B is for Broadstairs

On a stunning sunny Sunday in October we made a beeline for Broadstairs taking in the beautiful beach at Viking Bay, Breakfast at the delightful Belvidere Place Boutique B & B, the highly acclaimed Broadstairs Food Festival and the hidden delights of Bleak House.

I’d like to say we did the picturesque beach walk from Ramsgate to Broadstairs but alas we didn’t allow ourselves enough time. Instead we jumped on the regular Loop bus for the 15 minute journey to Broadstairs.

Belvidere Place

We had pre booked breakfast at Belvidere Place, Jilly Sharpe’s rather special Boutique Bed & Breakfast. It’s a beautiful quirky and artistic place with just the right level of civilized informality.

 

There was no menu, breakfast is based on whatever goodies Jilly can source locally. We were offered the choice of figs or baked apple to start. We opted for the Apple served with yogurt and just enough Muesli. Very healthy and tasty. Next course was bacon, tomatoes and egg served with toast and a delicious stuffed mushroom. Arbroath Kippers were also on offer. After a leisurely morning reading the newspapers, chatting to Jilly, her friendly staff and guests lucky enough to be staying in the much in demand 5 bed-roomed B & B, we headed off to the Broadstairs Food Festival.

Broadstairs Food Festival

The Broadstairs Food Festival is an event that attracts a lot of mainly Kent based suppliers and Restaurants. This year they had 100 plus stalls and 53,000 plus visitors over the course of 3 days. The Kitchen Theatre demonstrations were from several well known local chefs like Matt Sworder from the Corner House in Minster.  Steven Edwards who won Masterchef The Professionals in 2013  also did a session. The Kitchen Theatre presentation highlight I suspect though was from GBBO semi finalist and Broadstairs local Chetna Makan. Her session was interrupted by a surprise visit from the ever so slightly famous Paul Hollywood – check out the fun videos published by the Isle of Thanet Gazette. It’s just like being there 😉

Top Kent Restaurants like Wyatt & Jones and Rocksalt had stalls, as did Quex Barn – the wonderful deli at Quex Park.  There were tastings for Dudda’s Tun our favorite Kent Cider, and East Kent College were showing plans for their 4 star Training Hotel due to open next year.

 

We had hoped to get food from The Ambrette stall but they weren’t there this year. So for a late lunch we had some Pad Thai from an old favorite Siam Kitchen, followed by a dessert of coconut macrons and salted caramel bars from Sylvia and Terry.  We also brought some bread from McCarthys Country Store.

Bleak House

We took refuge from a very busy Broadstairs in Bleak House, which despite its uninviting entrance via the kitchen area is a lovely tranquil spot for drinks or afternoon tea.

You can pre book the formal Afternoon Tea in the Great Expectations Dining Room overlooking the garden and visit Charles Dickens study and the Smuggling Museum.

So after our lovely day out, we are certainly looking forward to next years Food Festival and to having a good few more breakfasts and afternoon teas in lovely Broadstairs.

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Royal Harbour Brasserie – How dramatic

Locations for a new cafe/restaurant opening don’t come much more dramatic than the newly opened Royal Harbour Brasserie on the extreme tip of Ramsgate Royal Harbour. On a freezing but sunny day there can’t be many venues with views to rival this one with sea on both sides and views of Ramsgate’s Victorian skyline.

As the cafe has just newly opened the menu has been limited. A wise move in order to judge its popularity with the local and visiting clientele. While I was there it had a good turn around of customers and the venue had a cosy atmosphere. The decor has a nautical feel without going over the top. A nice touch was the hessian sacking used to upholster some of the seating.

As a lone diner, I was not in a position to try more than one item on the menu, so I settled for the big breakfast which while not the cheapest in Ramsgate (£6.00) was better than the average with a nice runny egg and savory sausages.

On my way out I was struck by some quirky touches like the toilet signage. Sounds dreadful but I was amused.

The Chef Patron of Royal Harbour Brasserie is Adrian Mowl, formally of the Turner Contempory Gallery Cafe, Adrian has cooked for a few VIPs, like the Queen when she visited the aforementioned gallery and he was also executive chef in the London Olympic Village 2012 catering for the likes of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.  Wonder if they would get a kick out of braving the elements trying to get to this remote outpost when the weather gets interesting!

We certainly plan to return again to do a more comprehensive review in the Summer, where hopefully we can take advantage of the large outdoor terrace with great views of the Harbour, the Marina, the English Channel and even France.

UPDATE 2013 – See post titled Dining by the Sea

UPDATE 2014 – We have been to the Royal Harbour Brasserie several times now for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and have found that the Food and Service has been fairly consistent, the event type menus are a bit dull, but in general the Fish and Sea Food dishes are good.  Personal favorites are Smoked haddock with bubble and squeak, beurre blanc, and poached egg and caviar,  Scallops with chorizo, Fried duck egg and brown shrimps in shrimp butter on granary toast.

I would also say that if you find that they have Lobster on the menu, that  it’s not to be missed. The Lobsters I have eaten here were full of meat and beautifully cooked and presented.

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Breakfast in Westminster

There are a couple of interesting breakfast venues in Westminster, both are tourist attractions in their own way. The first and most well known is The Regency Cafe, recently seen on BBC 2 in Michel Roux’s Service, and the other is The Riverside Cafe on Lambeth Pier. The little hut that houses that cafe has made a few TV appearances too, mainly in the  background when a great view of Parliament is required, last spotted in Doctor Who – Rise of the Cybermen.

The Regency Cafe – 17 Regency Street

This is well worth a visit for the atmosphere alone, it’s just full of character. You will most likely need to queue for service, alongside the local workmen, businessmen and tourists, but the small team that man this place are very efficient and the queue moves quickly. The place in a strange way was reminiscent of Inopia in Barcelona, especially when the orders are called out by the women with the amazing voice (a tourist attraction in its own right!).

We had the Full English breakfast with Hash Browns and Black Pudding as extras.  Not a healthy breakfast option that’s for sure.  This place is often described as a Greasy Spoon Cafe, but the breakfast was far from greasy, the eggs were very tidily presented on the plate, the bacon and sausage though were a little heavy on the salt for my taste. I could almost feel a coronary coming on. I liked the way they sold Orange Juice in a milk bottle, might go for that next time along with the Eggs Benedict they were advertising – less dangerous to my circulation!

Marks out of 10

Food 5.2

Service 6

Ambience 6.6

Regency Cafe on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION
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The Riverside Cafe – Lambeth Pier

This is under new management, and they have given the old hut an effective make over with new flooring and seating, a central table and other nice touches like the modern mirror and flower displays. There is not a huge amount of space, about 10 seats inside and maybe a bit more outside. It attracts the tourists due to its location I am sure, but the staff are also friendly and helpful. They seem not to mind being asked for directions or information on the river boat trips.  This is a much more relaxing/quieter venue than The Regency Cafe. I accidently dropped my coat on the floor and the staff quickly picked it up for me, which was a nice touch, in most venues of this type it would go unnoticed.

Here we ordered an Omelette with Chips and a Full English breakfast (which came with Hash Browns,  Bacon, Sausage, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Beans and 2 slices of Toast – it was a big breakfast). Coffee was extra.  The cost of breakfast here is more expensive than The Regency.  I have to admit though that  I enjoyed this one more.

Marks out of 10

Food 5.5

Service 6

Ambience 5

Riverside Cafe on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION
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Altitude 360º in Millbank Tower – student discount?

Located at the top of Millbank Tower, Altitude 360º is normally only available for private events. However one of the advantages of following Twitter is that it can point you in interesting directions. Reading a tweet about brunch in Altitude 360º made me want to check it out, which is when I discovered their brunch deal for £39 available until December 19th.

Included in the brunch price you also get a 360º tour of London. Something the students who invaded the building a few weeks back got for free (without the professional guide).

We arrived at Millbank Tower Reception, where we were asked to wait, before being escorted to the lift in single parties. This process makes sense as it ensures that you can be taken directly to your table when you arrive on the 29th floor. Remembering your table number is important as it is a large room and I did get a bit confused when I accidentally almost sat down at the wrong table after returning from the buffet. It’s a difficult room to make attractive or warm; it comes across pretty much as a typical 70’s style open plan office space, tarted up like a pop up restaurant (which I guess it sort of is).  However it’s the view most people will come here for, and I have to admit this place pretty much lived up to my expectations on that front.  Great views, but and it’s a big but, there does seemed to be a direct correlation between views and food quality, i.e., the better the view the worse the food tends to be.

The Gherkin is one of the rare exceptions to this “rule”. Altitude 360º unfortunately is not.

OK, it was not all bad,  the Egg station being the highlight.  We enjoyed our Eggs Benedict and Eggs Royal, they were made to order while we took in the views. But the Roast station had to be one of the most basic carveries I have seen in a long time and the organic breakfasts ordered from the kitchen were definately the low point. We waited a while for them, and when the breakfasts finally arrived, they were so not worth the wait.  Indeed they looked and tasted as if they had been under the Salamander Grill for a bit too long. I am afraid we barely touched them.

My companion had no interest in the very basic roast selection, so thought she would try one of the two pasta dished on offer, unfortunately they had run out (at 1 o’clock!).

The waiting staff came across on the whole as inexperienced (perhaps they were more used to providing the service for corporate events rather than a buffet service), in that coffee top ups and cutlery had to be asked for on more than one occasion.  The waiting staff although friendly had no interest in asking us if we were enjoying our food as they cleared away nearly full plates. However I did chat to one of the “greeters” in the reception area regarding the advertised 360º tour by a comedian/historian.  He was not able to answer my questions immediately but did make an effort to come to our table and explain the procedure to us, after he had found out.  He then became the first person to ask us what we thought of the brunch. We provided our constructive criticism and he very professionally apologised and offered us a couple of complimentary cocktails.

The dessert station was also not that exciting, again a fairly basic selection. The chocolate cake was nice, but way too rich for my taste. I really needed something light at that stage, and the fruit on offer did not look very appetizing.

At 3 o’clock we joined the tour, where a group of about 12 people crowded round the corner windows while Tony Dunn provided us with historical snippets and information on future building projects such as The Shard. Not entirely sure why he is billed here as a Comedian/Historian as the tour was not really comedic.  It was, and I mean this in a positive way, like having a historical walking tour of London indoors, protected from the elements.

After the tour, rather than rush off, we took advantage of the crêpe and pancake station, which by this time no longer had a queue. This was another highlight. We relaxed on the comfy chairs, read the newspapers and tucked into the freshly made light and fluffy waffles.

The cost of the brunch and the tour as I mentioned earlier is £39.00, which based on the quality of the food did not seem worth it initially, until we analysed it – A cocktail on arrival, the tour and the option of effectively having breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, over the space of several hours. Yes maybe it was worth £39.00.  However and this is the scary part, the £39 is a discounted price, the full price is £97. Sorry, but in no way would that have been acceptable. I have a bench mark for what a top end brunch should be, and that is the one provided in the Winter Garden at the Landmark – which by the way, costs a little less than that, and involves unlimited good quality champagne and a superb selection of dishes.

So although it was interesting to visit Altitude 360º.  I have to say, it is not somewhere I would consider returning to. It’s just not special enough, which is rather sad considering its unique location.

 

 

LOCATION INFORMATION

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UPDATE : This place is now called TheView @SkyloftLondon

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The Rocks – Omelette challenge

Having  just finished watching the Omelette challenge on Saturday Kitchen, my choice of breakfast in The Rocks Restaurant may have been subliminal.  When my ham and cheese omelette arrived in a matter of minutes from order to table, unlike those on Saturday Kitchen which take seconds and look on the whole inedible, this omelette was close to perfect.  Delicious with a really light and fluffy texture. Actually it was easily the best omelette I have had in a long time.

The Rocks on Vauxhall Bridge Road is fairly new, formally Cafe Rocks – a well respected sandwich bar,  it has expanded to double its orginal size and is now a full blown restaurant.  It is a good spot to stop on route to Tate Britain.  The monochrome decor –  black marble tiles, black tables and chairs, may not be to everyones taste, but I thought it was both effective and practical.  I definitely plan to return to try their all day breakfast. The rest of the menu looked interesting too,  it included several Turkish dishes.  I need to make a few more visits and try more of the menu, but based on the omelette (known to be one of the best ways to judge a chefs ability) I suspect The Rocks is something of a Gem! (Pun intended).

Marks out of 10

Food 5.2

Service 5.2

Ambience 6

UPDATE : January 2011 – Made a return visit.  One dish on the menu to avoid is maybe the Eggs Benedict, which is actually not Eggs Benedict.  It tasted ok,  but was missing key ingredients like muffins and ham.

UPDATE : January 2014 – Nice to see that The Rocks is still going strong. Everyone who came in got a warm welcome and the service was good. It had a nice turn over of customers on my visit, with people choosing to both to eat in and take away. I  would recommend the Börek as a main course, it was tasty and nicely presented, although there was too much salad for my taste. They also had a decent selection of cakes and pastries.

The Rocks on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

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The Landmark – Champagne brunch in the Winter Garden

OK so it is still Summer, but champagne brunch in the Winter Garden at The Landmark Hotel is just too good to resist.

It’s 3 hours of non stop champagne and access to an extensive buffet containing a wide variety of lovely dishes.

You can go for breakfast, perhaps have an omelette from the Omelette station, or go for  typical brunch dishes like Eggs Benedict. There was also a lovely fish pie, lots of salmon dishes, and a really good range of sea food and sushi.   If you prefer Lunch to Brunch, you also have soups and roasts.

For those of us with a sweet tooth, this place is an absolute delight, as there is no skimping on the dessert selection either.  Desserts included a chocolate fountain, sorbets and ice cream, tarlets, fruit and cakes off all sorts.  I especially loved the marmalade meringues and the cup cakes.

In fact to really appreciate what’s on offer here, it is best to make this the only meal of the day.

The venue is lovely too.

This has to be one of the best brunch spots in London.

Marks out of 10

Food 7

Service 7

Ambience 7

Winter Garden on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

LOCATION INFORMATION

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