Thursday, 13 June 2013

Dining in and around Ramsgate

At Easter we spent a week in Ramsgate self-catering in this gorgeous apartment. It was freezing cold, but a few of those days were vividly sunny. We didn't mind, though. We'd taken plenty of games, DVDs, goodies we'd picked up at The Goods Shed in Canterbury and were able to pop out to Waitrose a few minutes' walk away. We'd also made some restaurant bookings and were excited about trying out local restaurants and, of course, there'd be fish and chips. We weren't disappointed. What's more when we were there a few weeks ago over the Whitsun bank holiday, we returned to a couple of favourites and made some new discoveries.

Age & Sons, Ramsgate
I love this place! I've been three times now – twice over Easter and again recently at Whitsun and each time eaten deliciously imaginative seasonal local food. Age & Sons is what's written on the side of the building, an old wine warehouse – Page & Sons is how it should appear, but the 'p' is missing. The team behind it is led by Toby Leigh, nephew of Rowley, who cooks with a similarly respectful hands-off style, allowing the ingredients to shine. On our last visit a particular starter blew me away – local asparagus with parmesan panne cotta (which included meadow wort I believe). It was inspired. This was followed by some rather splendid lamb from their Sunday lunch menu: £15 for three courses; they charged £10 for this dish and my starter was £5.50. (My only slight gripe is that they could do more to tweak dishes for children, rather than limiting them to the standard menu – however, I mentioned this to Toby as we were leaving and it sounds like they're taking this on board.)

Wyatt & Jones, Broadstairs
This restaurant had only been open a few weeks when we visited it at Easter for Sunday lunch. Wyatt & Jones is open all day as a café, bar and restaurant and occupies a prime spot near the beach in Broadstairs. Like Age & Sons, it focuses on local produce, prepared simply and stylishly. We nibbled some anchovy toast and brawn and pickles before tucking into our roasts. Here children can enjoy a 'mini roast' for £6 which went down as well as our grown up versions – we had excellent chicken and beef with vegetables to share served family style. As the non-driver, my pale ale from the Ramsgate brewer Gadds, was a tasty local compliment to the hearty food.

While we're still in Broadstairs, around the corner we passed an amazing looking second-hand bookshop that was serving all manner of Kentish goodies. We didn't go inside (next time), but did take some pictures. Another time.

Bon Appetit, Ramsgate
This little restaurant is one of several cafés and restaurants on a pretty parade overlooking the waterfront. We stopped off for lunch and tried some of the day's specials – fish pie, steak and a child's portion of the steak dish served with bread and with a couple of glasses of wine this came to a bargain £34. Our daughter's dish was a mere £2.95 and with that kind of generous good will, we'll certainly be going back to this cute and well located little bistro.

The Royal Harbour Brasserie
This was a real surprise. From the outside it looks like a beached tanker or World War 2 relic at the end of the harbour pier, but go inside and you'll find an enthusiastically run bar/café/restaurant serving well prepared fish and seafood, as well as a broad range of dishes often featuring local produce. It's open all day (except Mondays) and after a pleasurable stroll it offers spectacular views of the marina and town or turn the other way and gaze out to sea. After a long lunch at Age & Sons and a relaxing spell on the beach, it was ideal for early evening drinks and some small plates. On a previous visit on a freezing cold April day it was a cosy refuge with hot drinks and cakes. A good all-rounder.

Peter's Fish Factory, Ramsgate
Right down on the front in Harbour Parade, this is an award-winning classic old seaside chippy. It's easy to spot from its eccentric crenelated facade and the long queues that form most times of day. They even have a cheeky favourite of mine – mushy pea fritters! Apparently during the summer season they get through three tons of potatoes a week – potatoes that are grown nearby in Sandwich.

Pelosi's Ice Cream Parlour, Ramsgate
Just along from Peter's Fish Factory at 76 Harbour Parade is another classic establishment and, in this case, with a fabulous retro soda fountain interior well worth taking a look at in its own right. What's more the ice creams are great. So far, we can vouch for three flavours: rum and raisin, chocolate and the deliciously girly Turkish Delight (rose and chocolate). However, as I write this I've just noticed with dismay that the premises are up for sale. I sincerely hope someone enthusiastic acquires this Ramsgate gem and builds on the success of three generations of the Pelosi family.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Ramsgate: Regency elegance on the Kent coast

Until recently, to me, Ramsgate was just a lesser known Channel port, but a fleeting visit early last year radically changed this. We'd failed to get to France for Easter, so spent a couple of days exploring this corner of Kent and really liked what we saw. What's more, as it's so close to London, we've returned a couple of times since.

The big surprise with Ramsgate is the quality of the architecture, big sandy beaches and its bustling, scenic harbour – Britain's only royal harbour, a status granted to the town by George IV. Street names such as Nelson Crescent, Wellington Crescent and The Plains of Waterloo all obviously date from this period and elegant Georgian terraces shape the townscape. A century later local resident Pugin put his stamp on the town with his distinctive Grange and several other buildings. Blue plaques noting the town's many illustrious visitors punctuate the buildings and reveal just what a fashionable resort Ramsgate used to be. Over the years, fortunes have fluctuated for neighbouring Margate and Broadstairs, too, but things are definitely picking up and being only 75 minutes away from St Pancras on High Speed 1 means the so-called 'DFLs' (Down From London) will only get more numerous.

It's a great area for food and drink and I've already mentioned Canterbury's amazing Goods Shed in an earlier post. I'll be covering recommended local restaurants separately, but here are some pictures of Ramsgate basking in glorious sunshine at Whitsun.