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Posts Tagged ‘Thanet’

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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Benjamin Franklin famously said, ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’. Fair point. The lesser talented John Morton declared, ‘A man living modestly must be saving money and could therefore afford taxes, whereas if he was living extravagantly then he was obviously rich and could still afford them’. This unpopular musing, from the then Archbishop of Canterbury, became known as Morton’s Fork and for some odd reason, back in the 80’s, David Sworder named his Minster restaurant after this undesirable dilemma. Three decades later his son Matt has returned to the same space to cook up a storm at the Corner House. We first visited on a Friday evening where we found an eclectic mix of ages and types enjoying modern British, locally sourced plates of great looking food in this bijou galley-shaped restaurant. I enjoyed an excellent chicken parfait followed by the most amazing cod loin I can remember. I finished off with the unrivalled brown bread ice cream. Pretty much a perfect meal. Mrs G had some stuff too but I was so excited by mine that the blinkers went on from the first mouthful and never came off until the bill arrived. On the way out I reserved a table for eight for the following Saturday lunchtime. That’s a tad hasty I hear you mutter. Fear not, dear reader, as I’d stumbled upon a nugget whilst thumbing the menu earlier. Lean in.  At lunch they offer up three courses for £13, two for £10 or one for £8. OMFG! Eight days later we were back. New dishes included a stunning pea and ham soup, an excellent flat iron steak and a divine lavender crème brûlée.  Just as good, but cheaper. If Mr Franklin were alive, well and residing in Thanet today there’s a fair chance you’d find him tweeting, ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes & totes amazeballs food 4 little cash @ Corner House. #yumminster’.

42 Station Road, Minster, Kent, CT12 4BZ, 01843 823000.

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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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I like ceviche. It’s a great dish. So, well done Peru, I salute you. A week in the Amazon, however, had offered me very little to congratulate them on other than their remarkable embracement of blandness. The nadir of this being corn juice (yes it exists) ladled from a grotty bucket by a grinning coffee farmer. Yum. Thankfully my view, my family and my menu were now confirming just how happy I was to be home again. Phew. For five months now Wyatt & Jones have been making us smile, repeatedly dishing up exemplary local produce to the discerning inhabitants of Thanet’s Nappy Valley. When you’ve got a location as good as this you really don’t have to try very hard. The lovely people at Wyatt & Jones couldn’t try any harder. Everything has been thought of and actioned with aplomb. They’ve got one of those effortless interiors that take a lot of effort. The staff are impeccably trained to know the menu and to always be one step ahead. Nothing is ever a problem. The cooking is accomplished, solid and guaranteed to please even the toughest of Peruvian diners. They even bake their own bread, crumpets and muffins. Ooooh! On this visit ten of us occupied one of the few tables I’d not tried during this brief yet enduring romance. The stars of the event were a ray wing (£14), the rump steak (£12), my mixed grill (£17) and the fishcake (£10). The kids menu was, as ever, varied and considered. They don’t tolerate children here, they embrace them so you don’t feel awkward when they act like…children. Breakfast, lunch or dinner in the hands of these lovely restauranteurs always makes life that little bit better. I like Wyatt & Jones. It’s a great place. So, well done guys, I salute you too.

23-27 Harbour Street, Broadstairs, Kent, CT10 1EU, 01843 865126.

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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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In 5,4,3,2, 1…

(Smile at camera)

Good evening and welcome to Dev TV. Tonight I’m lucky enough to be eating at the Hannah Dining Suite in Quex Park [now being run by Dev Biswal of The Ambrette fame]. I say lucky because it’s taken me three goes at getting fed. The first was thwarted by gas problems (them not me). The second buried by a funeral wake. But as we sit here now in this vast room making conversation with our host, sipping aperitifs and admiring the remarkable menu I’m positive it’ll be third time lucky.

The cuisine Dev has chosen to charm us with here is traditional British (no repeats with him then) assembled from his travels around our splendid isles. The man to take us on our journey is executive chef Patrick Beach.  He’s got just 90 minutes to steer us around the UK with 6 impeccable courses. Let’s cook!

Our first stop is the North East of Scotland.  Their contribution to the programme is Cullen skink. [It proves to be an amazing creamy haddock and potato soup that drowns the memory of all the others sloshing around in my head. Next is a simple and well-executed Welsh rabbit (sic). Pukka! Ensuing closely is the Kentish mackerel with gooseberries. The observant amongst you will recognise this stand out dish from its television debut earlier in the year and I’m happy to report that this one also proves fit for a king. All the while Thanet’s own food royalty glides around the room, skilfully managing his guests with the dexterity of a plate spinner. Dev is a natural. A producer’s dream.

Our galloping gourmet delivers the next course himself: nice touch.  The Irish stew arrives trapped in a glass jar, which our silky-pawed hero fumbles and empties onto the table. The evening’s first kitchen nightmare.  A nightmare that goes away as quickly as it arrived. No fuss. No use of the f-word. The man is a pro. I find the stew a little too simple, lined up with the other team members, and feel it stems the flow of the previously perfect menu.

At this juncture we have a choice of Ramsgate fish and Quex chips or steak and kidney pie. We order one of each and agree to swap half way through. Once out of the kitchen we decide that they are far from equal. The former wins our hearts with its excellent battered hake and pan-fried bream, superb peas and perfect chips. Who needs molecular gastronomy when simple food can be this good?

The epilogue involves parkin, brandy ice cream and saffron-infused pineapple. It is sublime and brings our journey to a beautiful end. Before we go I’d just like to say that it’s been great to be here and if you’d like to come and enjoy the experience yourself then its £25 per person. A remarkably small cost to be fed by such a master chef.

(Look seriously into camera)

Dev and Patrick have given us a truly great British menu and I think it’s fair to say that cooking doesn’t get better than this.

Goodnight.

(Fade out)

Quex Park, Birchington,Kent, CT7 0BH, 01843 842168.

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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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It seemed wholly appropriate, with the World Cup only weeks away, to stage a potato penalty shoot-out in our very own Stadium of Cookery. Admittedly it was somewhat different than the usual English pratfall and I doubt FIFA will be adopting it anytime soon but it suits the purpose of this article and thus it will be so. Each player, of which there are five, will have two perfectly cooked new potatoes placed in front of them. One Jersey Royal and one of Thanet’s finest (courtesy of Farmer Richard Ash). Now, as great as these little orbs are they need some help so we’ve added a slice of quiche and a lightly dressed salad to complete an enticing summertime tea. First up to the table is Father-in-law. He’s somewhat picky so a good lead off man to set the tone. He much prefers Thanet. 1-0. Our next player is Mrs Gannet. She’s a new potato aficionado and probably the most experienced player on the team. On balance she opts for Jersey. 1-1. Third to tuck in is Mother-in-law (no jokes please, she’s lovely). She likes the nutty taste and goes for Jersey too. 1-2. I’m next up with the cutlery. Mrs G serves so I don’t know which is which. I’m surprised by how much I like them, as I’m not normally a fan. I pick Thanet for its satisfying finish, which ties it all up. As in all good penalty shoot-outs there needs to be a fifth and that honour falls to new potato newbie Tilly – my two year old. Diners don’t get more fickle than this. She pushes them both round the plate for a few minutes and then leaves. Hmm. So for the first time ever we’ve got a penalty shoot out draw. Guess you’ll have to make up your own minds but please do your best to get behind our team this summer.

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