The blossoming Ramsgate dining scene has another welcome addition for lovers of Japanese food. It’s the Kyoto Sushi and Grill, which is located in the High Street just opposite Argos making it fairly easy to find.
We were a party of five with the majority new to Japanese cuisine, so I ordered for the group to ensure that we were able to try lots of different menu items, indeed we had a veritable feast of Japanese goodies.
We started with some Edamame and two different types of Gyôza (steamed and fried) and moved on to the Ika Kaarage, deep fried baby squid with wasabi mayo and lemon grass. This was followed by lots of lovely dishes with the highlights being the beautiful melt in your mouth Tuna Tataki, a tasty Sea Bass dish, a lovely light Prawn Tempura and much to everyone’s surprise the Scallop Sashimi. We also had a Teriyaki dish and a selection of Sushi, our favorite being the Dragon Rolls. All of this accompanied by lovely hot Saki that went down very smoothly. We also had the opportunity to try some Takara Sierra Cold Saki, an American innovation in sake brewing that is only 12% proof.
I have eaten in several Japanese restaurants over the years in Tokyo, New York, Philadelphia and London so am not a complete novice, but I would recommend that you let your waitress guide you as some items on the menu will only be available if the restaurant has managed to source suitable fresh fish. The restaurant also does set lunches and Bento Boxes which are a good introduction to Japanese food.
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.
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.
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 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.
José Pizarro’s Tapas bar “José” in Bermondsey Street is oh so popular and rather small to say the least, it’s near impossible to get in. So when I heard that he was opening a larger restaurant in the premises formally occupied by The Bermondsey Kitchen just a few yards further up the street it was music to my ears.
The official opening of the new restaurant which will be called Pizarro is in October, but unusually they started earlier by opening up The Bermondsey Kitchen again with the new Pizarro team, for just a few weeks before it closes in September for its make over, which will involve extending the bar to take up the whole front of the restaurant. The new restaurant will also feature a traditional Spanish menu and provide London’s first Cava bar.
This premature opening was confusing enough to make me unsure if I was visiting/reviewing a “real restaurant”. Although the bill for two of £80 was pretty real and not particularly great value.
The room currently lacks atmosphere and was half full on our visit on a Friday evening. The menu looked quite interesting with tapas like starters and more substantial mains, they all looked like fairly traditional Spanish dishes to me, but I do not know if this food style is a true example of what will be served in October.
We had the prawns and anchovies – both very good tapas style dishes. However when the mains arrived we rather wished we had just ordered all of the starters, as they were less successful. My Rabbit was rather unseasonal to say the least, a hearty rabbit stew in August! My companions Iberian Pork was pretty basic served with mashed potatoes and piquillo peppers, a bit dull really. For dessert we had the figs which were burnt on the bottom and a rather ordinary orange and almond cake.
On the plus side we had a very nice bottle of Ribero de Duero and a couple of glasses of PX. However based on this “taster” I think I will wait a while until the real Pizarro is in place and has settled in to the area. Then if I can not get a booking at nearby Zucca I might try it again.
The new restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental may seat 140 guests, but getting one of these seats is not easy. We reserved our table in January not long after the booking lines had opened and got the earliest table available, which was a 2.30 lunch sitting in March. This meant we had been looking forward to “Dinner” for what seemed like ages. Could it possibly live up to the hype or more importantly to my mind could it justify the loss of The Foliage?
Interestingly there does seem to be a restaurant review pattern, in that the food bloggers are less wowed than the professional critics. A pattern I am afraid we find ourselves following. To be fair Heston in interviews has emphasised that Dinner is not trying to be a fine dining restaurant, it is not an outpost of The Fat Duck. The staff also made that very clear to us on our visit. So we tried hard to adjust our expectations accordingly.
During the summer months the terrace overlooking Hyde Park will be used for al fresco dining and it may well take until the summer to get a reservation. The Restaurant is apparently fully booked to the end of June. Reservations are even being offered as prizes and being sold on ebay!
It was really nice to be greeted by the last two surviving members of the Foliage staff. As a welcoming treat we were given a sample of the famous Meat Fruit, enabling us to effectively “tick the box” on that one. It was a perfectly fine chicken liver parfait cleverly shaped like a Mandarin Orange in homage to the hotel. I then ordered the Hay Smoked Mackerel starter with lemon salad, Gentlemen’s Relish and olive oil. I found it to be a tasty and refreshing dish. For main course I chose the Pigeon, which was delicious, but in retrospect did not really justify the price which was actually more than the cost of the entire set menu. The standout dish for me was my dessert choice – no not the famous Tipsy cake with pineapple. I was a bit more adventurous. I went for the Brown Bread Ice-Cream, even though I had been warned and perhaps a little put off by it being described as having savoury elements. It was unusual, but for me it really worked with the yeasty Ice-Cream contrasting well with the caramel sauce and oats. I found it really quite moreish.
My companion was less successful with his choices. He started with the Rice and Flesh which combined flavours that he did not particularly enjoy. He also ordered the Powdered duck. The meat was moist with subtle flavours but he did not like the contrasting hard fennel. On the whole he felt that the historically inspired flavour combinations were a bit incongruous, sadly reminiscent of the cooking style at Oliver Peytons National Dining Room.
He then had what he described as the “Krispy Kreme” doughnut like Tipsy cake with spit roasted pineapple. The Tipsy cake was OK but the smoky after taste from the pineapple chunks was less successful.
We finished the meal on a “high” note though with a small cup of Earl Grey ganache and some caraway biscuits. This was rather playful in that it conjured up the taste of accidentally picking up and drinking a long discarded cup of cold tea – until the sugar rush kicked in! This sweet treat seemed to be closer in concept to the type of food served at The Fat Duck than to Dinners historically inspired menu.
The restaurant with its £4 million make over looks good, but not stunning. With that sort of money I expected this flag ship restaurant to have the same level of glamour as achieved by Moments at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona for example.
It was also strange to find ourselves seated at the same table location as we had during our memorable last meal at the Foliage. Maybe it was just a coincidence or perhaps it was intentional, indicating the level of customer care the Mandarin is famous for.
After our late lunch we met up with some friends in the adjoining Mandarin bar for a quick drink that lasted about 6 hours! The cocktails were on the whole really enjoyable, served by the super efficient staff. One annoyance was that they no longer offer bar food, just the room service menu if you are a resident. I suspect this is a side effect of losing the The Park Restaurant.
So in conclusion I have to say unfortunately Dinner is not somewhere that I would rush to return too. Indeed if in Knightsbridge, I would be more likely to make a return visit to Koffmans or perhaps even Bar Boulud. We have no doubt that these changes will bring financial and critical success to the Mandarin Oriental and certainly getting Heston to open his first London Restaurant here is quite a coup, but from our perspective sadly we feel that the Mandarin has lost more than it has gained.
UPDATE : October 2011 : The 2012 Michelin Guide has unsurprisingly awarded Dinner a star.
It’s happened to me a few times, in that when I am not really looking I end up stumbling across something a bit special.
I was wandering through Tachbrook Street on a non market day, so it was pretty empty and I spotted Art of Tapas with its Miro inspired signage. There were only two customers sitting by the counter, so after checking the menu a few times I thought yeah, I’ll give it a try.
The place has several “arty” touches – the specially designed kind of perching table outside with glass holders, the really “cute” hug me cushion, and as an extra bonus (which I am afraid could not be guaranteed on any other visit) one of the customers who was obviously a professional opera singer giving an informal audition to his companion – a stunning rendition of ava maria.
Off course I wasn’t there for the bonus entertainment, I wanted to try the food. All the “arty” touches in the world would be not make me want to return to any restaurant. However I will most definitely return to Art of Tapas, the food was very good. I ordered a Spanish Omelette and a dish of Octopus legs, Chorizo and warm white bean salad. The omelette was tasty, light and fluffy, served with what at first seemed to be a bit too much lettuce and mayo. However the lettuce was so fresh, I actually cleaned my plate. The Octopus dish was also good, the beans nice and soft and the Octopus legs were perfect, not in the least bit chewy. Definitely much better than a similar dish I had a while back at Art of Tapas’s nearest geographical rival Goya.
The restaurant has only been open one month, and there are plans to have more seating outside for the summer, which will be great. I only hope that when this place gets busy (which I am sure it will) that they can continue to deliver food and service of the level I experienced on my first visit. I also liked that when I asked for a glass of tap water, I got a large jug of iced water.
They have an excellent BYO Wine policy too, £3.00 for one person, £5.00 for two or free if you add your wine to their Sangria – Nice!
Marks out of 10
UPDATE : June 2013 – Outdoor seating is now provided.
There have been lots of recent reviews about Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental. Most of them hightlighting just how quickly this restaurant found its feet. Certainly on our visit, barely two weeks after opening, it was running very smoothly indeed. Especially when you consider just how busy it was.
The first thing that hits you when you sit down, is the level of service. There are a lot of staff both in the kitchen and in the dining room. It is actually quite entertaining to watch them skillfully almost dance around each other.
This is a great people watching venue. The Tables are very close together and there is an almost frantic buzz of activity and noise when the service is in full swing.
Bar Boulud menu combines French charcuterie and bistro cooking. So to start we shared a small plate of charcuterie. The waiter made a point of explaining that all the Terrines were home made. It was certainly a good varied selection (although not the best charcuterie I have had in London, Almeida does a really good charcuterie trolley which I thought had the edge on the Bar Boulud selection). For the main course we tried the now famous “Frenchie” burger (a great burger almost as good as the one in Moovida – praise indeed) and a more traditional Steak frites. The burger looked small but was perfectly cooked and actually very filling, as was the equally well cooked steak.
For dessert we choose the lightest dish on the menu, a sort of tropical fruit sundae with lovely moist coconut biscuits in it. It seemed to be the most popular dessert.
We ordered a la carte and had some expensive wines so our bill was over £100 for two people, but Bar Boulud can be more reasonable, the set menu for example is £20 for 3 courses.
My only criticism is that it was all a bit frantic…but then that’s what a busy bistro is. So do not expect a quiet lunch.
It is a modern take on a good Italian Trattoria, in that it is informal and makes no attempt to “tart up” the presentation of the dishes. Which are made from fresh ingredients and beautifully cooked.
For starters I had the Zucca Friters (Pumpkin in batter) and my companion had the Speck (juniper flavored ham) and Pigeon Crostini, both very nice but we had to make use of the olive oil provided with the bread to enhance them. Some pesto or a dip of some sort would have been ideal with my Friters.
There was small selection of main courses, basically meat/fish with some greens, so if you want pasta you need to order as a separate course. I ordered Pigeon, it was superb, tasty and moist – actually better than the Pigeon I had in Cibrèo in Florence which is a real compliment.
I would have liked to have tried the Amaretto tart for dessert but they had ran out, so we made do with some home made ice cream.
The wine list included several options by the glass and a range of reasonably priced bottles.
The marketing for Alfies a near neighbour to Zucca, describes Alfies as “a significant addition to Bermondsey’s burgeoning foodie scene”. That description did not fit Alfies, but does most definately describe Zucca.
Does it give gourmets a good reason to leave London?
Well, it is most definitely a find, already fully booked weeks in advance, and serving up top notch food that puts a lot of London Restaurants too shame.
Getting there is really easy now too, 1 hour 16 minutes on the high speed train from St Pancras to Ramsgate then a 5 minutes taxi ride.
It is located on Ramsgates’ King Street. Not the most salubrious of locations as it is a few streets away from the more attractive harbour area. However as soon as you part the chainmail curtains at the entrance to the fishmongers on the ground floor you just know this place is a quality establishment.
To start we had the scallops and what is fast becoming Eddie Gilberts signature dish, duck egg and smoked eel soldiers, both delicious. Then came the main courses, we went for the turbot and the cod with chorizo, another two stunning dishes. All the dishes were well cooked with nicely balanced flavours. You do get the impression that you could choose anything on the menu and not be disappointed.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the quality and presentation of the desserts. The only weak spot if we were being picky was the limited choice of dessert wines, from an otherwise fairly impressive wine list. The Trimbach Pinot Gris was a good match for the dishes we chose.
This restaurant deserves the plaudits it has received from the national press. We certainly plan to return.
UPDATE : August 2011, added a few more pictures from a return visit.
Didn’t like the name before I visited, didn’t like the food when I visited. Then came the bill!, I certainly didn’t like that.
Alfies at the Bermondsey Square Hotel is not cheap, we went shortly after it opened when they were doing an introductory 50% discount, even with the discount I felt completely ripped off.
For starters I had asparagus with egg (expecting a nice runny egg to dip the asparagus in – got a hard boiled egg and some horrid mushroom sauce). Then it just got worse, more of the disgusting gravy with my next course, it wasn’t the mushroom sauce but something rather close in taste and consistency.
We ordered a bottle of Chablis for about £26, and like the food it was decidedly inferior, basically I can only describe it as plonk.
This place is way below the standards of the other restaurants in the area. How it can be described as “a significant addition to Bermondsey’s burgeoning foodie scene” or as “a place that champions fresh English dishes” is a joke. I rather wonder if the people who wrote this “advertising copy” actually ate there!
Marks out of 10
UPDATE December 2010 – Alfie’s now have a new chef; not sure I can bring myself to go back though.
UPDATE January 2011 – In a few weeks time Masterchef Judge Gregg Wallace is opening a new restaurant in the Hotel, replacing Alfies, see Big Hospitality Artical for details.
UPDATE April 2012 – Have yet to read a positive review of the restaurant (Greggs Table).
UPDATE September 2012 – The Hotel and restaurant are currently being used for the reality show Hotel GB – have to say that the place seems to be more about PR than food.
Harveys of Ramsgate, part of Kent Inns of Distinction, is marketed as a dedicated seafood restaurant using locally landed fish. A fabulous idea, in theory.
Celebrity TV chef John Burton-Race of the Michelin-starred New Angel in Dartmouth is connected with it, loosely I hope, based on the standards achieved here, both in terms off food and service.
I can not see this place, surviving the winter. I certainly will not be returning or recommending this unjustifiably overpriced venue. Neither the food quality or the level of service matched the look of the venue. Bland Fish, and one of the worst deserts I have ever had (hard meringue!). Plates passed across my companion at the table, come on – anywhere that typically charges £20 for mains, needs to deliver something a bit special. Then there is the ambience issue, sitting next to a large noisy table of 10 in a half empty restaurant is far from ideal. This is most definitely not my idea of “fine dining”.
Its pretension without the quality, delivering expensive badly cooked food. Just another “Faux Gourmet” experience.