Ethical Roadhouse Diner in Sussex: Quirky Custom Café’s Quality Cuisine

Custom cafe roadhouse diner bexhill

I like quirky places with lots of interesting paraphernalia to catch the eye.  You’ll notice as much in my reviews of the Upper Dicker Village Shop and the Hare & Hounds, Framfield, that both fall into the “full of interesting stuff” category.  If quirk is your bag, too, AND you enjoy fabulous, fresh food, occasionally accompanied by excellent live music, you’re going to love this place…

I bring you The Custom Café near, but not in, Bexhill.  In fact, it’s situated on the main A259 road between Pevensey and Bexhill.  Probably the easiest way to locate it is by using a What3words address (///because.though.snows will get you there).  The building is tongue & groove clad, US-style, complete with veranda and large parking area.  You’ll see it on your right-hand side when heading toward Bexhill-On-Sea.  It’s painted in a muted neutral colour, but its ethos and atmosphere are far from beige.

Inside, the building is as cosy as a log cabin.  We could almost be deep in the Colorado countryside.  The décor is reminiscent of a 1950s roadhouse diner: motorbikes, gasoline, old metal advertising signs with a soupçon VW camper van.  There are plenty of sturdy wooden tables and chairs for dining customers and a couple of comfy couches facing each other on a raised platform, although these are out of action when musicians are performing in that space. Efficient and friendly staff bustle back and forth behind a butcher’s block-style counter.

The menu is upmarket US diner with suitably-named dishes such as Hillbilly Special, Billy Bob and Rosie Redneck.  It was the latter that I chose – fried halloumi, rocket, hashbrowns, fried red onions and jalapeños with smoked salsa served in a big granary bap.  All the ingredients were very fresh and the combination was messy to eat and extremely tasty.  My only complaint would be the decorative paper placed beneath the bap that disintegrated through the moisture from the food so I’m sure I imbibed a fair bit of it.  My advice would be to remove the paper before you start eating.  My dish was very filling, deceptively so as it was essentially “just” a bap.  It was also extremely good value at £6.95.  These days it can be difficult to find a decent meal out for anything under a tenner.  At The Custom Café the majority of dishes on the menu are priced below £10 so taking the whole family won’t break the bank.

I chose from the Hot Stuff part of the menu. There are other sections: one for Pancakes, another for Fancy Stuff.  There’s Stuff in Bread allowing you to choose your own selection of fillings, Small Stuff, Kid’s Stuff, an entire menu-page for Custom Veggie/Vegan Breakfast and another featuring a Gluten-Free Friendly Breakfast menu that’s served until Noon.  After that these switch to your Custom Veggie/Vegan Lunch and Gluten-Free Friendly Daytime menus.  For something more substantial, the Daytime Menu offers dishes such as Trailer Trash Pie (beef or veggie chilli topped with mac & cheese).  If you’re less hungry, choose from the Light Bites menu featuring Garlic Bread, Cheesy Chips, Nachos and much more.  It doesn’t stop there… the BBQ section covers burgers (done in a variety of ways with a myriad of accompaniments).

All dishes are reasonably priced, cooked fresh to order and very tempting.  If you’ve only popped in for one of their delicious cafetière coffees – again, a great selection is on offer – you might find yourself biting off more than you thought you could chew.  Well, feel free, and pat yourself on the back because eating and drinking at The Custom Café is also an ethical experience.  They’ve ditched plastic, insist on free-range and source all their ingredients from local suppliers. They also donate to many charities including those involved with children, animals and the environment so everything you scoff will be accompanied by a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Oh, and take your doggie if you wish.  The Café is dog friendly.  Again, ideal for me as there was a lovely selection of our four-legged friends to keep me engaged in tail-wagging and chinwagging.

And then there’s the music.  My particular pleasure, of course.  Each 2nd and 4th Thursday night is jam night with local musicians performing.  On Sundays from Noon – 2pm there’s an acoustic act – the music has mostly blues/Americana/country vibes.  There’s often music in the evenings, too. In the summer, entertainment can be from a large outdoor stage surrounded by a natural grass amphitheatre dotted with comfy cushions.  I previously attended one such event and highly recommend it.

Bikers are well catered for – I mentioned the large car park.  At least one of the Café’s owners rides, so they understand what bikers want and need and the venue is ideally placed as a stop off along the busy A259.  They even hold regular Bike & BBQ nights with music during the summer.

Visiting the toilets can take a while as there’s plenty to see here, too.  There’s a large notice-board in the corridor that displays a useful local map and a great array of information about local events and facilities.  I didn’t mind waiting to access the ladies toilet as I browsed the notices – many of them motorcycle related.  When I got in the single ladies room I found it wasn’t like your usual cubicle.  It felt more like a bathroom you’d find in your house – or at least in your Colorado log cabin retreat – roomy and very well-equipped.  Even here, your attention is pulled hither and thither by a motley collection of wall art.

When you’ve finished eating, drinking, listening and soaking up the atmosphere, you’ll probably want a souvenir of your visit.  They’ve just the thing with some really cool t-shirts, hoodies and US-style college jackets available.  You’ll notice the staff modelling them as they do their thing.

Check out the website to see what’s on if you fancy entertainment but, whatever you do, add a visit to The Custom Café to your resolutions list for 2024.  It really is a fabulous experience.

They’re open at 8am daily, closing at 4pm Sun-Wed, at 6pm on Saturday and 10pm Thursdays and Fridays. The venue holds an alcohol license and can even be hired for private parties.

The Custom Café, Barnhorn Road (A259), Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, TN39 4QR

What3words address:  ///because.though.snows



  • Maria Bligh

    Maria Bligh is a journalist, published author, professional speaker, singer and artist now settled in Sussex, UK, having previously travelled extensively throughout the UK and overseas, including a period living in Geneva. Married to a successful musician and with a background that encompasses working in the music industry, finance, sales and presentations training, she maintains a diverse existence. Her interests encompass travel, nature, animals and the arts: music, theatre, painting, writing and philosophy. Maria now writes for online and print magazines. Having once maintained a regular full page in “A Place In The Sun” magazine, travel is an obvious interest, but her articles also cover a wide variety of subjects. She bills herself as “an observer of the human condition and all that sail in her.” Maria has frequently appeared on radio & TV as well as in print. Her humorous style has seen her travel the world addressing audiences throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia and as a cruise-ship speaker with P&O and Fred Olsen.

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