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Archive for the ‘Greasy Spoon’ Category

Oh! I do like to eat beside the seaside, and with the summer months now upon us I can do it regularly. How better to start the weekend than with a relaxing morning alongside some calming water? The stresses of the past week just float away. With a brisk walk under my creaking belt it’s exactly the right time to order a bacon sarnie, sit down with a paper and (admire) the world going about its business. The only work I have to do is decide where I’m going to tuck in. With so much excellent coastline and an abundance of cafes and kiosks this is always a pleasant dilemma. For the purpose of this article I decided to visit four untried bacon peddlers. The first stop for me and my guinea pigs was Derek’s at Louisa Bay. Being closest to Chez Gannet I’d made a few coffee stops in the past but hadn’t chosen to order any food until now. Two bacon sandwiches later and Mrs. G, the Monkey and I were feeling rather content. This would be tough to beat. Thick white bread, good butter coverage, decent quality bacon, proper ketchup and a nice location. Next week it was the Jet ski Café in Margate. It’s the biggest, newest and liveliest of them all, offering the most varied menu. No use to me though, as I’m only here for the bacon, which, I’m sorry to say, tasted of onions and was a tad too greasy. Mrs. G’s was onion-free so I guess it was just a bit of bad luck. It also felt a little odd sitting in a car park eating my breakfast. The third week involved a trip to Saddle Sore at Pegwell. I’ve always wanted to stop here, so expectations were high. It was ok but didn’t quite stack up to its forerunners. I did, however, notice some great looking chips that will be enjoyed at a later date. Monkey loved driving the toy vehicles dotted around and was rather tearful when our departure curtailed her joyriding. The month of bacon was brought to a close by a trip to Westgate. We intended to visit Pav’s but it was so ridiculously busy that we jumped ship and went next door to St Mildred’s Cafe The bacon was plentiful and well cooked. The bread was okay but certainly not up to the high standard of Derek’s. There are still many places I need to try out but based on these excursions Louisa Bay will be the place you’re most likely to find me pawing through ketchup-covered supplements with a satisfied smile on my face. Oh! I do like to eat beside the sea.

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It would take me 10 minutes to drive to Ramsgate. 60 more to complete embarkation and finally I’d have to pay handsomely to endure 4 hours on choppy waters. Why would I want to do this? I wouldn’t. Instead I jumped on the Loop, graciously handed over £1.40 and had my legs under a Belgian table in a fraction of the time.  As I sat with a glass of Kriek among the hordes of happy Sunday diners I wondered what to do with the 300 minutes, £40 and sick bag that remained unused in my pocket? The time could be, and was, well spent trying more of the 100 or so Belgian beers offered in this remarkable cafe, with mango eventually proving to be the strong favourite in our higgledy-piggledy booth. The money, a quick glance at the intriguing menu suggested, would cover lunch for me and my three companions, so we ordered an assortment of starters from which the pan-fried scallops with chorizo (£6.00) and the squid in polenta flour with aioli (£3.50) won out. Most of us then went for the roasts (chicken, beef, duck, lamb or pork), which were huge, very well cooked and great value (£6.95). As for the bag it could be quickly recycled to carry home the odd roast potato, chicken leg or Yorkshire pud that escaped demolition at lunchtime. The ramshackle setting adds to the whole charming ‘experience’ you have in this Tardis-like venue. Most of the walls herald art for sale of which much, I’d imagine, will remain so for some time. I can’t say that I met a single Belgian in this artist’s grotto but then if the cafes are all this good in Belgium why would you leave? I wouldn’t.

98 Harbour Parade, Ramsgate, Kent, CT11 8LP, 01843 587925

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As I drove happily through Birchington I really had no idea what to expect. That small thrill sped quickly away when the ugly picnic tables, littering the exterior of Minnis Bar, came into view. On arrival I circumnavigated the car park in search of the missing / stolen pay ‘n’ display machine and couldn’t help but contemplate the fate awaiting me? Gulp. Once inside it appeared newly decorated and completely at odds with the outside. Books and covers instantly sprung to mind. It was also very busy for a freezing cold Sunday morning. Impressive. A friendly waitress came over and greeted us with a welcoming smile. Maybe I was wrong.  She then sat us next to the Wall of Chef.  Oh dear. I’ve never seen so many signed photographs of cooks, foodies and other culinary Gods so pointlessly gathered in one place. The Michelin adorned wallpaper must have wept star after star as they endured a relay of employees decant industrial quality jam and marmalade into cheap porcelain. The accompanying toast was great but sadly it had to share a wicker cradle with some frozen butter packs that made us both shudder. The food itself was of average quality and was just about value for money considering the view and the pleasant staff.  Regrettably though I do feel that this youngster will be forever teetering around in Mummy’s heels, no matter how much lippy it applies.

The Parade, Minnis Bay, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9QP, 01843 841844.

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Being born just outside of London I’m not used to fields full of animals, fresh air and most certainly not farm shops. The short journey to Quex Barn had all of these things plus a great little restaurant at the end of it. We visited on the Saturday morning after New Year, and as I looked up at the enticing blackboard menu I could see my first resolution, only 24 hours old, already fading from view. The options aren’t vast but include kippers with egg and toast (£4.95), sausage, egg or bacon sandwiches (£3) and most importantly the English breakfast in either large (£5.95) or small (£4.95). I was instantly drawn to the large as it offered almost twice the food for an extra pound. Job done. In return for my hard earned I received 2 sausages, 2 rashers, 2 eggs, black pudding, beans, tomatoes and 2 slices of giant toast. Not the cheapest breakfast in Thanet but certainly among the best. All of the produce was top notch, perfectly cooked and well presented. The black pudding was a bit overdone for my taste and we waited 10 minutes more than I would have liked for its arrival, which, on a positive note, kept my weight loss regime on track for just that little while longer. The coffee was great; the waitresses friendly and the fresh orange juice so good that my wife is still mentioning it a week later. It was a busy mix of seemingly content couples and happy families all munching away whilst bathing in warm natural light. The chickens running past the window even brought a smile from Thanet’s most fickle of diners, Tilly, my 18 month old, is a big fan of our feathered friends and will undoubtedly be adding them to her amusing animal impersonation repertoire in days to come. On our way out we all waddled round the shop purchasing a fresh loaf, some free range eggs and a few other bits that would save us doing battle with the Saturday morning supermarket crowd. I’ll return shortly to try out the evening menu but in the meantime if people sarcastically ask, “Were you born in a barn?” I can answer, “I wish.

Quex Park Estate, Birchington, Kent, CT7 0BB, 01843 846103.

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