In case you missed it, the people from Margate Smokehouse have opened a pop up restaurant inside The Glass Jar on Marine Drive in Margate. It’s called MEAT American BBQ and they invited us to check it out. It’s hidden away at the back of the bar and easy to miss.
The menu covers lots of classic BBQ dishes like Chicken wings with blue cheese dip and Pork Babyback Ribs served with a lovely sticky BBQ sauce. Highlights for us included Beef Brisket served in a brioche bun and their Mac n Cheese Lollipop with BBQ sauce. We had excellent service from John the Chef and the friendly bar staff at The Glass Jar.
If you time it right you can also catch one of the free live music events hosted by The Glass Jar.
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 monthly 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.
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.
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 Map below shows the locations of the recommended Restaurants, Cafes and Bars described below :-
The Bus Cafe – This is basically a Kitchen with upstairs seating squeezed into a vintage double decker bus. It’s a local gem for Foodies, we loved their breakfast hashes.
Top quality Street Food. Friendly staff – (see Map for location)
BeBeached – Easy to find out on the harbour arm (it’s the place with the vibrant pink umbrellas outside). Highly recommend for brunch – the Eggs Benedict is pricey but delicious and the Eggy Bread with Cinnamon (aka Cinnamon French Toast) is a real treat. The lunch menu looks very good too. We especially liked the section that was a homage to My Old Dutch crepes.
The Cupcake Cafe– A lovely Cafe in Margate Old Town, it is very popular and has lots of outside seating. The menu includes several breakfast options as well as Soups and Sandwiches. It also has a nice selection of Cupcakes and regular sized Cakes.
UPDATE 2017 – Under new Management.
The Greedy Cow – A casual and attractive venue in the old town, with upstairs seating as well as benches outside for al fresco dining.
I have to say it was with some trepidation that we headed for Margate, which is my least favourite Kent coastal town, one that still has a long way to go on its regeneration/gentrification process as our walk through the town testified. The shed like art gallery right on the harbour is not the most attractive of architectural structures in our view, its real charm is from the inside looking out, especially when the weather and lighting is as lovely as it was on our visit. The gallery is smaller than we expected with typically two or three exhibits per room, you can do the rounds easily in 15 minutes (OK maybe half an hour). The views from the Foyer when the light is right are nothing short of stunning.
So what about the Restaurant? or should I say Cafe? On Friday and Saturday evenings a white table clothed section is set up at the front of the gallery cafe consisting of about 8 tables. It seems a bit incongruous when you first enter, but as you are seated by the courteous and professional staff and offered your complementary glass of Prosecco, you soon find yourself relaxing in what is effectively half a glass box overlooking the beach. The tables are all fairly close together and the acoustics do mean that you can hear bits of conversations from the other diners, which is normally a negative for me. However it did not detract on our visit as most conversations were about the view and there was a very relaxed atmosphere as diners regularly got up to go to the window to take photographs. The horse’s galloping along the beach and the sunset being two of the more photogenic moments.
The menu which apparently changes ever week was simple but inviting. The service levels, presentation and quality of the dishes go far in the process of elevating the gallery cafe to a fine dining establishment. It’s not there yet, but it does have the potential.
We got off to a good start with a generous portion of home baked very light cake like focaccia bread. I then ordered the Scallops and Heirloom Tomatoes spiced with Cumin, which worked well. The Tomatoes nicely complimenting the Scallops. I followed this with the meat option – saddle of Lamb wrapped Pancetta, served with Pomme Puree, a tasty dish that I enjoyed with a nice large glass of Merlot.
My companion had the Carpaccio of Courgettes with Mozzarella and Basil which was ideal for the weather, light, simple and tasty. He followed this with the Turbot and Girolles Mushrooms in a red wine jus. We then went on to share a plate of British cheeses and the Passion Fruit Cheesecake dessert. There were some rough edges and missed opportunities here. The cheese plate for example was far from impressive and adding some withered grapes was a no no – if it’s not right don’t put it on the plate! The other missed opportunity is one that is not rectifiable. It is the location of the restaurant – no, not the fact it is in Margate, but the fact it is on the corner of the building and as such fails to provide the full panoramic view of the beach and harbour to all the diners.
We were very lucky on our visit with the weather, which added an extra element to the ambience but I do wonder if the fine dining aspect will survive through the winter months. I really hope it gets the support it deserves from the local residents.