My perfect seaside weekend in beautiful Deal was quite accidental. I had a trip to the South France fall through pretty last minute and suddenly felt an urge to escape London for a weekend and get as close to that holiday feeling as possible. After joining forces with my lovely Swedish friend Lea, who was as enthusiastic to get away from it all as me, we began to search for potential destinations, which proved harder than I thought this last minute.
However, ironically trying to book a seaside escape for the end of July at the beginning of June turned out to be a blessing in disguise because..well..the more obvious spots that have been deemed as somewhat “hip, like Whitstable and Margate, were just about fully booked, causing me to research a little more throughly into places equally beautiful but as of yet not quite as on “the map” when it comes to annoying Londoners travelling down there for the weekend.
As coincidence will have it one of my lovely colleagues at work, Abi, commutes into London from the Kent seaside town of Deal every day, while another colleague of mine regularly escapes there for the weekend. Nosy as I am, I have occasionally overheard the two chatting about restaurants and other fun sounding things one can do in Deal and it got me thinking...what was the deal with Deal?
A quick google revealed a few guides on Deal but not much else, however the prospect of insider tips from a local, a quick and cheap train ride there and the potential to avoid a total tourist trap, won me and Lea over and it was decided, Deal was going to be our seaside town of choice.
There wasn’t a huge choice in terms of accommodation available considering how late in the day we booked as well as the sheer size of the town, but we still managed to get a decent sized room at The Clarendon
, right on the seafront, for £100 a night for two people. It was nothing special but also nothing terrible and honestly we barely spent any time in there anyways considering the beautiful weather we had over the two days there.
If /when I am going back to Deal I will almost definitely stay at The Rose
, an old boozer converted into a stunning restaurant and hotel, with 8 beautifully decorated rooms that are drool-worthy in their interiors, with a real Soho house vibe at very reasonable prices (more on The Rose
later), not to say that I didn’t love this trip immensely with the hotel we stayed at.
Maybe it was because I had such a great list of tips to go by from Abi, which meant we did not have one bad meal or one bad moment in Deal, finding proper gems we may have missed otherwise, but our weekend spent in Deal could not have been more perfect to me and honestly I couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with the place.
Why? Well Deal offers fantastic food, amazing spots to enjoy reasonably priced AND good drinks at, a beautiful beach that was clean and far from overcrowded, the kindest locals and not a single annoying Londoner in sight, just ones very aware of how much of a little delight Deal is. My two days spent there felt like a proper holiday and in a way I should have probably kept quiet about Deal for my own selfish reasons, keeping it my little secret, but honestly get yourself on a train down there while summer is still here and make the most Deal, before the masses will follow. Deal is the real deal (I know I am pun-tasting) and with the below guide on my perfect way to spend a weekend there, plus a healthy dose of sunshine, I can guarantee you will have a fabulous time at this seaside star.
After all this proves you don’t always have to get on a plane to get that real holiday feeling, sometimes you can find it a short train ride away.
HOW WE GOT THERE:
We took an early morning train from St Pancras, with the return costing us just under £30 each. Something to consider: be careful which train you book. On our outward journey we were on the slow one, which was bearable at just over 2 hours, but could have been a lot better had we gone for the hour and 25 minute train option that doesn’t stop at every single village on the way there. FYI: Trains are spacious and have plugs. Once you arrive in Deal, the walk from the station to the seaside is maybe 5 minutes ate the most and you can get anywhere by foot while exploring Deal with its compact city centre. There is a big Sainsbury’s right by the station that is the best place to stock up on beach picnic essentials as there aren’t many corner shops or smaller supermarkets in Deal but be warned they don’t have a chilled booze section (we brought ice cubes to the beach) and it closes at 4pm on a Sunday.
WHERE TO STAY: THE ROSE (IF YOU CAN GET A ROOM)
is a beautiful boutique hotel and restaurant with a gorgeous outside dining space that used to be one of the roughest pubs in town. Interior designer and fashion stylist Michelle Kelly has transformed the space into a 70’s inspired Pinterest dream, with every detail done just right.
Of course on this occasion I only visited The Rose for drinks but if the level of design apparent everywhere I saw is continued in the rooms, which from their Instagram
one can only assume will be the case, The Rose really is the most dreamy place to enjoy your weekend in Deal at. Rooms start at £120 a night including breakfast and I urge you to book ahead here to make sure you get a room, there are still some odd weekend nights free this summer so hurry or I may just beat you to it.
CHECKING OUT THE SATURDAY MARKET:
After we were all all checked in and freshened up we headed to the lovely Saturday market on the high street
to check out the variety of stalls while they are open (until 1:30pm every week)- you’ll find artisan bread, fresh veg, antiques and a lovely wine stall. We only had a look around on this occasion but everything looked fab!
SOME PERFECT SPOTS FOR AFTERNOON DRINKS IN THE SUN:
Once we had found our bearings and did a little bit of exploring with a walk down the high street, the seafront and pier, seeing the pebbly beach with our own eyes, we were ready for some Aperol Spritz’s.
With such glorious weather, we did a bit of outdoor bar hopping, and our favourite spots were Bloody Mary’s
on the high street with incredibly friendly staff, a good selection of well-priced wine (a bottle of champagne will only set you back £27, outrageously cheap for London standards) and a few cute outside tables from which you can watch the market, as well as the super cute King’s Head pub, with it’s prime seafront location and lovely outside drinking area.
A word of caution: there is another pub, the Port Arms, literally next door to it, which was slightly weird when we went in and tried to serve us what looked like gone off wine, so make sure you sit in the right outside area, it took us a minute to realise the two are separate.
The staff once again were amazing and so kind and our Spritz’s, £7.5 each, were very generously portioned, plus their sweet potato fries were out of this world amazing and a total steal at £4.5 for a huge portion. On Sunday’s in the summer there is also live music by the outside tables (weather permitting) and overall the King’s Head
felt like a genuine local favourite with a diverse crowd, ideal for people watching and chatting away for hours.
A HAPPY HOUR DRINK @ THE ROSE
I have already extensively declared my love for The Rose so I will keep this brief. With dinner booked at the Frog & Scot, literally opposite the The Rose, we thought this was the perfect spot for a pre-dinner cocktail, even more so when we found out they do a 5-7pm happy hour every day, where £10 will buy you two cocktails PLUS nibbles (amazing olives and nuts on this occasion), to be enjoyed in their gorgeous back garden and terrace. An absolute must do on any trip to Deal, offering a magical atmosphere, great crowd and good drinks.
DINNER WITH FRENCH TOUCH AND SEASONAL FOCUS @ FROG & SCOT
The Frog & Scot
came highly recommended by Abi and with the Michelin guide including this welcoming French bistro on Deal’s high street, run by a husband and wife duo, in their most recent edition, I had pretty high expectations.
They take reservations, which was a dream as we walked straight in on a Saturday night with not a wait in sight, so I do recommend you book a few weeks ahead, as this place is very popular both with locals and clued up weekend visitors. And rightly so, the weekly changing menu, displayed on a chalk board, makes the most of local ingredients with a fine dining touch. It isn’t cheap but you’d be paying at least double in London for this standard of cooking, ingredients and service. My truffle pasta was out of this world and I would go back in a heartbeat, particularly for the inventive ways they cook locally sourced fish. Make this your splash out dinner in Deal.
We pretty much called it a night after we had finished up at the Frog & Scot
, stopping by The Bohemian
right next to our hotel for a nightcap. It’s open until the early hours but honestly was nothing to shout about and we wanted to make the most of day 2 in Deal and were quickly asleep after a long but fabulous first day!
BRUNCH @ THE DEAL PIER KITCHEN
With a group of seagulls right outside our hotel room window making their presence felt rather aggressively in the early hours of the day, we got ourselves out of bed and dressed, ready for brunch to re-energise us for the day ahead.
Deal Pier Kitchen
has the most perfect location at the end of the pier, with big windows allowing you to gaze into the sea, and getting there for 9am, their Sunday opening time, meant that we got to beat any queues, settling down straight away for a hearty brunch. Coffee was great and my Bombay fritters - courgette fritters, beautifully spiced, served with a zingy raita and pomegranate seeds as well as more classical brunch additions of poached eggs and beetroot smoked salmon, was unusual but super delicious and came in the perfect portion size (some brunches require a digestion nap after which no one needs at 10am).
Service had some room for improvement, with waiters a bit all over the place, I blame the early start on a Sunday perhaps, but that is a minor niggle. Overall this was a fantastic brunch of London standards in quite the "wow factor" location at the end of the pier and offered the ideal starting point to our Sunday.
A WALK TO THE ZETLAND ARMS
Well-fed and watered from our brunch, we followed another one of Abi’s fab tips and began our walk to the Zetland Arms
pub. A 45 to 50 minute walk away from the pier, this pub has stunning views over the coastline and is hundred percent worth the steps there and back, particularly as you pass some truly stunning houses and beautiful fauna on the way and basically just have to walk in a straight line, so no danger of getting lost.
We only had a diet coke on one of the outside benches, admiring the stunning scenery around us, once we got to the Zetland
but I can imagine that watching the sunset here with a glass of rosé in hand must be truly magical. Even if you aren’t the walking type (I am an avid walker as any of my friends will tell you), do make the exception here because it will allow you to admire beautiful British seaside and countryside at it’s best with a great pub to refuel at as reward at the end.
AN AFTERNOON BEACH PICNIC AND DIP IN THE SEA (IF YOU ARE BRAVE ENOUGH)
Once we made it back to Deal after our walk, we decided to have pretty chilled afternoon before an early dinner and train back to London reality and with the sun out to play there was no better option than a beach picnic. You are spoiled for choice for location, not facing a sea of pink people and their picnic utensils like can be the case at Brighton beach (or the Shoreditch House rooftop for that matter) ruining any chance of some privacy, plus you have the aforementioned big Sainsbury’s under 10 minutes walk away to get all the nibbles and drinks your heart desires, just make sure to pack a big beach towel and take away ALL your rubbish to keep the beach as lovely and clean as it is at the moment.
Lea ventured into the water for a dip and I would have done the same had I not forgotten my swimsuit, and we spent a good couple of hours here, getting slightly sunburnt I admit, but also really enjoying the fresh sea air, our array of snacks and the gentle sound of the waves, a world away from work and from London even if really only an hour and a bit away.
DINNER @ 81 BEACH STREET
Of course we could have stayed at the beach and got a fish and chips takeaway (Middle Street Fish Bar is the best place for this classic British dish I have been assured) but I have to admit I am not the biggest fried food fan yet still wanted some more amazing seafood while we were so close to, well, the sea. We also didn’t want to spend quite as much as on our Saturday night dinner, though it was worth every penny, so when I saw 81 Beach Street
mentioned in the few guides I did find on Deal online and checked out their insta, it looked just perfect, a cute local restaurant with sea view, innovative dishes and decent prices and indeed we had fantastic early dinner here that delivered on taste, value and service.
I went for a fillet of cod in a lobster bisque, served with crushed new potatoes - cooked to perfection and full of the seafood flavours I was lusting after, and a real bargain at £15, while Lea’s steak with proper amazing chunky chips was also great value at £18. Again, you would be paying a hell of a lot more for this kind of cooking in London and with their seasonally changing menus and Sunday roast menu that also looked fab but we were too full for on this occasion I would definitely go back to 81 Beach street
and can only recommend it.
With a good amount of wine and delicious food in our bellies we headed to the train station to make our 6pm train and I was tucked up in bed, watching Love Island, and ready to face Monday by 9pm, making it the dream ending to a dreamy weekend in Deal, with zero travel stress but all the fun of a proper holiday.