Cool cafe, hot architect – West beach, Littlehampton
What do the new cutting edge Museum of London building and a little beach café at Littlehampton have in common? The same architect as it turns out.
“Nice design!” I said, walking towards the West Beach Cafe in Littlehampton last weekend, yonks since I was last at the resort. I loved how the whole front could open and it was raised to give it a vantage point over the river mouth and sea.
My husband pointed out a sign saying it was the first ever work by Asif Khan and when I Googled the name I was delighted to discover he’d only gone and got the gig for creating the new Museum of London building just days before!
The Museum of London’s new home is going to be a swanky, part underground affair with a glass dome, spiral escalators and a sunken garden that will regenerate the former Smithfield market. Khan has won the pitch in conjuction with architects Stanton Williams. If planning permission is approved you’ll have to wait until 2022 to get to visit though.
Khan has also designed the Serpentine Gallery summer pavilion and the Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki that opened last year (find out more here) so it’s lovely to think that at the age of 28 this one room café was his first commission.
I popped in and found a menu of fish and chips, butties and small snacks for grazing. Sadly, as it was only 11.30 am it was a bit early for the seriously tempting salt and pepper chilli squid. Frankly it was also too early for chips but as I was peckish and my husband and his disapproving tuts were in the loo at the time I ordered a small portion quick – and very good they were too.
They also do breakfast baps, beer battered fish and chips, wholetail scampi, homemade fishcakes, a mixed seafood box, fried halloumi for the veggies and icecreams.
As the name suggests, the café is at the lesser-visited West beach of Littlehampton – across the river from the main east beach, so if, like me, you’re an occasional daytripper, it’s possible you’ve never seen this part of the resort before.
You don’t get the sand flats and amusements of the main beach but you do get a lot of uncrowded space and a little walk through a dune nature reserve with part of the ruins of Littlehampton Fort.
The West Beach Café is licensed so they’ll sell you a bottle of wine to take onto the beach with your fish supper for that nice sunset moment. The cafe’s also available to hire for parties. I love that idea – quiet bit of beach, cool little room with a view and food and drink sorted for you. Even music and film screenings are covered by licence.
The staff told me there’s usually a cuttings book about Khan’s work for customers to browse, but it’s just being updated with the Museum of London commission.
West Beach Café is the sister of the larger, more familiar, you’ve guessed it, East Beach Café which is in a similarly striking building, much more prominently situated on the main beach and has won many awards for its design.
It was created, to resemble a piece of driftwood, by another illustrious architects’ studio Heatherwick, which has also designed the new Routemaster buses, that clever 2012 Olympics cauldron and London’s proposed Garden Bridge.
This has a wider menu with proper plates and knives and forks if you eat in. It’s also available for hire.
If you prefer to rustle up your own fare, look out for the cooking stations on a lawn nearby where you can plonk your own disposable BBQ. Or, take inspiration from the fish recipe plaques dotted along the riverside walk that leads to the Look and Sea centre and RNLI station.
West Beach Cafe, Rope Walk, Littlehampton, BN17 5DL, 01903 718153 eastbeachcafe.co.uk