STARK in Broadstairs is named after Game of Thrones Ned Stark (seriously) and like that show it’s not to be missed. It’s rare to find a restaurant of this calibre outside London, it can genuinely give that other Kent gem The Sportman in Whitstable a run for it’s money. The tiny 12 cover restaurant which is open only in the evenings Wednesday to Saturday, is run by husband and wife team Ben and Sophie Crittenden and although the food could easily grace a more sophisticated venue, the location in a former sandwich bar is comfortably casual.
The focus is entirely on a well thought out, well structured six course tasting menu with excellent ingredients and matching wines. The menu changes on a regular basis to showcase the talents of Chef Ben Crittenden formally of The West House a Michelin starred Restaurant in Biddenden.
All the dishes we had were very good, tasty and beautifully presented. Personal favourites being the pork, miso and sweet corn dish and the chocolate, coffee and buttermilk dessert. The matching wines were all very good too, although the Cotes du Rhone was a less successful pairing, as it’s always going to be difficult to match a wine with a soup dish.
Getting a booking at STARK might be a challenge, following a very positive review in the Guardian and The Good Food Guide naming Ben as the guides “chef to watch” so best to plan ahead. This is a destination restaurant and I’m thrilled that it’s on my doorstep. I certainly made sure I didn’t leave the Restaurant before I made my next booking.
My return visit confirmed Starks consistency, with another delicious tasting menu and good quality wines.
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 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 😉
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.
Broadstairs is a historic seaside town with beautiful sandy beaches. It is often described as the “Jewel in Thanet’s crown”.
The Map below shows the locations of the recommended Restaurants, Cafes and Bars described below :-
STARK – A tiny 12 cover restaurant. The focus is entirely on a well thought out, well structured six course tasting menu with excellent ingredients and matching wines. The menu changes on a regular basis to showcase the talents of Chef Ben Chittenden. It is only open Wednesday to Saturday Evenings. Booking is essential, usually well in advance.
Wyatt and Jones – An excellent restaurant with one of the best views in Broadstairs. They make their own bread, smoke their own fish and butcher their own meat.
The Chapel – A Bar in a Bookshop that serves really good Pies and Cider (same menu as The Lifeboat in Margate).
Bleak House – Eccentric in a good way, does Afternoon Tea (which ideally you need to book for), beautiful garden. Good spot for a Pimms.
Bessies Tea Parlour – A vintage Tea Room, that sells lots of different teas and home baked cakes. Ideal for Afternoon Tea, which is beautifully presented on vintage china cake stands. Open from 10:00 to 18:00 every day of the week.
For information on places to Eat and Drink in nearby towns and villages, see:-