Couple see success with launch of first Rustington food business ahead of second

A couple have opened the first of two food ventures in Rustington – and have enjoyed an ‘amazing’ start so far.

Alex and Jess Clifton at the Lunch Hut in Rustington
Alex and Jess Clifton at the Lunch Hut in Rustington

Lockdown may have made some people wary about launching something new, but Alex and Jessica Clifton saw it as their moment to take a leap.

They opened the Lunch Hut in The Street, at the site of a former hairdressers, at the end of March.

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Alex said the experience had been ‘absolutely crazy’ so far.

“The launch has been amazing,” he said. “We’ve had such a good response from everyone.”

The cafe offers a range of sandwiches, made with bread baked fresh every morning and a variety of fillings on offer.

Jess’ speciality ‘cakepops’ have already become extremely popular with customers, Alex said.

He said the pandemic had sparked a real hunger for good quality takeaway places, and said of the Lunch Hut: “It gives more of a variety of places for people to grab breakfast and lunch and takeaway options in Rustington

“We wanted to give people a different option, where everything is fresh and with really nice locally sourced ingredients.”

The couple worked non-stop during the first few months of the year to get it ready.

“From 27 December we haven’t had a day off, we’ve been working 18 hour days,” Alex said.

And that is not the only place their energies have been focused.

The couple have also been preparing to open Fig Cafe & Tapas, which will be a bistro-style cafe in the day and an authentic tapas restaurant at night.

Alex said they were getting ready an outdoor area at the building, which was formerly Cafe Oasis, which would feature festoon lighting, giving it ‘an alfresco feel’ and bringing ‘a flavour of the Mediterranean’ to the village.

“It’s a lovely little space,” he said.

Before launching their businesses, Jess was an events manager while Alex was a professional musician.

He would usually play the steel pan at around 120 gigs a year – but the pandemic saw this drop to zero as one by one, planned events were cancelled or postponed.

Alex said this was ‘incredibly difficult’ but it also presented an opportunity for the pair to follow their dreams.

On their very first date six years ago they quickly established they were both ‘absolute foodies’ who hoped to run a restaurant one day.

“When covid hit we thought yes, this is the way forward, this is what we want to do,” he said.

“Me and Jess aren’t really people that just sit around. Anyone who knows us knows we do everything at the same time, we do everything to the max.

“We’re a bit bold when it comes to just going for it.”

And he said the first few days of the cafe being open had ‘definitely‘ proved it was the right thing to do.

“I think Rustington is definitely turning into a foodie area,” he said. “What we offer is something a little bit different.”

Fig Cafe & Tapas will be opening soon.