If approaching Addington Street from the coastal side, you will find the VinylHead Cafe at the far end of the street. It is a Vinyl Store as well as a Cafe and has a fantastic ambience. I actually think that it is the coolest cafe in Thanet. It attracts a lot of Artists and Musicians and at the weekend there are occasional Open Mic sessions and live music.
Vinylhead is licensed and serves good coffee and really excellent homemade cakes. For more substantial food check out the kitchen menu.
Another highlight is the attractive outside courtyard with its stylish seaside themed mosaic and huge cantilever parsol.
Despite the title of this post we were not actually staying at the newly opened Albion House Hotel. Although we did find ourselves spending a substantial part of the Weekend there. We started with Champagne Afternoon Tea on the Saturday and returned the next day for our Sunday Lunch.
The Hotel which is open to non residents is quite lovely, perched up on the East Cliff of Ramsgate. The building has been substantially renovated during its conversion to a luxury boutique hotel, it now combines Regency splendor with lots of innovative modern designer touches courtesy I believe of Fontaine Decorative a local company who source stunning French Furniture and Decorative items.
The Hotel is in preview mode at the moment. The plan is to concentrate on the Town Bar and the Hotel Rooms themselves before they make full use of the Dining room. They also have some exciting plans for the Cellar.
Champagne Afternoon Tea
Afternoon Tea is in the Town Bar. Sandwiches, Tea and Champagne are served at your table. Cakes are laid out buffet style on the table by the window. It’s very much a case of eating as much as you want, as extra sandwiches are brought out on request. The Earl Grey Tea I ordered was particularly good, it’s from a company called Canton Tea and had a strong Vanilla flavour.
The Sunday Lunch menu is pretty much as expected, a small selection of starters, a couple of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes for the main course with dessert options and/or cheese to complete the meal. Lunch and Dinner are served in the Dining Room located at the front of the Hotel. It’s an attractive room with beautiful large fire places and quite spectacular views of Ramsgate Royal Harbour – an ideal place to watch the sun set.
We ordered the Pork belly, scallops, apple puree & red vein sorrel and Wood pigeon breast with frisse & oak leaf salad. The Wood pigeon was served only slightly pink (so if you like it pink, best to say when ordering). We followed this with some nicely cooked Lime & jerk spiced sea bass, potato cake and samphire accompanied by a rather nice bottle of Albarino – the hotel has some excellent options on their wine list. Then for dessert we had Dark chocolate torte with white chocolate cream and raspberries and Vodka, lemon & lime posset with mixed berry compote, accompanied by a couple of glasses of Dessert Wine.
The Hotel is a real asset to the area and we look forward to returning soon as we still have to work our way through the bar snacks in the lovely Town Bar 😉
UPDATE : June 2015 – Had some decent platters from the Town Bar Menu, a meat and a fish one (see above picture). The menu also included Sliders and Salad options.
UPDATE: August 2015 – They have extended the Town Bar menu, there is now a daily brunch menu from 10:00 – 16:00.
UPDATE: July 2016 – The layout and menu structure has now changed, the Dining room and Town Bar are now called Townleys, a more casual menu is provided.
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.
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 😉
We had already done a bit of research so had our lunch and afternoon tea spots picked out.
Digging the – Allotment Cafe : Now Poppys Kitchen
For lunch we headed for the Allotment Cafe, somewhere you would be lucky to find in passing. It’s tucked away in the back room of a High Street shop. It is a pleasant spot with a wall decorated with foodie goodies and a small outside seating area.
We shared a Mezze and a cheese plater. The food like the Cafe name suggests is very ingredient focused. The Salads were fresh and tasty, the Olives in the Mezze were huge and succulent and the sweet pickle and pear served with the Cheese was a treat. We would definitely recommended this place.
Delighted with the – Keep House Tea Room :CLOSED
With its own little light museum, this new Tea Room opposite Deal Castle is a bit special. The room is modern, stylish, and quirky.
They do a range of Teas and Tisanes (Herbal Infusions), which are served in pretty China cups. It’s a lovely spot for Afternoon Tea, especially on a sunny afternoon with the light streaming in. We had a pot of Peppermint Tea and a piece of their delicious Dutch Apple Cake and Rhubarb and Custard Cake, both of which were delightfully light and moist. There are also several nice extra touches like the tiny almond biscuits and chocolate cake delivered unbidden with the Tea and the packs of Fizzers included in with the bill.
We also popped into the No Name Shop, for some bread and cheese – their Walnut Bread is excellent.
Chocolate and Christmas are synonymous, which is why the opening of the Chocolate Lounge in Ramsgate Royal Harbour is particularly fortuitous. Just as the sun was setting over the Harbour we took a stroll down to the Marina where the yachts and boats were lit up with Christmas lights, to check out this new addition to Ramsgate’s culinary scene. Clareys Chocolate lounge is built into the Arches. It is a spacious room complete with comfortable sofas and Chandeliers. They serve a selection of Chocolate goodies including Handmade Artisan Chocolate and “Cake Pops” (truffle cakes on a stick dipped in chocolate) an interesting new trend and a fun alternative to cupcakes. They also do a selection of more traditional Cakes, serve Afternoon Tea and organize chocolate related activities. They have a late license, so you can add some alcohol to your coffee or hot chocolate well into the early hours too or you can book their mobile bar and tour the harbour.
This is an excellent use of the arch space and is possibly the only chocolate lounge in Thanet. If there is an other please let me know. Regardless I will be returning to this one to chill out and indulge in more chocolate goodness. Does White Chocolate and Cranberry count as one of my five a day? Yeah I think it does!
Wishing all our readers a Very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year.
UPDATE 27/12/13 : Returned to try the Hot Chocolate with marshmallows and cream and the Cake Pops, see new pictures above.
The hot chocolate was simply delicious, it’s the best one I have tasted. The Cake Pops were very good too, you can buy them to eat in or to take away.
UPDATE 1/07/15 : The Chocolate Lounge has been rebranded as Coco Latino and has a stronger focus on the Bar. They also sell as selection of savory dishes, including a small selection of very tasty Tapas.
UPDATE 1/10/15 : There are plans afoot to recreate the Chocolate Lounge in the upstairs part of the premises, so looking forward to that.
The phrase “hidden gem” tends to be overused and misused, but I really believe it applies to the Scooter Caffè. Tucked away in Lower Marsh Street, behind Waterloo station, this is a great find. From the outside especially it still looks like the Vesper Repair shop it used to be. I just loved the quirky eclectic decor, old mismatched chairs, sewing machine tables, Vesper scooter permanently parked by the bar and the laid back bohemian atmosphere. There seemed to be only one member of staff on my visit and she was able to cope admirably with the steady flow of customers, as almost everyone happily returned their empty glasses and plates to the bar prior to leaving. The background music (1920’s salon music?) also added to the ambiance.
The clientele on my visit were a mixed bunch, trendy hipster types and the odd local worker in the know. It’s a great venue to relax and people watch. This place definitely has its regulars too, like the girl in the vintage dress struggling to control her two lovely little dogs as she ordered, the older women poet, expounding her philosophy to her camera man companion, and the Apple Mac users making the most of the free wi-fi (FYI the password is stuck on the bar).
There is also a larger yet still cosy bar in the basement, which is probably used more in the evenings, a small Patio at the back next to the railway arches, and a bench and table outside on Lower Marsh Street itself. This place reminded me of the kind of venue you used to be able to find in Greenwich Village, NYC in the days before it got too touristy.
The coffee served from the classic red Gaggia coffee machine is excellent, indeed the aroma of freshly ground coffee is the first thing that hits you as you walk in. There is also a small selection of cakes available, I had a lovely piece of Lemon Drizzle cake and if you want something more substantial you can even bring your own food to eat on the premises.
While doing a bit of research I also discovered the cafe featured in the third Bourne film (must have blinked and missed that bit), that Johnny Depp has dropped in for a drink and that Ethan Hawke is a regular when he’s in the area.
They also have a new sister cafe in Oval (Cable Cafe) which I will need to investigate, especially since it’s so near to Oval Farmers Market – I rather like the idea of buying some bread and cheese or Galeta cookies at the market and chilling out in the cafe with a cup of coffee or something a bit more alcholic.
This is a first for No Expert – a post on an Ice Cream Parlour!
I have actually been to lots of Ice Cream Parlours all over the world, including some memorable ones in Italy, Spain, North and South America, Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark – my favorite Ice Cream surprisingly was Goats Milk Ice Cream sold by a street vendor in Kiev of all places, but that’s another story. So why visit La Gelatiera? which is tucked away in a side street close to Covent Garden. Main reason, it’s serious Ice Cream – seriously good. It’s also kind of nice to know that their Ice Cream is rich in vitamins and protein but low in fat (on average 6% – 8% for gelato and 0% for sorbet).
I tried two flavours today:-
Basil and Chilli Gelato – I first had Basil Ice Cream at the rather good Waterside Restaurant in Eastbourne, so the bench mark for me on this was set pretty high. La Gelatiera breached it – WOW – that little kick of chilli is amazing.
Banana Sorbet – so creamy, so much banana flavour, more conventional but no less of a winner than the Basil and Chilli.
I will most definitely be back to try some more flavours.
The Parlour has a modern trendy feel to it, it is quite small and has a glass floor in one corner that enables you to peak into the “laboratory” where the Ice Cream is made. There is seating for about 8 – 10 people inside and a few seats outside. It also specializes in Coffee from Artisan Roasters and has a nice looking selection of Cakes and Pastries. You can even have Ice Cream with your Cake, so what’s not to like?
Made a return visit on a Saturday evening to try some more flavours.
Mint and ChocolateGelato – Very refreshing, could really taste the fresh mint, plus lots of shards of dark chocolate.
Popcorn, Caramel and Chilli Gelato – Another winner, creamy with soft caramelized popcorn and a touch of chilli
HazelnutGelato – a more conventional flavour, but still very nice.
I would also recommend the Matcha Tea Gelato – very refreshing.
Visually “The White Palace” is quite stunning, it’s very much a remnant of a bygone era. Just the sort of place where you would expect to see Miss Marple sitting in the corner knitting.
Our visit on Easter Sunday when The Palm Court Strings were playing was my first opportunity to have a formal “Afternoon Tea” outside London.
We arrived early enough to check out the bar. The drinks selection was not as extensive or as special as it could have been, just some fairly standard Whiskeys, some common brands of Rum and a couple of Sherries. The Cocktail list was much more interesting and the ones we had were very nice indeed. Even if they were expensive – i.e., London cocktail prices, but then again The Grand is a 5 star hotel. So after a leisurely start we made our way to the far end of The Grand Hall where Afternoon Tea is served. The layout was a bit awkward, set up as it was to accommodate The Palm Court Strings, which made it difficult for the staff to serve tea and rather limited our ability to order anything beyond the Champagne Afternoon Tea we had already paid for.
However I have to say, it was the string quartet that really made this an occasion. They only play on the last Sunday of each month and the very conventional Afternoon Tea would have been something of a disappointment without them. Not that there was anything wrong with what we had to eat. The Cake Stand contained a selection of perfectly fine sandwiches, scones and cakes. It was all just a bit too conventional for my taste.
We also had a brief look at the menu for the Hotels main restaurant. Nothing very exciting there either. The pricing structure for a la carte dishes was a bit odd, in that the price quoted per dish was on top of the £27 set menu price which meant that if you went entirely a la carte you had to remember that there was an extra £27 to add to your bill – What’s wrong with just having a set menu and showing “the real prices” for the a la carte dishes? (maybe Miss Marple can get to the bottom of that mystery!).
When we left the Hotel at about 6 o’clock, we were very surprised to still see people sun bathing by the outdoor pool, indeed Eastbourne (on the Sunshine coast) is certainly a sweet spot for a Staycation when you get the kind of weather we had on our visit.
When I go out for a walk I like to have a destination in mind – which I have to admit is usually somewhere that serves coffee and cake. My destination today was the Royal Festival Hall and the Real Food Market. However I got waylaid as I was passing by County Hall. I spotted a sign for BB Bakery. So out of nosiness rather that anything else I peeked inside. The signage had me expecting some kind of Pret a Manager or at best a Le Pain Quotidien or a Patisserie Valerie type venue. BB Bakery does after all share a building with McDonald’s. However I found that it was actually more in keeping with The Marriott Hotel which is also part of the County Hall complex. I was very surprised by its unexpected warmth and elegance, something that chain Patisseries rarely if ever manage to achieve.
To the left of the entrance is the counter area surround by tables and shelves of beautifully presented cakes and baked goods or as BB Bakery calls them Viennoiserie. I spent much longer here than I expected too, it was just so peaceful and relaxing sitting in the smart and comfortable seating area, indeed if you can ignore the rather drab walls and ceiling it does rather feel like the lounge of a good hotel. I ordered a slice of lemon and butter cream cake and a coffee from the counter. The waitress delivered it quickly and it was a pleasant change to have my coffee served in a china cup rather than a mug. The portion of cake was large, light and moist with a creamy butter filling and lemon flavouring that was strong and refreshing.
UPDATE: April 2011 – I returned for lunch. My salmon quiche was seriously good, tasty with lots of salmon and a nice balance of tomatoes, peppers and courgettes. I followed this with a small piece of heavenly strawberry roulade this place is definitely my favourite London Patisserie now.
UPDATE: BB Bakery also have a small selection of wines, including a dessert wine – see BB Bakery Wine list.
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
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.
Overindulged at the “Confessions of a Chocaholic Afternoon Tea at the Hilton” in the Podium Restaurant on the ground floor of the Park Lane Hilton.
This afternoon tea is good value for money, compared to a lot of the hotel based afternoon tea options in London (£29.50 including a glass of champagne).
The three tier cake stand used looks great and I was impressed by the chocolate selection, even the gold sprinkled base was made out of chocolate. There is so much here, making the pretty take away handbags a must. The Tea selection was also interesting and extensive.
The open sandwiches were beautifully presented, tasty and fresh. The chocolate spread with Chocolate Chip scones was also a nice touch. Not so keen on the cup cakes though which were rather ordinary.
The let down was more on the service side, which although friendly, was really slow. It was hard getting attention and it was nearly a hour before we started! I am also not sure that “I did not have time to bring the extra sandwiches is a particularly good excuse” in a hotel of this calibre.
The room was pleasant enough but had rather bad acoustics and the use of live and canned music really did not work.
Had breakfast at Gastronomica in Pimlico, a cafe/deli that advertises itself quite rightly as Piemonte in Pimlico.
Actually Gastronomica is a lot more that just this one cafe/deli. They have several market stalls (including one at Borough Market) and another couple of cafes in Wapping and Manchester as well as a wholesale food business.
The cafe in the heart of Pimlico is not that pretty from the outside, as it is located in an unattractive red brick block of shops behind a rather garish red awning.
Inside it is much more attractive, the Cafe area consists of a couple of large wooden tables and a few smaller ones, surrounded by shelves of Italian Wine and cabinets full of wonderful meats and cheese. The menu is quite small, mainly Italian sandwiches, cheese and meat boards and salads, but everything looks really good.
My breakfast was just a simple ham and cheese tostado, served with a really good cup of coffee. They also had a selection of cakes, which were inviting enough for me to want to make a return visit to try them along with another cup of that coffee. It’s always good to find an alternative to the ubiquitous Starbucks and Cafe Nero coffee shops.
This place captures the best of Italy. It’s very laid back, I particularly liked the way they went off menu to please a family that just wanted toast and jam for their kids. You definitely don’t see that in Starbucks.
UPDATE : January 2011, returned for coffee and cake, had a piece of strawberry and pannacotta cheese cake, and another cup of their great coffee. I also bought some Delizia Mandorla (Almond Cakes) which are lovely with a glass of Amaretto.