Kent’s certainly no slouch when it comes to decent restaurants. A fantastic quality in its produce, coupled with a roster of grizzled chefs, means the county’s culinary scene rarely disappoints visitors and locals alike. And, as far as East Kent’s concerned, it’s arguably got the pick of the bunch. Here are ten reasons why.
In spite of its typical British seaside surroundings, JoJo’s has some very Mediterranean vibes purveying its walls. Sharing plates dominate the menu, and there’s an emphasis on cured meats, cheeses, salads, and locally caught fish. But above all else is the value – even with a mixed meze board to share, a main dish each, and drinks for a table of four, the bill’s not going to creep far beyond £30 a head.
Like most of the best restaurants in the world, The Sportsman has a deep connection with the superb provenance that surrounds it. Oysters – arguably the best found in the UK – are picked up from Whitstable’s fish market down the road, while lamb is sourced from the salt marshes of the adjacent coast. No wonder the restaurant has maintained a Michelin star since 2008.
In the UK, you can count the amount of genuinely authentic pizzerias (and by that we mean accredited by Vera Pizza Napoletana) on one hand. As diehards in Naples will tell you, you can’t call pizza pizza unless the dough’s made with type 0 or 00 wheat flour, Neapolitan yeast or brewer’s yeast, salt and water. A Casa Mia is one of those restaurants, and if we’re talking about top-drawer pizza, it certainly shows.
Read’s hotel takes the space of an elegant Georgian manor house. The restaurant has excellent garden views, and a classic French cuisine with a British influence purveys the menu. While conventional and unoriginal in feel, it’s hardly to its detriment – dishes are rarely receive this much care and attention, and the light hearted approach to the menu means Read’s appreciate that not everything has to be taken too seriously.
Take your typical curryhouse, install a knowledgeable chef in its kitchen – one who has a panache for creating dishes that look good and taste better – and you’ve got The Ambrette. It may lack the enchanting dining room you’re hoping for, but once you’re presented with the food (and the bill), you won’t much mind.
Whitstable’s oldest restaurant is certainly not the biggest. Nor is it the prettiest. But don’t let that put you off – Whitstable has a reputation for it’s oysters, and Wheeler’s is a big reason why. The bar/restaurant takes in daily catches as fresh as you like, while their own organic garden keeps the kitchen supplied with fesh salads, herbs, and fruit.
Let’s face it, ECDR isn’t going to wow you with tweezer-arranged, hyper-puréed ingredients. What it is going to do is get the most out of these ingredients, and in a way that’s not going to make anyone stiffen up in their chair. As such, this place’s a bistro through and through, and has the right kind of friendly, convivial atmosphere to back it up.
The Goods Shed. One part farmers’ market. One part restaurant. Maybe this proximity to nurtured, well-grown produce is why this place consistently pumps out some of the finest dishes (at London prices, mind you) in Kent. The ageless pursuit of dining followed by a bit of market mooching is rarely this good outside Borough Market.
What used to be a fairly avoidable pub in Alkham, a small village a few miles west of Dover, transformed into a 5-star luxury hotel and restaurant several years ago. It’s clear however that food is the priority – the concise menu heavily focuses on produce within a 20-mile radius (though good quality Pas de Calais chicken is only 40-odd miles away if they need it), with locally made beers and wines to match.
Great views out across Broadstairs Beach and beyond, and a focus on very local fruits de mer means you’re pretty much seeing what you’re eating at Wyatt & Jones. Better still, the restaurant’s open all day, serving anything from smoked haddock and poached egg in the morning, to cobnut-crusted brill with wild mushrooms and herb potatoes in the evening.
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This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.