What it's like at The Driftwood in Bexhill
PUBLISHED: 14:40 11 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:48 11 November 2019
Bexhill bistro The Driftwood serves a pan-Asian menu in stylish surroundings
Bexhill-on-Sea is known for several things: modernist architecture, the birth of motor-racing and the widely held belief that it's the charity shop capital of Britain. It is not, perhaps, renowned for its gastronomy. So it's a pleasant surprise to encounter The Driftwood.
Fresh-faced and stylishly chic, the bijou B&B and restaurant opened in 2017, following a refurbishment by owners Lihong and Greg Hunt. With an interior that wouldn't look out of place in a south London gastro pub, it's no wonder that this Asian bistro is the town's sole entry in the 2019 Michelin Guide.
It's a pebble's throw from the beach, and guests come to The Driftwood for its boutique bedrooms, close proximity to the De La Warr Pavilion and easy access to other coastal destinations. Tonight, my guest and I are the first to arrive. But the restaurant soon fills up, with the majority of diners joining us from the rooms upstairs.
Service is polite and perfunctory. We're handed menus as soon as we're seated, given enough time to peruse them before ordering, and food and drink arrives in a timely manner. But there's not a lot of warmth.
Chef Lihong's menu spans Asia, collecting dishes from China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Split into starters, curries, stir fries, noodles and desserts, each one has a clear description and a spiciness rating, where appropriate.
The briefest whiff of salty air has us hungry for seafood. Curls of salt and pepper squid (£6.50) have a crisp, barely-there coating and come with a scattering of chopped bell pepper and onion, and side salad. Feather-light Japanese tempura batter hides two big and juicy tail-on tiger prawns (£8.95) just asking to be picked up and dipped in the bowl of sweet chilli sauce.
From the succulent pieces of meat to the mixed vegetables, the duck stir fry (£14.50) has been cooked to exacting standards. Sadly, though, the sauce is so heavily salted that it overwhelms every other flavour and, as the stir fry comes in a bowl filled almost to the top with briny liquor, there's no escaping it. Thankfully, the fluffy egg-fried rice has been served on the side.
I keep schtum about the salt overload until I notice my guest moving his king prawn udon noodles (£12.50) around the plate. It's the same story: a good number of meaty, tender prawns; vegetables with a pleasing bite; and soft, chewy noodles. But so, so salty.
We skip dessert and go straight for the bill. Seconds after stepping outside, we're kicking ourselves for not asking for more water before leaving. It's not uncommon for critics to mention that they've stopped for a burger on the way home after an unsatisfactory meal. In our case, it's a bottle of mineral water at an eye-watering £3.50, and worth every penny.
The Driftwood, 40 Sackville Rd, Bexhill-on-Sea TN39 3JE; www.thedriftwoodbexhill.co.uk
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