Liban Coast, in Marine Court, St Leonards, is a particular hit with vegans and vegetarians - with 80% of the menu being nonmeat.
It is run by Thana Jaban, who is from Damascus and has lived in Hastings for 30 years, and her husband Hassan Gemei, an engineer of Egyptian-Italian descent.
Thana is well-known for her home cooking, and her friends encouraged her to cater for a wider audience. The couple opened a food stall selling falafel wraps and Arabic sweets in Hastings in 2004, before moving to the restaurant at Kino-Teatr in Norman Road, St Leonards, in 2017.
They then moved to Marine Court in June 2020, refurbished the restaurant, and opened in August 2020. From December 2020 until May this year they could only do takeaway food because of Covid restrictions. But since then business has taken off and now they are full every Friday and Saturday.
“We’ve been really, really busy,” said Hassan. “Most people are booking well in advance.”
The family-run business has become so popular they have had to recruit a head chef, Jason Melham, to help them in the kitchen, a restaurant manager, Nicole Bloomfield, and three other staff.
“Thana is the designer of all the dishes,” said Hassan. “She comes from a home-cooking background, back home in Damascus. She’s an excellent cook - and the reason why people love it is because it feels like home cooking.”
Their most popular dishes are their falafel wraps, and their mezza platters of falafel, halloumi, hummus, tzatziki, labneh, vine leaves, pickles and paninette bread.
A lot of people also come in for their Syrian brunch, served until 3pm. It consists of ful medames, falafel, hummus, labneh, egg omelette with feta, za’atar, and paninette bread. They also make their own Arabic sweets, including baklava (made with walnuts and syrup) and basbousa (semolina cake).
They don’t sell alcoholic drinks, but customers can bring their own alcohol and pay a £2.50 corkage fee. They have 25 seats inside, and another eight outside.
:: Hassan said that as a special promotion anyone who turns up with a copy of the Hastings Observer newspaper will get a 10% discount on their food.