Hastings provedore AG Hendy has an alternative view that cherishes ritual and considered investment in the everyday. Churning out experiences for the unappreciative is antithetical to Hendy’s philosophy: good things take time.
Writing about AG Hendy & Co is impossible without mentioning a little about the history of Hastings UK itself. For a history and food nut the prospect is both exciting and daunting. Immediately evident is the complex and authentic history of Hastings and the extent to which the present built environment is still so representative of that history.
It is a colourful history dating back to the seminal events of 1066 when William the Conqueror of France (prior Guillaume I, Duke of Normandy) and King Harold II united in the Battle of Hastings; an event that fundamentally changed the face of England. The rich tapestry dating from that period is readily found in the smugglers caves, Battle Abbey, Hastings Castle and the old town of Hastings where Hendy & Co is located.
Woven through the stories that gave rise to the region in general is the history of fishing.
A tide of information exists, winding back in time to reveal a unique legacy; one that sees Hastings with the largest fleet of beach launched fishing boats operating in the world today.
The Grade II listed net huts are a sedate man-made wonder literally tarred with the brush of stoicism and survival; they are a practical, eccentric and beautiful answer to the problem of rope and tackle storage harking back to the 16th century (rebuilt several times subsequently). In a quote from a 2010 BBC news bulletin, they were described as “…a rare example of ‘buildings intrinsic to the British coastal fishing industry’”
While holistic seems a cute buzz word, a quick glance at the website ends up taking much longer as plane fares to the UK are canvassed in between the store, the restaurant and the home stay.
Visiting Hendy’s is comprehensive because it comprises a great deal more than superficial evidence suggests.
How common would it be to have fresh fish delivered to your restaurant straight off the beach or rooming overnight in Medieval circumstances.
Floorboards and latch doors were constructed from groyne oak (the dismantled groynes from local beaches), weathered smooth and made more durable by years of impregnated salt.
To put it into perspective parts of the house date to the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588; the tenure of Elizabeth 1st; the dawn of Shakespeare and the nascent settlement of America by the British.
Alastair Hendy’s philosophy is all encompassing – he is protector, inventor, visionary and it must be said also incredibly patient; he appears invested with an authority that inspires and co-opts others to embrace his unique and ambitious ideas.
In addition he seems not to waste time or energy on things that don’t matter; for example it matters not that the restoration was exhaustive and disruptive or that constraints of all kinds impaired progress which made the undertakings so much more complicated, what was important conceptually and physically were worth waiting for: the house was returned to an environment more sensitive to its age and authority. It matters not that guests might have to eat in the kitchen what is important is the freshness of the fare and the attention to detail it is given for your enjoyment.
Hendy invokes a wholesome “back to basics” but from a refined viewpoint, acknowledging tacitly perhaps, that the beauty of an idea and the enactment of it is as much found in the ritual.
The images on Hendy and Co’s website for restaurant fare are a case in point (as is the menu) the three necessaries in evidence at a quick glance; colour, texture and flavour. No overblown superfluous odds and ends; a paired back menu based on what is best and fresh on the day.
The genuine experience is perpetually sought, both monumental and prosaic.
Opening a cupboard door or having to light a candle in one of the bedrooms to consuming food or buying some arcane item from the store; every event is instilled with a stretching-out-of-time to absorb the nuances – histories, aspects and processes.
On AG Hendy’s website under House / Living History it says,
135 All Saints Street is a Grade II Listed 16th century merchant’s house, and one of the most intact and atmospheric Tudor houses in Hastings Old Town.
These values often not readily observed in the fast paced materialistic world that characterises so much of the present. Alastair Hendy’s “in times past” mentality embraces the esoteric master craftsmen; in times past such production took much longer and was valued as elementary; things were made and placed for a lifetime.
Hendy’s philosophy is a search for something better, for authenticity based on “a hands on” quality of simple experience lengthened to acknowledge and appreciate what goes in.
All images courtesy Alastair Hendy.
Beautifully put. Thank you, Alastair Hendy
Hendy & Co’s Homestore is a cache of wonderfulness it is impossible to contemplate not visiting. It cannot be done justice to here suffice to say the plane ticket is shuddering close to being booked.
“Welcome to A G Hendy & Co Home Store Hastings, a unique shop and kitchen on the south-east coast, website and on-line shop. We hail from the hardware school of thought when it comes to good product design.
Simple, honest and enduring. Practical goods that are made to last and stand the test of time, suited to both the modern and traditional home. New and vintage equipment for the kitchen, scullery, pantry, and broom cupboard, along with useful items and furniture for the dining room, office and garden are our objects and tools of choice.
All are carefully sourced and curated by Alastair Hendy.”