Christmas is on its way, so it’s time to organise the restaurants we are going to visit over the course of the next few weeks.
This year for a change and as a precursor to moving to Kent permanently, we are focusing on that area. We have a trip planned to what is probably the most famous Kent restaurant of them all (at least in the gourmet category) – The Sportsman a rather special Michelin starred restaurant located in an unassuming pub on the outskirts of Whitstable.
The other places on our list are less well known, they include favorites like Age & Sons and the Caboose Cafe plus we have plans to try the beautifully located Wyatt & Jones in Broadstairs, with its stunning views of Viking Bay (or at least they were stunning until the recent floods). I sampled Wyatt & Jones food earlier this year at the popular Broadstairs Food Festival so am looking forward to seeing what the kitchen can produce, especially since they bake their own breads, smoke their own fish and butcher their own meats.
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.
Age & Sons is actually more than just a restaurant. It is spread over 3 floors, the top floor is the main restaurant, the ground floor is a more casual dining area (laid out a bit like a french kitchen) and the basement houses a cosy rather stylish cocktail bar. It is not the easiest place to find. We arrived on an off season Saturday night to a fully booked restaurant whose clientele consisted of well heeled locals, out of towners, people from the yacht club and foodies like us. I particularly like this places eccentricities – the eclectic range of “Granny” style side plates, the squeaky cheese trolley. It is definitely not one of these manufactured venues with catalogue decor, it has it’s own style.
I started with sweetbreads and damsons. While full of damson flavour it did religate the sweetbread to merely a texture rather than a taste. For main course I went for Kentish lamb and my companion went for the pork (as far removed from the pork I had in Harveys earlier that day, as it is possible to get). The portion sizes were huge so this was more comfort/hearty food than any pretension of fine dining.
What is also refreshing is that in such a busy place the service was professional and friendly. Taking the time for example to enquire how we enjoyed some of the more unusual cheeses in our cheese course. On that front we particularly enjoyed the whiskey flavoured variety from Snowdonia.
On leaving we noticed just how buzzing the downstairs was. This really made for a great ambience and one that most restaurants would kill for.
Marks out of 10 – October 2009
UPDATE : July 2010, Age & Sons now have a much larger outdoor space for drinks and food, it’s a good spot to relax in the sunshine. It even does tea and cakes (not a big selection – they only had muffins on our visit, but they were actually rather good, especially the marmalade and ginger one). They were also selling jugs of Pimms and Ginger Beer, which makes for a nice change from the normal Pimms and Lemonade option.
UPDATE : August 2011
We had a late lunch out in the lovely courtyard. Age & Sons has really upped its game. My Mushroom and Ricotta Ravioli was particularly good.
We ordered the fixed price ‘grazing menu’, (which had a very limited fish selection) 2 courses for £12 (this certainly sounded like a bargain), and a couple of glasses of pretty good wine. We also ordered a portion of their own baked bread which was okay. The starters arrived. Things were looking up as the presentation appeared to be not too bad. My salmon and beetroot with micro greens actually had flavour. Unbalanced but flavour none the less. My companion went for the butternut squash risotto. It also looked good but turned out to be completely lacking in flavour, basically just stodge ….oh dear as we were ready to amend our opinion and eat humble pie.
My main course arrived. Apparently this was a ‘belly of pork’. Well it was like no cut of meat I had ever seen. It looked more like a cross section of spinal column (more cartilage than belly!). Only one word came to mind during this course and that I’m afraid was ‘Repulsive’.
My companions Plaice looked like it had been bitten by a Shark!. It was also over cooked.
When asked if we wanted dessert or coffee we decided to pass and left the restaurant as hungry as we went in.
Instead we had pancakes at Miles Cafe Culture – a genuinely buzzy and quality establishment.
Our visit to Harveys was on a Saturday at lunchtime, only two other tables were occupied, so for ambience we had some background music and a baby crying in the corner. We were also a bit surprised that the fish slab was not in use, to let us see what fresh fish was on offer.
We passed by again in the evening, on the way to Age & Sons, and noticed that the restaurant was barely half full. Which was interesting when compared to the completely full Age & Sons, which attracts exactly the type of clientel that Harveys are trying to target.
How the AA could award Harveys with “The only AA Rosette in Thanet” is beyond me. There are more deserving restaurants in Thanet, such as Age & Sons. It was also disconcerting to read the description of Harveys in toptable, it used words like “steller seafood” and intimated that Celebrity Chef John Burton Race was involved in the cooking. I am pretty sure he is not.
After two visits now, our conclusion was that Harveys would be an ideal candidate for another Celebrity Chefs TV show – Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.
It’s great that so much money has been invested in Ramsgate, which does really need a good fish restaurant. We just don’t feel the investment has been made in the kitchen where it really counts. It’s also good to know we are not alone in our views, as I have spotted a couple of reviews now that use words like “Dire” to describe the food in Harveys. So unless there are some major changes here, Harveys can relax as we won’t be reviewing them again.