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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Koffmanns – Pigs trotters and french fries!

We chose Koffmans as our post Christmas treat.  Pierre Koffmann ran the legendary 3 Michelin star La Tante Claire restaurant at The Berkeley until  2003, when he left to ‘go fishing’.  He is now very much back on the London food scene, and back at The Berkeley.

Our first impression on entering the restaurant proper was a good one, although the stairs that take you down to the basement dining room, past the small bar area, are an accident waiting to happen.

Koffmann’s signature dishes include scallops with squid ink, braised pig’s trotter with morels, and pistachio soufflé with pistachio ice cream. So off course we made sure we ordered them. Indeed the waiter actually made a point of saying ‘and I presume you would like to order the Pigs Trotters’ – maybe the camera on the table gave it away.

We started with a tasty amuse bouche of rabbit paté, followed by a leak terrine with smoked haddock and the aforementioned scallops.  Then for main course as well as the trotter stuffed with sweet breads, we had the beef cheeks. Both dishes were served with lovely mashed potatoes and a winter vegetable selection of broccoli, red cabbage and also what I can only describe as a completely superfluous order of french fries. Perhaps they were included to give us something to criticize? Certainly there was nothing much to complain about with the rest of the meal, and it still seems strange to say it, but the vegetables in particular were a standout, so much flavour. The Beef cheeks portion was large, but so light that finishing it was not a problem.  Never having tried Pigs Trotters before,  Koffmanns was definitely the best place to start.  I’m not entirely sure what we expected, but having almost the full pigs leg complete with hoof on the plate was a  bit disconcerting, but proved to be delicious.  Pork crackling is not a personal favourite, due to earlier experiences where it has been more akin to chewing on a giants toenail. However this was not the case here as it was light, wafer thin and very, very tasty.

For dessert the pistachio soufflé with pistachio ice cream was quite stunning, on a par with the soufflé I tasted at The Ledbury a few weeks ago. The pear and almond tart however was really nothing special, although the pear sorbet that accompanied it was divine (a larger portion would have been nice).

We have always found that asking the Sommelier to match a glass of wine to each course makes the meal more interesting and as the wines by the glass were of a reasonable price (they ranged from £6 to £15) we knew we would not be too horrified by the final bill.

It is also always interesting to see where other chefs choose to eat in their own time. Gary Rhodes for example sat a few tables away from us, tucking into his pistachio soufflé.

Chefs who have worked in Pierre Koffmanns kitchen over the years include Tom Kitchin, Tom Aikens, Eric Chavot, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing. Having eaten food produced by all of the above, we could certainly see Koffmanns influence.

UPDATE – Closed

 

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