If approaching Addington Street from the coastal side, you will find the VinylHead Cafe at the far end of the street. The Cafe 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 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.
We are always wary of Restaurants with good views and Mark Sargeant‘s fashionable Rocksalt Restaurant in its purposely designed building overlooking Folkestone Harbour is certainly a Restaurant with a good view.
We had a beautiful sunny day for our first visit to Folkestone and had a lovely time exploring the stunning Lower Leas Coastal Park before we headed round the corner to the regenerated Harbour and made our way past the kitchen viewing area into the Restaurant. When Rocksalt first opened in 2011 it received several negative reviews that complained about both the food and the service – more recent reviews highlighted improvements in both these areas. Although it did not start of well for us, in that no one was there to greet us on arrival, leaving the barman to find a waitress who could take us to our table. The staff also seemed rather cold and brusk, with a few notable exceptions. Then just after we sat down we heard shouting from the direction of the kitchen, it might just have been noisy guests but it was off putting. Thankfully after this rocky start the pitch perfect food which was Rocksalts saving grace arrived. We settled down to enjoy a nice bottle of wine and some delicious seafood in the well designed surroundings. There are lots of cleverly positioned mirrors and wall height glass windows designed to open and effectively convert the entire restaurant into one big terrace.
When you can see the fishing boats bringing in their catches right out side the Restaurant it seems foolish not to order sea food (there are meat dishes on the menu but we made a point of ignoring them). We started with a scallop dish from the catch of the day menu, it was a tasty dish with 3 medium sized scallops and a lot of black pudding and creamy potatoes. We also ordered the Dressed Crab, the Harissa sauce served with it had been criticized in the early reviews for being underpowering then in later reviews for being overpowering. Now the tweaking of the dish seemed to have worked as it was just right, with the sauce effectively enhancing the tasty and very fresh crab meat. We followed the starters with a stunning Pan-Fried Fillet of John Dory with Smoked Bacon and a lovely Fillet of Cod with Cockles and Sea Aster served with mashed potatoes. We ordered Carrots and Jersey Royals side dishes, they tasted like they were fresh from the garden and were perfectly cooked with an earthy taste that went well with the meal. We also had a couple of good desserts. A Cold Chocolate and Sea Buckthorn Fondant and some Gypsy Tart, a famous Kent sweet I am keen to try again. Apparently it’s a school dinner staple. It was certainly way better than any school dessert I have ever had. We accompanied our desserts with a couple of glasses of nicely chilled dessert wine. Sadly there were only 3 dessert wine options to choose from.
Rocksalt also has a very attractive bar on its upper floor. Our visit was off season and the restaurant and bar were reasonably full. I am sure Rocksalt gets really busy in the Summer as service gripes aside it is a real asset to the culinary scene here in Kent.
At the weekend when there is no set menu Rocksalt has prices that match its designer surroundings, so it’s very easy to run up a hefty bill, especially when you have to add side orders to complete the meals. Nearby there is a less expensive option “The Smokehouse”, a rather smart looking Fish and Chip shop/casual Restaurant that is also co-owned by Mark Sargeant. It’s not that cheap for the area though, as we noticed it advertising Skate Balls for £7.50, the same price as the Sunday lunch at the nearby Grand Burstin Hotel, an eye sore that looked like a relic from the eighties, but cost aside I know where I would rather spend my £7.50. So keep up the regeneration Folkestone and show what UK seaside towns can really do in the 21st century.
When a restaurant advertises that they make their own bread, smoke their own fish and butcher their own meat, I go in with great expectations. When a restaurant has a beautiful view I tend to lower my expectations on food quality, as there does seem to be a unwritten rule that says the better the view the more mediocre the food is. Wyatt & Jones fortunately break that rule – there is nothing mediocre about their food, its quality shines through. First we had some of their lovely home made bread – I would recommend the walnut and cranberry but don’t have too much and spoil your appetite for the rest of the meal. My companion then ordered Beef cheeks with mustard mash and kale, it was a lovely balanced dish, the mustard in the mash being a beautiful accompaniment for the beef cheeks. The portion was large enough to enable me to eat quite a bit of this dish, along with the haddock, bubble and squeak and duck egg that I ordered. Haddock with bubble and squeak is a delicious classic brunch dish and Wyatt & Jones do it well. We accompanied the food with a couple of glasses of pretty decent wine. Then to finish we ordered a couple of desserts, a pear and almond bake topped with Rum & Raisin Ice Cream and a Caramelized banana with salted caramel mousse – the caramel based dessert was so moreish that I was loath to share.
The service was excellent too, attentive and friendly. The decor and open kitchen are stylish and modern with a degree of warmth that emphasizes that this is a one off restaurant and not a stylized chain restaurant. Come the Summer I suspect getting a table here is going to be difficult but I will look forward to popping in off season for a relaxing brunch. This is Modern British food at its best in a beautiful location.
The Corner House is a restaurant with rooms in the lovely village of Minster near Ramsgate. The head chef is Matt Sworder who worked in several London restaurants training with Gordon Ramsay (La Noisette), Anthony Demetre (Les Deux Salons) and Adam Byatt (Bistro Union) before returning home to his roots in Kent.
The Corner House, formally Mortons Fork has always had a good reputation locally, but with its re-branding, refurbishment and new chef, it has upped its game. It has two dining areas with a bar and kitchen area in the middle. I liked the entrance where you walk in and see all the freshly baked bread. There is a real warmth to the place. The staff are friendly and efficient, nothing is too much trouble. The food is distinctly British and locally sourced.
The home made bread is really good. We also found a couple of gems on the menu. The Beetroot cured Salmon, cucumber jelly and horseradish cream starter was excellent as was the Duck breast with spiced puy lentils, peppers and pea shoots. A couple of the other dishes were more ordinary – the Venison Steak and Chips, and the Asparagus with Egg were pretty conventional, so on my next visit I will definitely try and go for the more exotic options.
Desserts were a highlight, we had a lovely white chocolate cheesecake and delicious home made Brown Bread Praline Ice Cream served in a Kilner Jar. You can see how much we enjoyed our desserts from the empty plate/jar in the photograph 😉
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.
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.