An Expert Guide To Margate’s Best Restaurants
The view from Mala Kaffe. Photograph by Ms Gabrielle Hall, courtesy of Mala Kaffe
As part of our insider food series, we reveal the finest fare that this coastal town has to offer.
On what is fast becoming known as “Shoreditch-on-Sea” – a reference to recent parallels with the gentrification of London’s East End over the past decade – a new diaspora has arrived in Margate. A small seaside town on the Kent coast once a popular destination for English holidaymakers is reborn, as Margate is rebranded as the de rigueur getaway for London’s creative class. Ms Tracey Emin is from the town and the Turner Contemporary opened there in 2011 – so perhaps its artistic and creative appeal is unsurprising. But, in the last two or three years, its seen a new influx from the capital, from those put off and edged out of the city by unaffordable living costs. London’s loss is Margate’s gain, however – as can be found in a raft of fun, interesting and delicious food spots, from a tiny seafood restaurant, an even smaller cheese and wine bar and a neo-greasy spoon.
As a food writer and lover of the sea, I find myself drawn both to Margate’s creative heritage and renascent energy – an end-of-the-line town in which a new food culture is growing fast.
WHERE TO GO...
Full English breakfast at Fort’s Café. Photograph courtesy of Fort’s Café
Up on the hill, in the Cliftonville neighbourhood (the next area to take-off, according to the locals), Fort’s Café is a next generation English “caf” that appears to have looked to Antipodean brunch culture for a few flashes of voguish embellishment: the menu nods to provenance (to the nearby Monkshill Farm, also, ironically, to Heinz beans) and there’s chorizo and beetroot ’slaw on the menu, but there’s also bacon butties with ketchup, a full English and Welsh rarebit. As friendly as they are competent, staff come in and out of the kitchen, or from behind the coffee machine, like Jacks- and Jills-of-all-trades.
**Unit 7-8, Harbour Arm, CT9 1JD[
Copenhagen brunch boards at Mala Kaffe. Photograph by Ms Gabrielle Hall, courtesy of Mala Kaffe
Music industry couple Mr Johan Karlberg and Ms Carey Mann Karlberg opened this Scandi-inspired hole-in-the-wall café on the “harbour arm” earlier this year, which, alongside Cheesy Tiger (see below), could yet earn this promontory the title of Margate’s Hip Strip. Great espresso comes from Allpress Espresso, where pour over and filter coffee is now supplied by a local roaster, Curve. The accomplished snacks which they somehow assemble behind the tiny counter lean towards the open sandwich tradition – a prawn smørrebrød is the best. Naturally, there are also pickled herring boards and cinnamon buns – this is Brit fika by the sea.
_**Unit 3, Harbour Arm, CT9 1JD
Pea and lovage pesto, pea shoots, pink firs and cows curd at Xiringuito. Photograph by Mr Vilius Kadunas
This project is the latest example of young creatives heading from London’s East End to the coast. It could also be the first of a new wave of established names from the restaurant industry swapping the high rents and unbridled competition of the big city for the bourgeoning foodie scene in Margate. The duo behind this summer pop-up (or “moveable restaurant”, as they call it) are front-of-house Mr Conor Sheehan and chef Mr Jackson Berg who worked together at Bistrotheque – itself a creative pioneer back when Hackney’s Vyner Street was nothing more than a pre-hispterfication blank canvas – trailblazed by hospitality visionaries Messrs David Waddington and Pablo Flack. It seems that their protégés are in the midst of inspiring something similar.
_**Belgrave Road, CT9 1XG (open until the end of October)
HANTVERK & FOUND
Bonito clams at Hantverk & Found. Photograph by Ms Annie Nichols/Hot Meals. Courtesy of Hantverk & Found
Situated in the old town, this is a cubbyhole restaurant on a street with a superb vintage shop (Breuer & Dawson) and other stores replete with quintessentially English seaside bric-a-brac. Being Margate, there’s a gallery downstairs, too. The seafood-oriented menu upstairs is probably the best in town: fabulously fresh, local oysters and a regularly-changing, catch-dependent list of starters and mains, simply prepared but enlivened with unobvious and vibrant spices and seasonings – think grilled lobster with chilli, potato and cumin. There’s a pleasing focus on excellent local vegetables as well, while the great sauces mean you’ll work way through many a chunk of charred sourdough while mopping them up.
18 King Street, CT9 1DA
On Margate’s “harbour arm”, a minute’s walk from the Turner Contemporary museum on the seafront, Cheesy Tiger is every bit as fun as the name suggests. Cosy and warm in the colder months, the wine and cheese bar provides a perfect refuge from the bitter sea winds, with its convivial shared tables, oozing cheese toasties and comforting baked camembert. In the sun, there’s a small terrace on which to enjoy good wines from a thoughtful list and scoff fennel parmigiana, raclette, and onglet with blue cheese. The irreverent, bohemian Ms Joanna Harvey from Soho and her team pull the strings in this home kitchen-cum-ale house. Pure reverie.
**_Unit 7 – 8, Harbour Arm, CT9 1AP
[This is the second in our series of insider food guides to lesser known culinary desintations. To check out Ghent, click here]