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Posts Tagged ‘Margate’

Right then, hands up if you can name the country: a 30-year civil war that ended in 2009? The British occupied it during the Napoleonic Wars. Anyone? Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Temple of the tooth. Colombo (not him). Well?  I’d kinda hoped it was only me that had spent 43 years missing out on Sri Lanka, but it appears that you might need educating too. Luckily for us, the amazing Paul (Mr Riz) is here to edify. My first lesson came one Friday in October, when we stepped into his unique Cliftonville classroom. Since then we’ve returned on six occasions and have tried 23 dishes from undoubtedly the most interesting menu in Thanet. I’ve heard it said often about Asian restaurants that if the people of that country are eating there, it must be a good sign. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to use that cliché in Cliftonville, but I can say that I’ve already spotted Margate’s Queens of Pizza, the entire staff of Broadstairs’ best restaurant and the Isle’s only real food critic dialling in a take-away (Paul does home tutorials too). As his star pupil, might I propose you try the gobi manchurian; chilli paneer, monkfish curry; Ceylon chicken; duck chettinadu and please, please, make sure you order the mutton string hoppers (despite how they sound). The breads are brilliant (especially the paratha), the rice remarkable and the dosas divine. However if you’re not one of life’s decision makers, do what I do and put yourself in Paul’s nurturing hands.  He really can do no wrong.

49 Northdown Road, Margate, Kent, CT9 2RN, 01843 293698.

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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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At times it can be hard to love Margate. A walk through the High Street will leave you questioning the relationship and a quick spin round Morrison’s will have you preparing your “It’s not you it’s me” speech by the time you’ve paid for your WKD and Mayfair lights. I don’t want to feel like this, it just happens. To reaffirm my passion I make regular visits to the old town, trot along the harbour arm or maybe just noodle around Ron Scott’s for an hour until I’ve remembered what it is that we have together. I’ve often thought how helpful it would be to have a decent pub to sit in whilst I nursed my heart back to full strength. As I stepped over the Lifeboat’s threshold I realised that this might be just that. The orphaned furniture made me think that I’d stumbled back onto Mr Scott’s premises but the roaring open hearth ensured I’d be going nowhere soon. This really is no ordinary boozer. Julian is no ordinary landlord. He is essentially a joyful eccentric who’s made a local all about local. Julian’s utopia hosts beer from every brewery in Kent, stocks 14 varieties of Kentish cider, and even pours local wine courtesy of a vineyard in Barsole. He keeps a handful of interesting soft drinks but definitely no ice. This is a pub for everyone. On our visit we nestled amongst alcoholics, pensioners, artists and students, all of who were treated quite perfectly by the charming barman. He helpfully came over and sat with us to discuss the various local foods on offer that evening. Dressed crab (Fruits de Mer, Broadstairs), pies (Victory News, Broadstairs) sausages  (a secret location in Ramsgate – grilled in a sandwich maker thingy on the bar) and cheeses courtesy of every maker across Kent. You get to choose one from many types of chutney to accompany your snack (which they insist on spooning out to avoid any cross-contamination) and all orders arrive with chunks of bread (Aquini’s, Margate). All are served up at little more than cost price.  On this trip we polished off a dressed crab, a mixed game pie and a sausage in bread. With two rounds of drinks we just about made it past twenty pounds. You’d pay that for the crab with a couple of drinks in most places and that’s without the option of playing Monopoly. It truly is an extraordinary place that will only get busier with the publishing of the excellent Discover Thanet guidebook and the opening of the much-needed Turner Contemporary. With only days remaining I’d suggest you man the Lifeboat while you still can and see for yourself why Tracey Emin famously said; “Julian, I’ll never stop loving you”.

1 Market St, Margate, Kent, CT9 1EU.

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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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Some things are sacred in the Gannet household, like Chinese takeaway on a Friday evening and Branston pickle on our cheese sarnies. One fundamental food law is that an Indian meal begins with poppadums and chutneys: it whets the appetite and it carries with it the delicious anticipation of the meal to come. At Margate’s Ambrette we had no poppodums. It bears repeating: NO POPPODUMS! This startling omission marred what was otherwise a positive experience. Having had a mention in the Michelin Guide it was our opinion that this establishment is unlikely to progress to a coveted star in the near future, particularly not in the current premises, which are a little shabby. Service was fine, we were served a complimentary glass of sparkling lychee cocktail on arrival and the meal was punctuated (perhaps too frequently) by small ‘taster’ plates (for example, a sweetcorn pattie and a cup of tomato and lentil soup). The menu itself focuses on excellent quality, locally-sourced meat and fish, cooked South Indian-style. We saw very little on the menu for vegetarians, unless perhaps they were catered for on request. Our starters of pork ribs and grilled tiger prawns were tasty, although we expected the spicing to offer slightly more of a punch. Mrs Gannet’s chicken breast was a generous portion in a delicious massala-style sauce, served with raita, a chickpea dhal, rice and nan bread. I enjoyed a beautiful lamb shank, again with accompaniments and a freshly cooked roti. We had no room for desserts, tempting though they looked. You do pay a little extra for your meal here, but if you can cope with an Indian meal without poppodums, this Jewel in Margate’s Crown is well worth a visit.

44 King Street, Margate, Kent, CT9 1QE, 01843 231504.

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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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