Forts – don’t tell everyone

Like most food bloggers we write posts to tell readers about the places we find because we want to share the experience, especially if the restaurant or cafe is a good one. Sometimes though you find these amazing places in the most unlikely of areas that are just so good that you are conflicted – “If too many people get to know about how good it is, we might not be able to get a table”. However praise where praise is due. Forts is pretty special.  We first passed it on a Winters day when it was closed and looking more shabby than chic. The surrounding area was particularly run down and the streets were full of litter, it looked grim.   Cliftonville needs a very sunny day indeed to look anything close to good. So finally a few months later after a visit to the nearby farmers market we thought we would see what all the fuss was about (lots of people we follow on Twitter etc had spoken very highly of this unassuming cafe).

Even with its Formica tables and the best of British sauces and condiments taking center stage, it’s very much a foodie enclave. I would be very surprised if any of its customers had just wandered in expecting a bog standard Full English All Day Breakfast.  The menu changes regularly and does include the ubiquitous Full English along with several brunch type dishes. We ordered the Mackerel with Bubble and Squeak and the Scrambled Eggs with spicy Brindisa Chorizo. Both were fabulous dishes with the quality of the cooking and the ingredients shining through. We also treated ourselves to some Rhubarb Spritzers which were delicious and very refreshing.  Normally we wouldn’t order desserts for brunch but there is something about the place that encourages you to try more, so we had some of their lovely creamy stem ginger ice cream.

I suspect we could have had anything on the menu and loved it. The next table ordered burgers and when they arrived they looked amazing. Here’s hoping we can still get a table the next time we’re in the area!

UPDATE – September 2016 :  Forts has been sold and will be re-opening under new management.

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The Ambrette – Margate : Kent Restaurant of the Year 2013

We booked Sunday lunch at The Ambrette in Margate. It won Restaurant of the Year in 2013 in the Taste of Kent awards and was just pipped to the post in this years awards by Rocksalt in Folkstone.

I have never been much of a fan of Margate, but I have to say it is starting to grow on me, helped very much by its burgeoning food scene. We decided to explore Margate before lunch, there was actually quite a lot to see, we managed to fit in a visit to the monthy Cliftonville farmers market, a brief trip to the Turner Contemporary Gallery and wandered around the old town which has lots of interesting shops, cafes and architecture. Margate has really embraced the art scene and there are retro shops everywhere.

The Ambrette is in the old town, just round the corner from the stunning Tudor House. The Ambrette has quite the reputation. Dev Biswal is famous for his spicing and is planning to open 4 more restaurants in Kent, which is very good news indeed. The hype is definitely justified, this is somewhere you feel you could order anything from the menu and not be disappointed. I have been to quite a few high end Indian restaurants and when it comes to food and service The Ambrette can hold its own. The room and ambience is less inviting, OK there is no flock wallpaper but instead the tables and decor would not be out of place in a bland Italian restaurant. This place is special however and it really would not take much to elevate it.

We had a delicious amuse bouche where my only complaint was that it was served on a cocktail stick rather than having a small spoon which would have ensured that I got every drop of the beautiful sauce off the plate.

We started with the Crab and beetroot cake, locally grown sea purslane  and Crab riata and the Dosai with gently spiced potatoes, mustard and onions and Coconut chutney. The flavour of the crab and potatoes were both enhanced by the accompaniments and spicing. We were then presented with tiny tasting cups containing a delicious broccoli and pepper soup.

For main course we ordered the Kentish Mutton and pearl barley biryani, served with Masala potatoes, Kashmiri style sauce of cinnamon and saffron and the Claresse (fresh water catfish) with locally grown sea beet, served with kedgeree, sauce of coconut, ginger and mustard, again beautifully judged.

Dessert was also a triumph. Chocolate Samosas are a match made in heaven, and the delicate rose flavoured vanilla crème brulee was perfect.

Matching wines with Indian food can be difficult but not so here as the spicing does not kill your taste buds. Our bottle of Chablis was not lost, its fruity flavour complimented all the dishes.

We enjoyed this meal so much we have already booked our table for an event they are holding in May called The Ambrette Tapas Experiment which should be fun and will give us the chance to taste even more of their food.

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