’s county
Eight miles north-west of Dover and south of Ramsgate lies the historic town of Deal, a former mining, fishing and garrison town close to where Julius Caesar is believed to have first arrived in Britain. It was once the busiest port in England but now it’s a peaceful, easy-on-the-eye, Georgian seaside resort, reminiscent of a naval past. It’s the opposite of London in that it’s dinky and quiet. The streets are of another era with unique town-centre shops like milliners and butchers standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
To fully appreciate Deal, one needs to first take a walk down it’s quarter-mile long Pier, which is a significant 1950s landmark and a great angling venue. Have a long look to the east and watch the light play across the aquamarine water. Imagine when, back in the 1600s, there’d be hundreds of sailing ships anchored here, bringing business and prosperity to the area. Now turn your gaze toward the blustery promenade, and the Georgian terraced houses lining the front. Many of these homes in the seafront conservation area contain the remnants of old tunnels and secret hiding places once used by smugglers and is believed to be where Julius Caesar first arrived in Britain. What a string of fascinating facts to hang your proverbial hat on!
Now head into the winding streets of the town centre and begin your day of exploration with an Italian coffee at Kings Coffee Shop (1 High St). Across the road from Kings is and interesting French styled interiors shop, Smoke on the Water, who sell hand painted vintage furniture, soft furnishings, and Annie Sloane designer chalk paints. Next door is Inside Out, an antique and homeware shop, and just a little further along is Mark 1 Music, who stock a wide range of musical instruments, sheet music, song books, and studio equipment.
Walking into town, grab an oozing pastry at Al’s Bakery (50 High St) – expect queues out the door for their bread. For speciality teas and Belgian hot-chocolate, there’s Love Drinks
(54 High St).
Wander around the independent designer boutiques and bric-a-brac shops and discover the things you didn’t know you needed. At Noir Boutique (114 High St) you’ll find statement clothing; Dunlin & Diver Gallery (112 High St) is ceramics, textiles and Kentish made items; at John Roper’s book shop it’s artist’s supplies (34 High St). The Joanne Harmer Gallery (134 High St) stocks limited edition prints and original art work; Stitches of Deal (69a High St) is a craft shop filled with haberdashery supplies of knitting, crochet, quilting and yarn. And for handmade glassware exhibits there’s John Corley Stained Glass Studio (57 West St).
For food lovers there’s the craft Black Pig Butchers (St George’s Passage, a smugglers lane off the High St), owned by artisan butcher and sausage maker Lizzy Douglas, who uses foraged ingredients in her sausage recipes. The No Name Delicatessen (110 High St) with a good range of cheeses, artisan breads, olives, cold meats and oils. For fish there’s Jenkins & Son Fishmongers (118 High St) – alternatively, head back to the sea front to Deal’s fishing boats who are pulled up onto the beach. There the fishermen have a small stand selling their catch-of-the-day, ready to fillet to order. On Saturday’s from 9am till 1.30pm there’s a weekly market, held in the Union Street car park, which overflows with more delectable eats and designer must haves.
Where to drink?
Smugglers Records (9 King St – off the High St) is an independent vinyl record shop with a small cafe and off license selling craft beer. On the other side of the road is The Just Reproach, a popular micropub serving beer straight from the cask. Le Pinardier (102 High St) is an intimate French wine bar which with just a few tables gives it an old school bistro feel. It’s also a wine shop, jazz music venue and art gallery. Buy wine by the glass (or bottle) which comes together with platters of French cheese and charcuterie.
Where to dine?
There are inevitably, two or three chippies, but the one favoured by the locals is Middle Street Fish Bar (78 Middle St). For a genteel lunch, be sure to book a table at their restaurant, which is right next-door to the street-facing chippie. For the more discerning diner, there’s the jazzy CinCin (15a South Court – off the High St), a sophisticated Wine Bar Bistro. Right next door is a hip café called The Lane, which morphs into a restaurant and cocktail bar at night. For dinner, it’s got to be the Michelin guide Victuals & Co Restaurant (2-3 St George’s Passage – right beside the Black Pig Butchers). On Sunday evening Victuals & Co run their ‘Raid the Larder’ menu from the week’s remaining ingredients. For coffee and cake The Black Douglas Coffee House is a must (it’s opposite the Royal Hotel, 83 Beach Street). It’s a favourite haunt of local artists and prides itself in using locally sourced organic ingredients.
Where to sleep?
At day’s end, the best place to put your head down would naturally be to the sound of charging waves at the Royal Hotel on Deal’s seafront. The feature bedrooms are luxurious, each with its own balcony. Book the Wellington room – it’s a corner suite overlooking the ocean, which is best appreciated when luxuriating inside the roll-top bath.
Looking back at the town from the end of the sweeping pier gives a snapshot of Deal’s naval history – Deal Castle’s battlements and the captain’s quarters, the maritime clock tower from which ships would reset their chronometers before setting sail to far-flung destinations, and nearby Walmer Castle – the former command post to the Duke of Wellington. All this creates the backdrop to a photogenic and bustling seaside town, filled with independent shops and buzzing eateries. You’d be hard pressed to better it.