The restaurant is tucked away in a side street in Ramsgate (2 Effingham Street). It is in a converted pub that still looks like a pub when you enter, but don’t judge this place by the decor, this is not your average Indian Restaurant. The owner and Head Chef, is Anil Kumar, he is the former Head Chef of the acclaimed Ambrette Restaurant in Margate. He also worked at The Cinnamon Club in London, and in restaurants in Dubai, Jordan and India.
We go for the set lunch which is amazing value. You start with a welcome drink usually a mango juice concoction. Then a small amuse bouche, which is a mouthful of deliciousness. They have a nice selection of starters, the Masala Dosa is a work of Art, and I highly recommend the Squid dish. Next there is a small complimentary cup of spicy soup. There is also a good few main courses to choose from. We have tried several of them, the highlight for me is the Goan Fish Curry, it is served with rice and warm freshly made naan bread.
The service is good and there is a small selection of wine.
The restaurant is well regarded, it won a Tiffin Cup award to find the UKs best South Asian Restaurant and has been favourably covered in the national press, see Guardian article which described the food at Flavours by Kumar as some of the tastiest Indian Food in the South East of England and they are so right. If you are in the area, this is a treat not to be missed.
Like a lot of Ramsgate residents I had mixed feelings when I first heard that Wetherspoons had bought the lease on the Royal Victoria Pavilion and that they intended to convert it into a super pub. My view was that something had to be done to save the Pavilion which like so much of the stunning architecture in Ramsgate was being left to fall into wreck and ruin, but could the town support the largest Wetherspoon pub in the UK?
Now I have to say that I am impressed with the end result, the building has been sympathetically restored to it’s former glory. It’s stunning and has certainly revitalised the Harbour Parade area of Ramsgate. The other bars and cafes around it seem busy too, whether they stay that way I can’t say, but it does look like more visitor’s are being attracted to the area.
We went there on a lovely sunny day just two weeks after the official opening and grabbed a table on the upper terrace, which undoubtedly has the best view of any Wetherspoon pub in the UK. We ordered breakfast using the Wetherspoon Order & Pay App and friends we met there did it the old fashioned way by ordering at the bar. The online order ironically arrived first in less than 10 minutes. The other order had to be chased so there were still some teething problems, the staff are lovely though, friendly and helpful. Food and drink options are exactly what you’d expect at any Wetherspoon pub, it’s inexpensive, you get what you pay for. The view is free though and that’s what will draw me back.
While exploring Broadstairs, we spotted a rather run down building with a plaque telling us it was a Chapel build in 1601, only today it looks more like a second hand bookshop, then we spotted a sign advertising coffee and a familiar menu in the window. The menu was identical to The Lifeboat pub we had been so pleased to find in Margate. On entering through the rather uninviting door, we walked past the boxes of Cider and Barrels of real Ale, to speak to the barman. Turns out The Chapel is owned by the same people who run The Lifeboat.
The Chapel has a dual roll – it is now both a pub and a second hand book shop. You can read the books while sipping your Ale, Cider, Wine and Coffee. You can also order some of the interesting pies, puddings and cheeses. There are benches in the main part of the building and in the mezzanine area. There are also two separate rooms with tables and chairs. We only had time for a quick drink, but knowing how good the food is, we will be back.
UPDATE : March 2014, we returned for Cider and Suet Pudding and can confirm that the food at The Chapel is just as good as its sibling The Lifeboat in Margate.
The sun was shining on Boxing Day so it was perfect weather for a coastal walk along the Viking Trail, starting at Ramsgate and finishing in Margate. We had not planned to eat out, but after the 5 mile plus walk we were seriously hungry. When we arrived in Margate we found there were very few places open – ok we could have checked in advance and planned better, but sometimes it’s the unplanned days that work out the best. There were a couple of places that were full of people that we could have gone too, but they looked like the sort of places that were busy because they were open rather than for any other reason, which was why we were saved by The Lifeboat. It is an award winning pub, and I can see why – the food, drink and service were pretty special. We were well looked after by the lady who was literally manning The Lifeboat on her own.
The menu focuses on Pies, Puddings and Cheese, all great accompaniments to the Ale and Cider they specialize in. We tried a Pear Cider (Perry) and a wonderful Spiced Cider from Dudda’s Tun and ordered a Chicken and Bacon suet pudding and a Chicken, Brie and Cranberry Pie, both were served with lovely creamy smooth mash and a tasty gravy. This was perfect food for a wintery day.
The Lifeboat is well worth making a trip to Margate for, I certainly want to try some of the other pies and puddings on the menu.
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.
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.
Vauxhall may not seem an obvious place to find a riverside bar on a sunny day, but there are a couple – Aqua River Brasserie and The Riverside. They are directly on the river in St George Wharf, and are sun traps when the weather is good, however they are both rather soulless. I would pass them by and go for a more quirky venue, namely Tamesis Dock a dutch barge permanently moored on the Thames, with a fabulous view of the Houses of Parliament.
Tamesis Dock is not that much of a gourmet experience (the menu is mainly wraps and burgers), it’s basically a floating pub, in a great location that regularly hosts live music events. It is opposite the Plaza Riverside hotel, which houses the rather good Chino Latino Restaurant, so my recommendation would be to have an inexpensive drink or two on the barge before heading over the road for dinner in Chino Latino.
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.
The Fig & Olive in Islington is a busy venue with a nice friendly buzz. The cakes displayed by the door (which are also available as take away), look stunning, and if the bakewell tart I had was anything to go by, tasted good too.
This is not just a venue for Coffee and Cakes though. They also have a varied menu covering everything from English Breakfasts to Sunday Roast, and a selection of wines and cocktails.
We had heard good things about Inopia, but were not sure it would be our scene, as it seemed a little too trendy and lively for our tastes, but we decided to give it a go. Following advice from other food bloggers we arrived early (about 7:30 to avoid the queues) the red rope was raised and we got the last two seats.
The place was already buzzing, food bloggers were clearly in situ, armed with cameras and note books. For such a busy place the service was exceptional, friendly and efficient.
Here is a short video:-
As you would expect with the el Bulli connection (Inopia is owned by el Bulli’s dessert chef, Alberto Adria), the food quality and service was definitely well above your average tapas. We were happy to follow the waiters recommendations, sampling top quality tapas favourites like Patatas Bravas and ham croquettes, along with other dishes such as the Russian Salad and the Tuna carpaccio, we had about 7 dishes in total, washed down with a couple of glasses of Kalimotxo and a refreshing complimentary liqueur.
UPDATE November 2010 – Last weekend, the last tapas were served at Inopia, co-owned by Alberto Adrià, who is said to have been too busy working on another project to mourn over the closing, the place is soon to reopen under a new name, Lolita.
For a bit of everything Del’Aziz the Mediterranean Delicatessen and Brasserie is great, they have their deli counters (of course) and a really good selection of cakes (portion control is a problem though, sometimes bigger is not better!). I have only been to the ones in Bankside and Fulham.
UPDATE : September 2010 – I passed by their new outpost in Bermondsey Square yesterday during the annual Bermondsey Street Festival and it looked good.
UPDATE : May 2011 – Finally tried the Bermondsey Square branch, it has outdoor seating at the front and in the Square, which is a great little sun trap. Identical formula and quality level as the other branches of Del’Aziz.