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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Coco Latino – 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 1/6/18 : Coco Latino is now open only on Friday and Saturday evenings as a Bar.

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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

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.

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.

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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