Kassa Coffee House, St Leonards: ‘All kinds of spoonable delight’ - restaurant review

There is an old adage among chefs that you eat with your eyes - and this seems particularly fitting at Kassa Coffee House on St Leonards seafront.

Not just because of the nicely presented dishes, but because the family-owned eatery also runs an opticians called Kassa Optics inside the cafe, meaning you can enjoy one of their excellent coffees or fresh mint teas while choosing your new specs.

They specialise in home-cooked cuisine - particularly Persian and Mediterranean dishes - and say they pride themselves in “creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for customers”. And it would be hard to argue otherwise. The cafe is well-known in the town for offering large, healthy meals for around £6 or £7 in a very relaxed setting. When I visited on a sunny November afternoon, there were groups of people dotted around the restaurant talking softly and smiling as they tucked into their food. Perhaps the ambience also comes from the long shelves of books to browse, giving the place the feel of a small library.

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The meals are chalked up in bright colours on blackboards near the large glass counter, showing off delicious looking sweets and desserts. For the meat main meal options there are lamb stews, chicken stews, samosas and biryanis. The vegetarian and vegan choices include dhal and rice, chickpea and rice, stuffed vine leaves, vegetable stew, and Persian soup.

Kassa Coffee House in St Leonards

I ask a woman behind the counter what she recommends, and she says the £9 Afghan biryani (made with chicken or lamb) is “really good”. And so is the £7 Persian special chicken zereshk polo, made with barberries and raisins, and served with rice and salad. “It’s delicious. I love it,” she says. “The chicken is coated in a lovely sauce, and its’s quite sweet because of the barberries.”

I decide to go for the Afghan chicken biryani, and sit at a table looking out at a group of paddleboarders moving slowly over the millpond sea. “Sorry about the wait,” the waitress says as she arrives with a huge plate of food, but it’s barely been five minutes. The dish is steaming hot and smells wonderful. The white and yellow rice is light and fluffy and topped with crunchy fried onion. Hidden underneath is a slightly sweet, mildly spiced stew of chicken and potato. The large pieces of chicken thigh have been cooked long and slow, and sit in a delicious brown gravy, rich in ginger and garlic. The potato has been cooked to the point it is almost falling apart and breaks up on the tongue. It is an interesting mix of textures, with the crisp onion and the bursts of flavour from the red barberries, raisins and little yellow squares of mixed fruit. It is all kinds of spoonable delight - a hearty stew perfect for an autumnal afternoon.

Kassa Coffee House, 15 Grand Parade, St Leonards TN37 6DN.

Afghan chicken biryani at Kassa Coffee House in St Leonards