Anyone who lives in Hove knows of the Rockwater café and restaurant. In the building that was formerly known as The Venue or The View, it’s funny how anyone I’ve spoken to recently loves the stylish and swanky new premises. But I distinctly remember in 2020 when development began, scathing comments in the local papers.
I first visited Rockwater for coffee and croissants last September having been sea swimming and I instantly fell in love. If you haven’t been, at first glance, it’s a pretty utilitarian building but it’s also as hip as a hip thing. It spills out on to the beach and has cool interior décor. However, its pièce de résistance has to be its rooftop dining area and balcony overlooking the sea. On a sunny day, the roof comes off and you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported to the beaches of St Tropez. Well, almost.
The concept behind Hove’s Rockwater is a great one: to be a community hub and as such, it has a programme that includes “fitness and wellness offerings to enhance your mind, body, and soul”. You can turn up to locations nearby to enjoy anything from yoga and meditation to martial arts, boxing or running. I’m not a local so this doesn’t really apply to me, but I rather like this as an idea.
Lunch on the rocks
Personally, a trip here for lunch is a real treat so let’s start off with cocktails. I might have been persuaded to have more than one. After all, they have a cocktail menu that takes you from arrival to dessert. Hello Watermelon Spritz, Pretty in Pink and Chocolate Martini! Well, what can I say, it just felt right. They’ve got a reasonable wine list but I was a little disappointed to see only two Sussex wines (a Court Garden sparkling and a Rathfinny white) and one local gin (Brighton Gin).
The menu needed explaining. There’s a separate menu for the Bar and Kitchen (which I believe is the downstairs and is more burgers, steaks and pizzas) and then a breakfast and summer menu for the terrace. Upstairs, it’s a mix of sharing platters and smaller dishes and you choose a selection.
I loved the different dishes but it is quite biased (understandably) in favour of seafood. That said, the likes of celeriac “scallops” or baked aubergine with Miso, Wakame and spring onions were novel and delicious alternatives. The beef fillet fell like butter off the knife and the ribs came with all the trimmings (think sour cream, guacamole, etc.). King prawns, tuna, seabass, lobster and oysters are all there to be enjoyed, enabling you to turn the dial of posh nosh up or down as desired.
Dessert island favourites
Desserts include a few interesting takes on some classics including Dark Chocolate Marcel with white chocolate crumble and Bomb Royale (raspberry jus and mascarpone cream).
The service was great and the vibe had just enough atmosphere but not so much that it sacrifices privacy and conversation! The dishes were beautifully presented and left you replete but not uncomfortable which for me is always the sign of a good lunch! There are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options and my only complaint is that I’d like to see more transparency about ingredients and want reassurance that they are local where possible. After all, it’s a community hub.
They hold tables for walk-ins but understandably, it gets busy so book if you want to sit on the roof terrace.
Is Rockwater Hove’s best beach restaurant? Well, I’ll keep eating and let you know.
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