Bills/Le Magasin – Lewes, East Sussex

Bills – Coffee **** Food ***** Vibe *****                   Le Magasin – Coffee ****  Food **** Vibe ***
Best for great breakfasts                                                Best for getting a table when Bill’s is full

This post and review comes to you from the charming town of Lewes in East Sussex. Not a place Allthemacchs is unfamiliar with, having spent my youth here, and still with ties to, I like to get back there now and then.

It is well served with quirky little Indy coffeebars, not unlike Crouch End in fact, and is the home of the (once) fantastic Bills, now bought out and franchised and available in Covent Garden and Islington and all over the goddamn place. The original Bill (who went to my school), started as a green grocer before setting up Bills, and in fact when it started in Lewes it was 75% greengrocers and 25% cafe. Gradually it reversed until from being the place you could get heirloom tomatoes, fresh borlotti beans and other weird shit, you can pretty much just buy carrots there now. The food was always pretty damn good though, and you would find all manner of odd and unsolicited salad items, seeds and flowers turning up on your plate – just lovely. They did the cakes for our wedding too.

Bills in Lewes is always packed to the sides on the weekends so on a recent trip we checked out a newcomer just a couple of doors along the road on Cliffe High Street, Le Magasin. It’s virtually identical in decor and vibe to N8’s Haberdashery, all bleached wood and Cath Kidston prints. The coffee is good but not quite my taste being the slightly lemony, sharp flavour I’m not so keen on. They give you glass of water with your coffee order which I always think a nice touch. And apparently Gary Lineker always pops in when he’s nearby, which I can’t imagine is often (and anyway, hardly a selling point – the stories you hear about that man!) Le Magasin also runs a little deli selling the usual artisan cold meats, cheeses and so on, but I was intrigued to see they were also selling “tenderness of swordfish” (!) and at 10% off no less. No idea.

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