With its’ sandy beaches of Viking Bay and the love of Charles Dickens who lived and created here, Broadstairs was always a popular tourist destination in summer. I fell for it after the first short weekend break last year. I am a November kid, and came to Broadstairs for my birthday treat. In off season it is still lively but at the same time rather peaceful and relaxed. Restaurants busy but not rowdy and packed, beaches filled with dog walkers and occasional tourist here and there. The best time to visit if you ask me!
There are so many restaurants in the town, that in the season you would need to carefully plan each meal out and make sure you book in advance. In Autumn or Spring you can allow yourself a little bit more of spontaneity. Broadstairs perfectly mirrors English restaurant scene across the decades. You will find restaurants which did not change since 70’s, some good traditional pubs, curry houses and modern easy dining, fish and chips shops, high street giants such as Prezzo, family run small and cozy restaurants as well as those showing off amazing modern British cooking.
So lets’ start with the oldest then - The Tartare Frigate. It is the only 18th century flint stone built pub and restaurant in Kent. It sits just on the waterfront and overlooks the Viking Bay. The pub is very humble, and above there is one of oldest seafood restaurants in the area. Still kept in the old school - thick carpet on the floor, tables covered with white starch stiff cloths and the menu hidden in big leather folders. The same family has run it for years, the same waitresses serve your table each time you go there. The menu is simple and classic, with traditional selection of seafood starters - prawn cocktail, crab and avocado, plate of oysters,salt and pepper squid, whitebait, bouillabaisse. The selection of mains is also exemplary for a perfect old school seafood restaurant - wing of skate with butter and capers, lemon butter and salsa verde sea bream, beer battered haddock, classic Dublin bay scampi or dover sole with parsley butter and brown shrimps. And finally the seafood platter - very simple yet so beautiful, dressed on a metal tray and placed over a classic seafood stand with a shell bowl underneath. On the top, the catch on the day - lobster, crabs, mussels, shrimps and prawns, oyster, cockles, finished with smoked salmon, hot smoked mackerel and some lemon. All served just steamed, and yes - you need to play with the lobster cracker and crab pick. But what a genuine experience, and what a quality of the seafood!!! A real rare treat!
The other authentic amazing thing is the ice cream parlour first opened here in 1932 by the Morelli brothers. Today you find Morelli’s ice cream everywhere - in London, Dubai, Bahrain, Manila, Dammam and Kuala Lupmpur but the Broadstairs shop remains iconic. The design is very retro, truly in 70’s spirit, with a shell decorated water fountain, music box with vinyl records, pink banquette, white rattan chairs and colourful ice cream desserts served in massive glass cups with sauces served in chocolate cups precisely placed on the huge dollops of whipped cream.
Another gelato master, Chiapinni, also opened an ice cream parlour on the seafront. Unfortunately now, in the low season, they only had few basic flavours of ice cream available, and mostly operated as a coffee shop with few cakes and tarts on the display.
Besides the Tartar Frigate there are quite a few other pubs in Broadstairs, but the one worth mentioning is Charles Dickens. This very big place with plenty tables serves classic pub food with a very big menu and faultless cookery. I had Sunday lunch there twice and all we had there was big and delicious - the roast, sharing boards, simple soups and very good pan fried or battered fish.
For those seeking exciting culinary experiences there are two places recommended by Michelin guide. The first is a small Spanish bar ‘Albarino’, the second - my favourite Broadstairs diner - Wyatt and Jones. It’s a contemporary British restaurant with a simple interior design, good choice of wines and local craft beers, great selection of gins, each one served with different garnish matching the botanicals, and above all - amazing menu. I love their approach to food, they only use local suppliers for fish, local butchers for meat and farmers for fruit and vegetable. They bake their own bread, they smoke their own fish and butcher all the meat. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. This time we had scallops, oysters and wild pigeon for starters and then we decided to go for the chef’s special - a whole wild rabbit - and all was truly a delight. There was no space for desserts though and that was my biggest regret.
Only once I had arrived in the town did I learn that my husband was cooking a surprise for me for quite a while. And it was my birthday's dinner. I don't know why but I was convinced he would take me to the 54 restaurant, a classical British fine dining with mostly seafood on the menu, as we didn’t try this one yet. But no, what he did instead, was inviting the whole family over and organising a large table in the family run Samworth and Mee. This small, really cute and warm restaurant, decorated in rustic style with modern touches, is run by a small family. The food is simple, fresh and honest, and the service beyond any expectations! The owners always present, you can chat away the night with them - very genuine and passionate people. We’ve had our eyes on this place already last year but only now had a chance to try it and they did not fail.
Being on the coast means you need to have a proper fish and chips at least once, and there are quite a few places down in Broadstairs to get some from. Aqua 43 is known for it’s eat-in and take away, the fluorescent blue restaurant is also family run, I was however a bit disappointed when ordered scampi (I know, I know - for most this dish is like smelly carpet - with the years of it’s glory long time gone), as I was expecting a beautiful small langoustine breaded or battered. And seeing the ‘Dublin Bay Prawn’ scampi on Tartare Frigate menu only built my appetite for this classic. But at Aqua 43 they served the cheap, easy version - breaded chunks of a succulent flaky fish. It was good, but I however felt cheated. I can easily recommend the ‘Seafarer' fish and chips shop though. Stereotypical place, with cheesy huge plastic fisherman outside, dory and nemo wallpaper, colourful vinyl tablecloths and a great large menu. We were not that hungry so we only went for calamari rings, cheesy chips (which reminded me little of a good Canadian Poutine) and deep fried cod roe - and that’s something you won't find easily. I know deep frying is kind of brutal way to deal with it but it does taste good! They also serve the evil deep fried Mars bars I bet they don’t serve the fish bits as ‘scampi’!