The Empire Room at the Royal Harbour Hotel

Tucked away in the basement of the Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate you will find the beautifully decorated Empire Room restaurant, which captures the essence of an archetypal gentlemens club in the glory days of the British Empire. The restaurant has the look and feel of a special occasion venue but surprisingly with its set lunch (£17.95 for 3 courses) and set dinner (£22 for 3 courses) you won’t need to spend a fortune to have a lovely meal here.

The Empire Room certainly isn’t your average sea side town hotel dining room. The chef is well known in the area, he is Michelin-trained chef, Craig Mather the former head chef at the highly acclaimed and sadly missed fish restaurant Eddie Gilbert’s (one of his Eddie Gilbert dishes was Jay Rayner’s starter of the year a few years ago – which is praise indeed). Craig has for the past few years also been a Chef lecturer at East Kent College. So after reading about him taking over at the Empire Room Restaurant, we decided to go there for lunch. The set menu option is incredible value for money and we enjoyed some beautifully presented dishes along with a complimentary glass of house wine. The menu is seasonal and the highlight for me was the Fennel and Beetroot marinated Salmon with Potato mousse, a tasty and refreshing dish that was a perfect for the warm summer weather, as was the excellent ice cream served with biscuit crumb.

The restaurant has definitely upped its game since my last visit a few years back and is a great addition to the burgeoning Ramsgate dining scene.

The Empire room is normally accessed directly from its entrance on Nelson Crescent, but the hotel manager kindly let us exit via the hotel itself, which has a cosy lounge, attractive breakfast room and stunning sea views.

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Kyoto Sushi and Grill

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.

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Flavours by Kumar

I have been eating regularly at Flavours by Kumar for months now and just realized that although it is included it in the No Expert – Where to Eat and Drink in Ramsgate Guide it does not have a more in-depth review in its own right; which it most definitely merits.

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.

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Vinylhead Cafe – The Coolest Cafe in Thanet

If approaching Addington Street from the coastal side, you will find the VinylHead Cafe at the far end of the street. It is a Vinyl Store as well as a Cafe and has a fantastic ambience.  I actually think that it is the coolest cafe in Thanet. It attracts a lot of Artists and Musicians and at the weekend there are occasional Open Mic sessions and live music.

Vinylhead is licensed and serves good coffee and really excellent homemade cakes. For more substantial food check out the kitchen menu.

Another highlight is the attractive outside courtyard with its stylish seaside themed mosaic and huge cantilever parsol.

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Weekend at The Albion House Hotel : Ramsgate

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.

Sunday Lunch

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.

 

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The Bench – Wine and Tapas Bar by the Sea

I don’t know how long it really took to turn part of the amusement arcade in Ramsgate Harbour Parade into a Wine and Tapas Bar, but as a casual observer The Bench just seemed to appear out of nowhere. One day the building was an empty shell, then the next day we spotted what I can only describe as an army of tradesmen and a couple of days later there was a new dining destination in Ramsgate. It was an impressive feat.

The Bench is certainly different and it’s serious about Wine. Currently there are about 40 plus wines to try. From the wall of Wine Dispensers you can buy Wine in 3 measures – a taster, a half glass or a full glass, it’s a fabulous way to try out different Wines. You get an electronic loyalty card to put money on, then you use the card to operate the Wine Dispensers, basically it’s self service Wine. There is a bar too so you do have the human touch if you want Beer, Spirits or Cocktails. To accompany the Wine you have a good selection of Tapas. We ordered six Tapas dishes between two, including classics like Potato Bravas and Spanish Omelette. We also had a really lovely and incredibly light Manchego Cheese Tart. We tried two fish dishes and one meat one. The Dorada (Sea Bream with crisp Serrano Ham, tomato and borlotti bean cassoulet) and Pescado Piperade (Red and Yellow Pepper Fricasee with fresh caught fish of the day and a dill and tarragon dressing) showed that there was some pretty sophisticated cooking going on in the kitchen. The Chef is described as Michelin trained.

The place is quite large so it will be interesting to see how the Kitchen and Front of House cope when it gets busy. Although the self service nature of the Wine service should help.

The Bench Wine and Tapas Bar is a real asset for Ramsgate. It’s well worth a visit, although the costs will mount up as its certainly easy to get carried away and try lots of different wines. I have my Bench Wine Loyalty Card  now so I’m all set for the next time.

The Bench is open 7 days a week from 11:00 a.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays they will be open until 2:00 a.m. There is lots of outside seating and they also have Wine Tastings every second Wednesday Evening.

UPDATE – April 2018 : CLOSED

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Royal Victoria Pavilion, Ramsgate

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.

Prawn and Pig pop up on the Ramsgate Riviera

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 Empire Room – Majestic

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.

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Chocolate & Harbour Views

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.

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Dining by the sea

Spent the weekend in Ramsgate. It’s only 1 hour and 20 minutes from London on the High Speed Train, so visiting this seaside town over a weekend is well worth doing, especially if you manage to eat as well as we did.

Caboose Cafe – NOW Rosebud Cafe and Winebar – closed 2017

We had a lovely breakfast at Caboose Cafe, a relatively new Cafe Bar, just off the High Street. The Eggs Benedict and the Eggs Royal were delicious and very reasonably priced at £4.95  – that alone says we’re not in London anymore.

The quality of the food and coffee was commendable, this Cafe is a great find, it’s certainly not your typical Ramsgate all day breakfast venue. In the evenings there is a Mexican Cantina menu and even the odd live event, they are working on bringing quality acts to Caboose, with a view to helping make Ramsgate a destination for touring bands and comedians.

UPDATE: 2016 –  Change of management, the Mexican menu is no more, now called Rosebud Cafe and Winebar.

UPDATE June 2017 – CLOSED

Marks out of 10

Food 6.9

Service 6.9

Ambience 6

Royal Harbour Brasserie

We also made a return visit to the Royal Harbour Brasserie, braving the blustery winds to walk out to the end of the Harbour Arm where the restaurant is located. It’s so worth the trip, not just for the warm welcome at the Restaurant or the above average food, but for the spectacular views out to sea and inland to Ramsgate Marina, what a location to watch the sunset! We arrived just a bit too early to sample their evening menu, and instead had to choose from a  more limited one. The Wine list was also rather basic. First we shared a Assiette of house nibbles, this would have been a pretty substantial starter for one (a steal at £5 and more than enough for 2 people).  Then after that excellent start, we tucked into our main courses,  I had a large fillet of sea bass with bisque sauce and perfectly cooked new potatoes, and my companion had a suitably autumnal venison stew, both dishes arrived on “Alan Partridge” sized big plates.  We had not realized how hungry we were until we miraculously managed to clear them.

Marks out of 10

Food 6

Service 6

Ambience 6

View 8

Age and Sons – closed 2014

On the Sunday we decided to go to Age & Sons for lunch, as this is a restaurant we have always liked for its reliable cooking and pleasant ambience.  The restaurant was awarded a Bib Goumand in 2009 and it just seems to keep getting better and better. Sunday lunch is served in the attractive main restaurant area on the top floor (they have a French kitchen style area on the ground flour and a Cocktail bar in the basement). I had a beautiful piece of Venison and lovely creamy dauphinoise potatoes and my companion really enjoyed his Pork Belly, braised cheek & fritter with black pudding puree & garlic mashed potato.  We finished our meal by sharing a cheese board served with some rather moreish home made biscuits.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.2

Service 7

Ambience 7

All three of the venues we visited are ones that we would highly recommend, especially Age & Sons, which has grown into a gem of a restaurant that any town or city would be proud off.

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Where to Eat and Drink – Ramsgate & Minster

Updated July 2018

RAMSGATE

Ramsgate is a historic seaside town with beautiful sandy beaches and one of the largest marinas on the English south coast. It has the only Harbour in the United Kingdom that has been awarded the right to call itself a Royal Harbour. It also boasts some quite stunning Architecture.

The Map below shows the locations of the recommended Restaurants, Cafes and Bars described below :-

Kyoto Sushi and Grill

A seriously good Japanese Restaurant. The best Sushi and Sashimi in Thanet.

Flavours by Kumar

A modern India Restaurant in Effingham Street that produces some beautifully spiced dishes. Good set lunch deals that even include an amuse-bouche. OK wine list and friendly staff. Ignore the decor, this is a great find. Owned by the former head chef of the acclaimed Ambrette in Margate.

Townleys at Albion House

A good option for an upmarket brunch or Afternoon Tea. The Townleys seasonal menu can be served in the snug, the restaurant and the stylish bar.

For more on the the Albion House Boutique Hotel see earlier post titled Weekend at The Albion House Hotel.

The Italianate Glasshouse – Tea Garden

Hidden away in a corner of King George VI Park, you will find the stunning Italianate Glasshouse, the owners operate a small cafe serving Cream Teas, Cakes and Scones at the weekends. The opening times are weather dependant, typically open on weekends and bank holidays from May to September/October. A very picturesque spot.

The Hive

A little out of the way in George Street. This is a pleasant quiet spot for a quality brunch or lunch. They also serve a nice selection of cup cakes and brownies baked on the premises.

26 Harbour Street

A friendly cafe bar. Bar area is at the front and there is a cosier seating area at the back. Serves Craft Beers and Cocktails. Occasional live music and pop up food events.

Vinylhead

A stylish Cafe, Bar and Record Shop. They are licensed and occasionally have live music and Open Mic on weekends. They serve good coffee and really excellent homemade cakes. For more substantial food check out the kitchen menu. They also have a lovely sheltered courtyard with a stunning mirror mosaic.

The Falstaff

A boutique hotel in Addington Street with a restaurant, a casual dining area called the Addington Street Kitchen and a bar. They also have a garden area at the back that is open to non residents.

Queen Charlotte

A quirky pub in Addington Street that is famous for its live music performances.

The Empire Room at the Royal Harbour Hotel

An inviting restaurant which captures the essence of an archetypal gentlemens club in the glory days of the British Empire. Excellent Set Lunch and Set Dinner menus. They also do Afternoon Teas.

They also now have a sister restaurant called Little Ships over looking Ramsgate Royal Harbour.

Coco Latino

Lovely location overlooking the Marina.  Serves excellent Cocktails, has a good range of Beers and is a regular venue for live music, open Friday and Saturday evenings only.

Archive Homestore & Kitchen

A lovely spot to stop for a light lunch or coffee and cake. There is outside seating and a communal table on the ground floor and more tables and seating upstairs where you have stunning views of the harbour.

The Arch Bar

An attractive comfortable and popular bar located under the Arches overlooking the Harbour. Has lots of outside seating. Serves Food including substantial seafood platters that are ideal for sharing.

Ship Shape

Built into the Arches, this is a popular place with both harbour workers and tourists. It’s very reasonably priced and serves one of the best full English breakfasts in Ramsgate. It’s much bigger than it looks and if you’re lucky you can grab one of the outside tables and get a good view of the harbour.

Sorbetto

Ramsgate Ice Cream Parlour. The ice cream is made in a small artisan factory below the parlour.  You can order the ice cream to take away or you can choose to sit in the air conditioned parlour or outside overlooking the harbour. They serve generous portions of quality Italian gelato as well as hot and cold drinks, toasties and sandwiches.

Royal Harbour Brasserie

An interesting place with fabulous views of the Harbour, the Marina, the English Channel and France. Generally delivers some pretty decent fish and seafood dishes and does good Sunday roasts. Best Lobster around (if it’s on the Menu).

The Ravensgate Arms

A cool pub that focuses on craft beers and ciders, they also tend to have really interesting pop up restaurants upstairs. I have been to two very different ones so far which were both excellent in their own way.

Garden Terrace Cafe

A friendly outdoor cafe located in a beautiful garden on the West Cliff Arcade, with stunning views of the harbour.  Good for soft drinks, ice cream and basic food (mainly salads). You can also bring your own bottle to drink with your food. Last time I was there they did not even charge corkage. It’s a little gem. Very good service. Open only in the Summer months.

Coasters – Pimms & Prosecco Bar

Bar overlooking Ramsgate Main Sands, does a decent Pimms (even if it is in a Plastic glass), have not eaten here yet but menu includes Sandwiches, Salads, Burgers and other snacks.

Royal Victoria Pavilion

This is the largest Wetherspoon pub in the UK. The food and drinks range is pretty much what you would expect to find in a Wetherspoon. The building and the view are what that makes this place special and well worth a visit.

The Belle Vue Tavern

A popular pub with a large and very attractive beer garden in Pegwell Bay. The sea views from the garden are stunning. It is also known as “The balcony of Kent”.

MINSTER

Minster is a small village just west of Ramsgate.

The Corner House

This excellent restaurant is well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

For information on places to Eat and Drink in nearby towns and villages, see:-

For other activities in the area, see:-

and for more about Ramsgate go to the Visit Ramsgate web site.

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