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Posts Tagged ‘Cafes’

So, here are your options: great service, excellent food and good value. Which two are you going to pick? What do you mean you want all three? Bleedin’ moon on a stick, you. This might not be written on the Royal Harbour menu (the grown-up’s one, that is) but they needn’t worry as it’s been beaten into me. I’ve visited on seven or eight occasions and each time one thing gives. I must want to like the place or why else would I keep going back?  Maybe I’m having a dysfunctional relationship with a restaurant? Always making excuses. Maybe it isn’t them, maybe it’s me? Okay, okay, just one more chance then. This week, 12 minutes passed before I forced a member of staff to visit our table. They were rather put-upon that we might want to order drinks / see a menu / be waited upon. We were then informed that today there wasn’t a roast, but paella instead (as luck would have it my 80 year-old mother was only just saying on the way over what a shame it was that restaurants persisted in selling Sunday roasts, on a Sunday, and why didn’t more of them offer traditional Catalan rice dishes instead?). El Bingo! Nonetheless, I persevered. No kids menu? Really? In 2013? That was it. I jumped up, ready to use the diner’s ultimate weapons, but my companions talked me down and I placed them back under the table. I’m kinda glad I did or I would never have met the charming waitress who rode to our aid. She offered up kids’ suggestions. She made mum smile, she kissed it better. She was a Food Samaritan (this awful pun only works if you read it in a Glaswegian accent). Meanwhile the joint jumped to the beat of the resident pianist and our lunches arrived in double-time (an admirable feat, considering how busy they were). The food looked and tasted great (fish & chips, grilled plaice and a crab salad scored the highest). So of course I forgave them, yet again, and with that Parker, the pianist’s guide dog, placed his paws over his eyes, pushed his jaw to the floor and let out an incredulous whine. I like to think he was empathising.

Royal Harbour Parade, East Pier, Ramsgate, Kent, CT11 8LS, 01843 599059.

 

 

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17 million pounds spent.  4500 panes of glass fitted.  150,000 annual visitors expected. Finally, the wait is over.  Yep, the Turner Contemporary Café is now open on Friday and Saturday evenings for supper. On arrival at this landmark destination Sarah, my new fave person, lovingly escorted us to our VIP window seats. I’m reliably informed that Turner fell instantly in love with the skies over Margate, and as we watched the sun setting, sipping bubbly and nibbling on home-baked bread, it wasn’t difficult to see why. Stunning. I was initially drawn here by the price: two courses for  £18.50 or three courses for £23.00, including a glass of Prosecco or Fino sherry. Bargain.  For those sums there was never going to be a huge selection on offer, but surprisingly any of the three options per course would have put a smile on my hairy mush. We agreed a divide-and-conquer approach, meaning that only three dishes would escape our delectation.  The ones that didn’t get away were: Kent shellfish bisque  – excellent, great depth of flavour.  Chicken liver parfait with port butter & orange brioche – very good but not quite sweet enough for me (I Iater found out from a real foodie’s review that it was possibly due to poor trimming of the livers). Pancetta-wrapped Guinea fowl with beetroot – splendid, but I thought it a teensy bit dry (Mrs G assures me it was spot on). Sea bass with a fricassee of shellfish and vegetables (courtesy of the lovely Windmill Farm allotments) – excellent despite my being deprived of langoustine, langoustine which happily swam it’s way onto every other sea bass plate (bitter? Moi?). I considered mentioning it but the service was so good that I can only imagine they’d have brought a dozen, peeled them at the table and then gently placed them into my gaping gob. An undoubted pleasure for me but perhaps not for the other diners, so I kept quiet. Blackcurrant fool with shortbread – faultless, with a pistachio-topped biscuit still warm from the oven. Finally, the cheese board presented us with an array of quality cheese served with generous lumps of quince.  As if the whole experience wasn’t splendid enough they’re going to be changing the menu every week. Amazing. Art lovers around the world should be eternally grateful that Turner never visited Margate when this café was open, as he may have been inspired to use his oils for cooking rather than painting.

Turner ContemporaryRendezvous, Margate, Kent CT9 1HG,  01843 233000.

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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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Since the early 70’s I’ve been coming to Thanet for days out, weekends and the occasional half term. I caught my first fish, Eric, in Ramsgate harbour. Smiled as my photo was taken with a smelly monkey on Margate promenade and more often than not sat in the sea wearing nothing but my pants and a thick coating of cream. During those 35 years I’ve also enjoyed Morelli’s on a regular basis and have surely devoured just as many flavours. Amazingly though it was only on Saturday afternoon that I finally got round to trying their Mint Choc Chip. I think it’s because my mum bought MCC on a regular basis and as such I was always keen to try something different when given the option. Even this first encounter wasn’t planned as I’d opted for a scoop of Honeycomb and a scoop of Rhubarb and Custard in a tub (£2.60). It was only in an attempt at silencing my friend’s son, who repeatedly told me his was better than mine, that I even put a spoon near it. He was right though. It is one of the finest things I’ve ever tasted, ice cream nirvana even. I can now spend my Sundays gardening or putting up shelves, as men of a certain age should. Great. So if it took me this long to find mine then it’s probably best you start right away and don’t worry they have a good selection even in winter. If, however, you are insane and ice cream isn’t your thing then the coffee is excellent, the teacakes enormous and the 50’s interior alone makes it worth a visit. And please, if you ever find yourself moaning about how good things used to be, then get yourself down to Morelli’s where they still are.

14 Victoria Parade, Broadstairs, Kent, CT10 1QS, 01843 862500.

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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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How hard can it be to cook the perfect portion of chips? Quite, it would seem, or there wouldn’t be such a fuss surrounding the crispy little fellas. Heston suggests triple cooking, Delia does them in the oven, and my Mum will only use Maris Pipers. Few foods impassion or bring out the food thief in us all quite as much as the humble fried potato chip. With all this in mind, and in honour of National Chip Week, I decided to try out four of Thanet’s finest purveyors and create my own Chip Pageant. Who would win the inaugural, coveted and catchy title of Thanet Gannet’s Chip of the Year 2010? It was all to play for as we set off on Saturday lunchtime, minus breakfast, in search of the perfect potato punnet. In quick succession we visited Eddie Gilbert’s (Ramsgate), Peter’s Fish Factory (Margate), Newington Fish Bar and the Fish Inn (Broadstairs). At each we purchased an open portion of chips, salt’n’vinegared and then marked on Crispness, Quality, Fluffiness and Presentation. By 3pm the car reeked of condiments and I’d sworn to never eat another chip. But despite my newfound dislike for the sexy spud I did have some useful research data that revealed a conclusive result. 4th place went to Newington, who unaccountably serve their chips sweating in a polystyrene container. Next up was the Fish Inn, who scored highly on the presentation front and portion size. 2nd was Peter’s, who delivered great all-round chips. But the title goes to Eddie Gilbert’s, whose beef-dripping fried chips scored highly in every category except presentation. Sadly the small chip bag made it awkward to liberally apply condiments, meaning the last few chips were not quite as amazing as they could be. A point dropped then. I guess I’ll just have to keep searching for another year. Perfect.

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