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Archive for the ‘Modern European’ Category

One of the advantages of occasionally working from home is managing to get more done in a morning than you could ever hope to achieve in an entire day in the office. Another advantage is being able to have lunch with your wife. I might often spend £10 a day on a paper, coffees and lunch so attempted to stick as close to that as possible. After 20 minutes sniffing around the net i’d come up with a few options and eventually picked two courses at the Bell Hotel in Sandwich for £11.95. Ding dong.  These offers do, however, always involve some form of compromise and as we set sail for the port of Sandwich we braced ourselves for a very short menu, small portions and cheap ingredients. We arrived. They didn’t. My impressive starter of sea trout tartare, cucumber gazpacho, horseradish and lime shouted summer, whilst the ham terrine with tomato chutney, quickly vanishing across the table, brought a smile to Mrs G’s lovely mush. These were quickly followed by rump of lamb with smoked potato puree, baby courgettes and rosemary jus for me, and plaice with butter and new pots for her. Mine was superb. It’s normally only onions that bring a tear to my eye but today an exquisite courgette had me reaching for the hankies. The lamb was quite prefect, each mouthful a pleasure. No weeping from Mrs G – she’s a toughie – but a thumbs up all the same. Now my wife loves her desserts and was mesmerized throughout lunch by the numerous raspberry creme brulees (with almond shortbread) passing the table. So many went by that I couldn’t believe they hadn’t run out. Just before she ordered hers they did. Dong! Dong! How she didn’t cry I will never know. The cream cake pick-up en route home helped, but I know it will be a long time before that culinary scar has healed. As I type, sitting at my London desk, I’m pondering how I might convince my bosses to open a Thanet office. Maybe I’ll send them a link to my blog, that should do the trick.

NB If you have a third course it will be £14.95

Upper Strand Street, Sandwich, Kent, CT13 9EF, 01304 613388.

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“The next station is Canterbury West.” I hear that seductive line 10 times a week and for once I decided to give in. It was a balmy Friday evening when I stepped down onto the platform to meet my wife. The sunshine worked its magic and made everything seem that much better.  It was our own Brief Encounter. I, a rotund, bearded and chipper Trevor Howard. Mrs. G a pregnant, radiant and rather peckish Celia Johnson. Once the steam had cleared we walked the short distance to the Goods Shed hand in hand. It’s an impressive building that comes alive with diners once the farmer’s market punters have carted their rations home. We were seated by one of the immense windows overlooking the track and watched the night quickly descend whilst we happily chatted about our day. A visit to the communal blackboard announced that there were five starters and a six mains on offer, any of which I’d have been happy to receive. I eventually favoured the smoked trout on toast with duck egg and asparagus (£7.50) proceeded by the slow cooked belly pork with spiced apple sauce, garlic roast potatoes and more asparagus (£15.00).  Mrs G had scallops with black pudding and a bean salad (£9.00) and then the Cod fillet with smoked mussel butter, roast potatoes and asparagus (£15.00). All the dishes are well presented, contain local produce and are large enough that you may well struggle to get through three courses. Mrs G just about managed it, but she is, as she so often points out, eating for two. The food was of a very good standard although some elements were tepid rather than hot and I would have greatly appreciated knowing that my choice of dishes would mean my eating asparagus twice that evening. Neither of us were drinking but a nose through the wine list offered up acceptable bottles from £13.50, some gems around the £20 mark or if you fancy bringing your own then they will charge a corkage of £7.50, a very tempting offer. The golden age of steam may be long dead but the golden age of cooking is alive and waiting for you to get on board at Canterbury West.

Station Road West, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 8AN, 01227 459153.

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On leaving Deal’s rather swanky swimming pool, complete with wave machine, we opted to make the most of the rare English sunshine and drove a few miles out of our way to lunch by the sea at the Zetland Arms.  It proved, thankfully, to be one of my better ideas. This hidden away Kingsdown pub takes a bit of hunting down and maybe even an embarrassing phone call, but once there you’ll be chuffed you went. We dropped in on a Friday and stumbled upon a mix of friendly locals, walkers and cyclists. The menu is quite short, well priced and contains the sort of thing you’d expect in a pub. We ordered some drinks, plonked ourselves on one of the picnic tables next the sea and considered the menu in the windy heat. To start we chose the whitebait (£4.95), which arrived stacked high against a pot of magnificent tartare sauce and the Perard recipe fish soup (£4.95) that tasted better than many I’d encountered across the water. We both went for fish, chips and mushy peas (£9.95) thereby removing the possibility of lunch envy creeping in – a frequent problem in the Gannet household. Everything on the plate was of a gratifying quality. The only minor irritant was the slightly too weighty batter but this was more than countered by the ‘holiday’ chips that arrived with it. Superb. The four young chaps that appeared to be running the place were doing a grand job and nothing was too much trouble. I’ll be tackling one of the doorstep sandwiches (£3.25) when we return, which proved so popular with our beach companions, and may even try out the natural wave machine beside our table so I can I work up an appetite for a dessert too.

Wellington Parade, Kingsdown, Kent, CT14 8AF, 01304 364888.

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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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Where would you go in Thanet this weekend if cash and calories weren’t an issue? I’d head down to Posillipo’s in Broadstairs on Friday evening for chilled beers, a pizza that could flatten a tenor and a large helping of Neapolitan charm. Saturday morning would be spent reading the papers at Peens whilst I made one of Thanet’s finest breakfasts disappear. Magic. Off to Ramsgate around 1ish to try and solve the amazing Eddie Gilbert’s conundrum.  Batter or no batter?  What a dilemma. What a decision. What a place. Still no closer to answering this gastronomic riddle I’d cast off in search of my beloved curry – fat nostrils leading me Margatewards. Everybody has his or her favourite spice girl and mine is The Indian Princess. She’s a little too modern for some and a little too expensive for others but I’ll take her as is.  On Sunday I’d probably treat myself to a lie in but would rise just in time to order lunch at Age and Sons. I’d spend the afternoon grazing on local produce in an informal setting, happily pickling myself on their remarkable wine list. I’ll leave Sunday night free, however, as there are 13 other Thanet restaurants nominated in the 2009 Kent Restaurant awards that could do with my custom. I won’t be able to visit them all in one evening, so maybe you could instead.

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It was the day after the saddening news of Chas and Dave’s demise that I ambled down to the Harbour Café. I marveled at the Turner Centre or more precisely the fact that some work had been done. Paid a man lurking with a dog 3 quid to park and then swiftly made my way across the harbour for a well-deserved lunch. It was just a tad too cold to sit outside so we opted for perches inside the perfectly decorated café. Higgledy-piggledy tables are watched over by fairy lights that adorn exposed brickwork. It feels homely and cool at the same time. No mean feat. There’s a good daily menu that includes the perfectly seasoned Harbour burger with home made chips (£8.20 TBC), a great BLT (£4.60) and a good range of properly packed paninis that include chorizo, honey roast ham and mozzarella, tomato & basil (£4.80 or £5.80 with fries). They also have a vast specials menu that, on our visit, contained lamb kebabs, moules et frites and wild salmon fishcakes to name a few. All were less than a tenner. They really are only too happy to attend to your every wish.  A pleasant change. They may have forgotten the small plate of scrambled eggs for my daughter but one can forgive this when everything else is so right. Coke in glass bottles. Quality mayo. Smiling faces. What’s not to like? I was lucky enough to have enjoyed Chas and Dave play the Winter Gardens on numerous occasions so I’m rather pleased to have another great reason to go Down to Margit!….
Royal York Mansions, 10 The Parade, Margate, CT9 1EZ, 01843 290110

It was the day after the saddening news of Chas and Dave’s demise that I ambled down to the Harbour Café. I marveled at the Turner Centre or more precisely the fact that some work had been done. Paid a man lurking with a dog 3 quid to park and then swiftly made my way across the harbour for a well-deserved lunch. It was just a tad too cold to sit outside so we opted for perches inside the perfectly decorated café. Higgledy-piggledy tables are watched over by fairy lights that adorn exposed brickwork. It feels homely and cool at the same time. No mean feat. There’s a good daily menu that includes the perfectly seasoned Harbour burger with home made chips (£8.20), a great BLT (£4.60) and a good range of properly packed paninis that include chorizo, honey roast ham and mozzarella, tomato & basil (£4.80 or £5.80 with fries). They also have a vast specials menu that, on our visit, contained lamb kebabs, moules et frites and wild salmon fishcakes to name a few. All were less than a tenner. They really are only too happy to attend to your every wish.  A pleasant change. They may have forgotten the small plate of scrambled eggs for my daughter but one can forgive this when everything else is so right. Coke in glass bottles. Quality mayo. Smiling faces. What’s not to like? I was lucky enough to have enjoyed Chas and Dave play the Winter Gardens on numerous occasions so I’m rather pleased to have another great reason to go Down to Margit!….

Royal York Mansions, 10 The Parade, Margate, Kent, CT9 1EZ, 01843 290110.

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