Opened in October 2019, the Royal in St Leonards on Sea near Hastings in East Sussex, is among the youngest inclusions on this year’s list having traded for less than a year before Boris Johnson called last orders in Britain’s pubs.
The self-crowned “new local” for St Leonards prides itself on serving draft beers and real ales, decent wines and classic gastropub food in a revamped – intentionally contemporary and non-palatial – 19th century building.
The Royal’s “hands on” co-owners James Hickson and Sam Coxhead have transformed what was originally a hotel when it opened in the 1860s using their experience at restaurants and gastropubs including St John, Great Queen Street, the Canton Arms and Moro.
However, visitors expecting traditionally illustrious and grandiose royal treatment are in for a very pleasant surprise.
According to its website, the Royal’s ever-changing menu is anointed “interesting”, “unfussy” and “seasonal” and focuses on championing local produce.
Starters and small plates may include griddled squid with chilli and lemon; pig’s head croquettes with piccalilli; or roast beetroot, carrots and goat’s curd, while mains will range from wild mushroom and spinach pithivier to salt marsh lamb with sprouting broccoli and anchoïade.
What’s more, the Royal’s wine list is “unpretentious”, offering sparkling serves from £6 per glass and culminating with Chateauneuf du Pape or white Bordeaux from Pessac-Léognan.