Archive for the ‘Kent’ Category

B is for Broadstairs

Monday, October 6th, 2014

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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Chequers Kitchen Restaurant & Cooking School – A Foodie Oasis between Sandwich and Deal

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Chequers Restaurant is located in a former pub near the Royal Cinque Golf Course. The pub has been turned into a rather lovely Restaurant and Cookery school. We first spotted it while walking from Sandwich to Deal. Our original intention was to time our walk so we could have lunch in Deal. However with at least an 1 hour or so left to walk to Deal we started to spot the signs for Chequers – 1 mile away, then 1/2 mile away. So we thought we would check it out. Wow, what a treat for a couple of foodies to find in the middle of nowhere, it was like spotting an Oasis in the Desert. We have popped in for lunch a couple of times now and its always been a delight.  Lots of locally sourced food influenced by Chef Pieter van Zyl’s South African background.

On our last visit we ordered 3 small dishes to share. Beautiful Tempura prawns with Chef Pieter’s sweet chilli sauce (I keep ordering them when I visit because they are so good), Spanish Omelette and really tasty Cape Malay pickled fish along with warm homemade bread. The Chef also gave us a taster of Vichyssoise which was perfect for a warm day. Then for dessert we ordered ice cream. Not just any ice cream, it was Taywell ice cream. Their Honeycomb ice cream is seriously good.

Chequers do lots of interesting events and cookery demonstrations so it’s well worth checking out their web site -www.chequersrestaurant.com.

Marks out of 10

Food 7

Service 7

Ambience 7

Chequers Kitchen Restaurant & Cookery School on Urbanspoon

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Prawn and Pig pop up on the Ramsgate Riviera

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

It’s always sad when a much loved Restaurant closes. So we welcomed the chance to re visit some of dishes from the sadly missed Eddie Gilbert’s at Craig Mather and Gareth Olivers 2 Day pop up in The Mariners Ramsgate. So of course we had to order the playful Eddie Gilbert signature dish of Soft Boiled Duck Egg and Smoked Eel Soldiers (Jay Rayner’s starter of the year a few years back), it was just as I remembered it. The menu was Tapas in both food style and plate size. It included some lovely Cured Ham and Cheese Croquettes which along with the Squid, Chorizo, Pork Belly and warm weather made for a very Spanish vibe. The waitress recommended 4 dishes per person so we pretty much ordered all the dishes on the menu which was an excellent approach especially when accompanied by a nicely chilled bottle of Prosecco.

Our favorite dishes were the aforementioned croquettes and the House Soused Mackerel with warm Shallots, Potato and Water Cress. Shame this was just a pop up as it would be great to be able to have this Mediterranean style food on a more regular basis especially when Ramsgate manages so well on a warm sunny day to look very much like one of the better resorts on the Med with its stunning Marina, impressive Architecture and almost cosmopolitan atmosphere enhanced by the local language schools and increasing number of foreign tourists.

Hopefully after the success of this pop up we will see more of this type of event. In the meantime there are the excellent Gala Dinners organized at East Kent College where Craig and Gareth are Chef Lecturer’s to look forward too.

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The Corner House – Minster

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

The Corner House is a restaurant with rooms in the lovely village of Minster near Ramsgate. The head chef is Matt Sworder who worked in several London restaurants training with Gordon Ramsay (La Noisette), Anthony Demetre (Les Deux Salons) and Adam Byatt (Bistro Union) before returning home to his roots in Kent.

The Corner House, formally Mortons Fork has always had a good reputation locally, but with its re-branding, refurbishment and new chef, it has upped its game.  It has two dining areas with a bar and kitchen area in the middle. I liked the entrance where you walk in and see all the freshly baked bread. There is a real warmth to the place. The staff are friendly and efficient, nothing is too much trouble. The food is distinctly British and locally sourced.

The home made bread is really good and do eat your crusts as they are very tasty. We also found a couple of gems on the menu. The Beetroot cured Salmon, cucumber jelly and horseradish cream starter was excellent as was the Duck breast with spiced puy  lentils, peppers and pea shoots. A couple of the other dishes were more ordinary – the Venison Steak and Chips, and the Asparagus with Egg were pretty conventional, so on my next visit I will definitely try and go for the more exotic options.

Desserts were a highlight, we had a lovely white chocolate cheesecake and delicious home made Brown Bread Praline Ice Cream served in a Kilner Jar. You can see how much we enjoyed our desserts from the empty plate/jar in the photograph ;)

Marks out of 10

Food 6.2

Service 6

Ambience 6

The Corner House on Urbanspoon

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Forts – don’t tell everyone

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Like most food bloggers we write posts to tell readers about the places we find because we want to share the experience, especially if the restaurant or cafe is a good one. Sometimes though you find these amazing places in the most unlikely of areas that are just so good that you are conflicted – “If too many people get to know about how good it is, we might not be able to get a table”. However praise where praise is due. Forts is pretty special.  We first passed it on a Winters day when it was closed and looking more shabby than chic. The surrounding area was particularly run down and the streets were full of litter, it looked grim.   Cliftonville needs a very sunny day indeed to look anything close to good. So finally a few months later after a visit to the nearby farmers market we thought we would see what all the fuss was about (lots of people we follow on Twitter etc had spoken very highly of this unassuming cafe).

Even with its Formica tables and the best of British sauces and condiments taking center stage, it’s very much a foodie enclave. I would be very surprised if any of its customers had just wandered in expecting a bog standard Full English All Day Breakfast.  The menu changes regularly and does include the ubiquitous Full English along with several brunch type dishes. We ordered the Mackerel with Bubble and Squeak and the Scrambled Eggs with spicy Brindisa Chorizo. Both were fabulous dishes with the quality of the cooking and the ingredients shining through. We also treated ourselves to some Rhubarb Spritzers which were delicious and very refreshing.  Normally we wouldn’t order desserts for brunch but there is something about the place that encourages you to try more, so we had some of their lovely creamy stem ginger ice cream.

I suspect we could have had anything on the menu and loved it. The next table ordered burgers and when they arrived they looked amazing. Here’s hoping we can still get a table the next time we’re in the area!

Marks out of 10

Food 7.1

Service 7

Ambience 6.8

Forts on Urbanspoon

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The Ambrette – Margate : Kent Restaurant of the Year 2013

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

We booked Sunday lunch at The Ambrette in Margate. It won Restaurant of the Year in 2013 in the Taste of Kent awards and was just pipped to the post in this years awards by Rocksalt in Folkstone.

I have never been much of a fan of Margate, but I have to say it is starting to grow on me, helped very much by its burgeoning food scene. We decided to explore Margate before lunch, there was actually quite a lot to see, we managed to fit in a visit to the monthy Cliftonville farmers market, a brief trip to the Turner Contemporary Gallery and wandered around the old town which has lots of interesting shops, cafes and architecture. Margate has really embraced the art scene and there are retro shops everywhere.

The Ambrette is in the old town, just round the corner from the stunning Tudor House. The Ambrette has quite the reputation. Dev Biswal is famous for his spicing and is planning to open 4 more restaurants in Kent, which is very good news indeed. The hype is definitely justified, this is somewhere you feel you could order anything from the menu and not be disappointed. I have been to quite a few high end Indian restaurants and when it comes to food and service The Ambrette can hold its own. The room and ambience is less inviting, OK there is no flock wallpaper but instead the tables and decor would not be out of place in a bland Italian restaurant. This place is special however and it really would not take much to elevate it.

We had a delicious amuse bouche where my only complaint was that it was served on a cocktail stick rather than having a small spoon which would have ensured that I got every drop of the beautiful sauce off the plate.

We started with the Crab and beetroot cake, locally grown sea purslane  and Crab riata and the Dosai with gently spiced potatoes, mustard and onions and Coconut chutney. The flavour of the crab and potatoes were both enhanced by the accompaniments and spicing. We were then presented with tiny tasting cups containing a delicious broccoli and pepper soup.

For main course we ordered the Kentish Mutton and pearl barley biryani, served with Masala potatoes, Kashmiri style sauce of cinnamon and saffron and the Claresse (fresh water catfish) with locally grown sea beet, served with kedgeree, sauce of coconut, ginger and mustard, again beautifully judged.

Dessert was also a triumph. Chocolate Samosas are a match made in heaven, and the delicate rose flavoured vanilla crème brulee was perfect.

Matching wines with Indian food can be difficult but not so here as the spicing does not kill your taste buds. Our bottle of Chablis was not lost, its fruity flavour complimented all the dishes.

We enjoyed this meal so much we have already booked our table for an event they are holding in May called The Ambrette Tapas Experiment which should be fun and will give us the chance to taste even more of their food.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.1

Service 6

Ambience 4.8

Ambrette on Urbanspoon

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Rocksalt – Saved by the cooking

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

We are always wary of Restaurants with good views and Mark Sargeant‘s fashionable Rocksalt Restaurant in its purposely designed building overlooking Folkestone Harbour is certainly a Restaurant with a good view.

We had a beautiful sunny day for our first visit to Folkestone and had a lovely time exploring the stunning Lower Leas Coastal Park before we headed round the corner to the regenerated Harbour and made our way past the kitchen viewing area into the Restaurant.  When Rocksalt first opened in 2011 it received several negative reviews that complained about both the food and the service – more recent reviews highlighted improvements in both these areas. Although it did not start of well for us, in that no one was there to greet us on arrival, leaving the barman to find a waitress who could take us to our table. The staff also seemed rather cold and brusk, with a few notable exceptions. Then just after we sat down we heard shouting from the direction of the kitchen, it might just have been noisy guests but it was off putting. Thankfully after this rocky start the pitch perfect food which was Rocksalts saving grace arrived. We settled down to enjoy a nice bottle of wine and some delicious seafood in the well designed surroundings. There are lots of cleverly positioned mirrors and wall height glass windows designed to open and effectively convert the entire restaurant into one big terrace.

When you can see the fishing boats bringing in their catches right out side the Restaurant it seems foolish not to order sea food (there are meat dishes on the menu but we made a point of ignoring them). We started with a scallop dish from the catch of the day menu, it was a tasty dish with 3 medium sized scallops and a lot of black pudding and creamy potatoes. We also ordered the Dressed Crab, the Harissa sauce served with it had been criticized in the early reviews for being underpowering then in later reviews for being overpowering. Now the tweaking of the dish seemed to have worked as it was just right, with the sauce effectively enhancing the tasty and very fresh crab meat. We followed the starters with a stunning Pan-Fried Fillet of John Dory with Smoked Bacon and a lovely Fillet of Cod with Cockles and Sea Aster served with mashed potatoes. We ordered Carrots and Jersey Royals side dishes, they tasted like they were fresh from the garden and were perfectly cooked with an earthy taste that went well with the meal. We also had a couple of good desserts. A Cold Chocolate and Sea Buckthorn Fondant and some Gypsy Tart, a famous Kent sweet I am keen to try again. Apparently it’s a school dinner staple. It was certainly way better than any school dessert I have ever had. We accompanied our desserts with a couple of glasses of nicely chilled dessert wine. Sadly there were only 3 dessert wine options to choose from.

Rocksalt also has a very attractive bar on its upper floor. Our visit was off season and the restaurant and bar were reasonably full.  I am sure Rocksalt gets really busy in the Summer as service gripes aside it is a real asset to the culinary scene here in Kent.

At the weekend when there is no set menu Rocksalt has prices that match its designer surroundings, so it’s very easy to run up a hefty bill, especially when you have to add side orders to complete the meals. Nearby there is a less expensive option “The Smokehouse”, a rather smart looking Fish and Chip shop/casual Restaurant that is also co-owned by Mark Sargeant.  It’s not that cheap for the area though, as we noticed it advertising Skate Balls for £7.50, the same price as the Sunday lunch at the nearby Grand Burstin Hotel, an eye sore that looked like a relic from the eighties, but cost aside I know where I would rather spend my £7.50. So keep up the regeneration Folkestone and show what UK seaside towns can really do in the 21st century.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.9

Service 4

Ambience 6

View 8

Rocksalt on Urbanspoon

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The Restaurant @ East Kent College – a Game of two halves

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

We booked a table for the Game Night in The Restaurant at East Kent College. The event was sponsored by Godmersham Game and was an excellent showcase for their Game with the Venison dishes being a particular highlight. Not having been to this type of venue before, where the guests are Guinea Pigs for the catering students, we were not sure what to expect. The front of house were well mannered and enthusiastic if occasionally a little nervous.

The evening started really well despite accessing the Restaurant via a lift that would have been at home in a dilapidated Tower Block and a Dining Room that had all the ambiance of a Cruise Liner Restaurant. We did not see much of the view over Viking bay as it was a bit hazy but I suspect the sea view would have enhanced the Cruise Liner vibe.  The room was full and I understand from a conversation with one of the waiters that this was the largest number of tables they had catered for.

We started with some good canapes, Venison Liver Paté, Bunny Burger Sliders with pickled carrot relish, Peppered Venison Carpaccio and ordered a decent bottle of wine from the bar. We were actually not expecting to see a huge amount of finesse in the food and it was lovely to find out we were wrong when our starter, Mosaic of Game with Sweet Wine Jelly, Celeriac Remoulade & Toasted Brioche arrived.  The dish was beautifully presented on the plate, full of flavour and nicely enhanced by the inclusion of the sweet wine jelly.

The next course of Venison Pasty with Piccalilli was equally good.

The palate cleansing pre dessert Gin and Tonic Granita with a lovely chocolate and toffee brittle was also well received.

Unfortunately what happened next was the equivalent of a football team scoring an own goal. The team of waiters came in to the room resplendent in their white gloves looking very much the part for the delivery of what should have been the highlight of the evening. The main course of Sous Vide Pheasant Supreme with a Confit Potato & Bacon Terrine, Roasted Butternut Squash & Sauce Financiére. However our table was missed and all the staff disappeared back into the kitchen. I had to go to the bar and wait until someone came out, to advise them of the omission which was quickly corrected and apologized for. This incident really shows the importance of always having someone overseeing the room not just to catch this kind of problem but also to spot opportunities to up-sell drinks.

We found the partridge to be the weakest dish. Being a little tough and dry, the accompaniments were fine though.

The Tasting Plate of Chocolate & Berries dessert looked better than it tasted and not all of the Petit Fours were quite right. The colouring of the macaroons was off and the caramel encased chocolates were overly sweet and way too runny. However these are just our constructive criticisms, as on the whole we were very impressed by what East Kent College delivered and most definitely look forward to returning for other such events. I should also mention the cost which at £24 for 5 courses, Canapes and Petit Fours is incredible value.

Please forgive our Football analogies as we could not resist especially since our fellow dinners included the owners of Margate Football Club. So here is our score ;)

Marks out of 10

Food -  First Half 6.5  - Second Half 4.5

Service 5.5

Ambience 4

 

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Salt – British Tapas in Canterbury

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Pleased to have found Salt in Canterbury, it’s nice to go somewhere that manages not only to serve good British food using quality ingredients, but also manages to stand out by being just a little bit different. Salt does this by avoiding a structured menu and instead focuses on Small Plates designed for sharing. It’s basically British Tapas and it works. Although ironically I belatedly worked out that eating the dishes we tried in a more conventional order would have enhanced our experience.  We should have had my favorite dish of the meal first (Scallops with Blood Orange Salsa salad enhanced by adding some really fresh pea shoots) and perhaps even ordered a plate each.  The Scallops were a perfect starter and would not have been out of place in a high end restaurant.  Another dish we ordered and ended up saving for the end of the meal was the Almond and Goats Cheese balls with Rhubarb dip, a cheese course all by itself.

We also ordered and enjoyed the Rolled Lamb Shoulder with Anchovy Tarte-Fine and the Duck Leg Meatballs with Chilli Jam and a side order of crushed Jersey Royals. Only one dish, the Spring Onion and Garlic Potato Cakes with Poached Duck Egg was a little under seasoned for our taste, something that could easily be rectified by having some rock salt and pepper on the table, but that is a minor criticism.

We left already planning to return to try a couple of the other Small Plates next time.  The wine list is also small but the bottle of Riesling we had was nicely chilled and a good accompaniment to our meal. The service was just right, with our waitress clearly explaining the concept of the restaurant and estimating just how many plates we would need (5 plus a side was just right for 2 people).

Marks out of 10

Food 6.5

Service 6

Ambience 6

Salt on Urbanspoon

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No Expert does Deal

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

On a beautiful sunny spring day we headed for the sea side town of Deal, the recent winner of the Telegraph’s High Street of the Year award.

We had already done a bit of research so had our lunch and afternoon tea spots picked out.

Digging the – Allotment Cafe

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

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.

Other treats

We also popped into the No Name Shop, for some bread and cheese – their Walnut Bread is excellent.

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GB Pizza – UFK

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

GB Pizza in Margate is a trendy Pizza parlour that focuses on producing quality thin based pizza. It is only a few doors down from Domino Pizza and the contrast could not be more marked. The tables are refectory style but if your lucky you can also grab a window seat with a sea view. We shared a chorizo and chilli pizza which was super hot and absolutely delicious. They also import Gelupo Ice Cream from London, which again reflects their approach to quality. The staff were efficient with a friendly laid back manner. Food is ordered at the counter and delivered to the table.

GB Pizza are going places, more specifically they are opening a branch in Exmouth Market in foodie Clerkenwell in London, where they will fit right in. So they are reversing the ‘DFL – Down from London’ trend to be ‘UFK – Up from Kent’. I really hope they expand within Kent though, I would love to have a local branch – please come to Ramsgate.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.3

Service 6

Ambience 6

GB Pizza Co on Urbanspoon

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The Empire Room – Majestic

Monday, March 10th, 2014

The newly opened Empire Room is a majestic and photogenic restaurant located in the basement of the rather lovely Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate. The decor is stunning, it very much achieves the Gentlemans club atmosphere it is seeking to emulate. It screams special occasion venue rather than hotel restaurant. It has a decent wine list and friendly attentive staff. The food is very much in keeping with a hotel restaurant though, it’s all a little too safe for my taste, but it’s new and it will be interesting to see how the menu evolves.

Marks out of 10

Food 5.7

Service 6.5

Ambience 7.2

The Empire Room on Urbanspoon

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