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.
Must do a return visit to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – Royal Hospital Road, maybe once the credit crunch is over. On my first visit I was pleasantly surprised how low key and unpretentious this place was, as all really good restaurants tend to be. The staff were highly professional and friendly.
The food here was off a high standard – do not confuse this place with other Gordon Ramsay outposts like :-
Boxwood Cafe – which on my visit served up fairly boring food on chipped china!
Claridges – which has 1 Michelin star that I do not think it merits. This is based on my own experience and reports from friends, the conclusion being that the food in Claridges is quite ordinary and the service leaves a lot to be desired.
Maze – which does provide good food and wines, but is let down by the casual style of service and the room, which is far too big and somewhat lacking in ambience.
Royal Hospital Road however is the real deal – haute cuisine at its finest. When we were there the man himself was actually in the kitchen (this must be a rarity now with all his TV work). The wines are also top quality, I had a stunning Gewurztraminer to accompany my Fois Gras. We over ordered on the dessert front though, as after a lovely light pre-dessert, we elected to share a rather large tarte tatin (we had spotted one at the next table and it looked so good), and some how managed to find room for the lovely petit fours too. We left the restaurant fully satisfied and off the opinion that this place seriously rivaled our then favorite restaurant Pied a terre.
Marks out of 10
Food – 8.8
UPDATE April 2010 : The Boxwood Cafe is now closed and Claridges has lost its star.
UPDATE November 2010 : A friends recent visit to Royal Hospital Road, confirmed that the restaurant is still delivering outstanding traditional french haute cuisine and first class service.