Hello foodie world!

Welcome to the No Expert food blog.   Our reviews cover some of the Worlds Top Restaurants, along with other interesting places, products and food related events. The opinions on these pages are our own or those of our dining companions. We’re not food experts that can describe the ins and outs of cooking techniques and ingredients so don’t expect autopsies on every dish we’ve ever eaten.  What we do know is what we like.

Not everyone will agree but we hope you might find our culinary experiences useful as some of these restaurants can be very expensive and maybe we will save you some time and money by avoiding the disappointing and recommending the very best.

No Expert has recently relocated to Kent, so you will now see us focusing on some of the excellent eating establishments and food related events in “The Garden of England”.

We are also happy to review Food and Wine products, but suppliers should be aware that our reviews are independent and are our honest opinion. We will only publish reviews on products that we consider to be good and worthy of a recommendation.  Email us if you wish to make arrangements for a product review.

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We use a Restaurant Rating System to allocate marks to restaurants.

Kyoto Sushi and Grill

The blossoming Ramsgate dining scene has another welcome addition for lovers of Japanese food. It’s the Kyoto Sushi and Grill, which is located in the High Street just opposite Argos making it fairly easy to find. Our visit was within days of the opening and the new owners are still working on tweaking the menu, possibly adding some Japanese flavored ice creams.

We were a party of five with the majority new to Japanese cuisine, so I ordered for the group to ensure that we were able to try lots of different menu items, indeed we had a veritable feast of Japanese goodies.

We started with some Edamame and two different types of Gyôza (steamed  and  fried) and moved on to the Ika Kaarage, deep fried baby squid with wasabi mayo and lemon grass. This was followed by lots of lovely dishes with the highlights being the beautiful melt in your mouth Tuna Tataki, a tasty Sea Bass dish, a lovely light Prawn Tempura and much to everyone’s surprise the Scallop Sashimi. We also had a Teriyaki dish and a selection of Sushi, our favorite being the Dragon Rolls. All of this accompanied by lovely hot Saki that went down very smoothly. We also had the opportunity to try some Takara Sierra Cold Saki, an American innovation in sake brewing that is only 12% proof.

I have eaten in several Japanese restaurants over the years in Tokyo, New York, Philadelphia and London so am not a complete novice, but I would recommended that you let your waitress guide you as some items on the menu will only be available if the restaurant has managed to source suitable fresh fish. The restaurant also does set lunches and Bento Boxes which are a good introduction to Japanese food. There  is also a Take Away and Delivery service.

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The Bench – Wine and Tapas Bar by the Sea

I don’t know how long it really took to turn part of the amusement arcade in Ramsgate Harbour Parade into a Wine and Tapas Bar, but as a casual observer The Bench just seemed to appear out of nowhere. One day the building was an empty shell, then the next day we spotted what I can only describe as an army of tradesmen and a couple of days later there was a new dining destination in Ramsgate. It was an impressive feat.

The Bench is certainly different and it’s serious about Wine. Currently there are about 40 plus wines to try. From the wall of Wine Dispensers you can buy Wine in 3 measures – a taster, a half glass or a full glass, it’s a fabulous way to try out different Wines. You get an electronic loyalty card to put money on, then you use the card to operate the Wine Dispensers, basically it’s self service Wine. There is a bar too so you do have the human touch if you want Beer, Spirits or Cocktails. To accompany the Wine you have a good selection of Tapas. We ordered six Tapas dishes between two, including classics like Potato Bravas and Spanish Omelette. We also had a really lovely and incredibly light Manchego Cheese Tart. We tried two fish dishes and one meat one. The Dorada (Sea Bream with crisp Serrano Ham, tomato and borlotti bean cassoulet) and Pescado Piperade (Red and Yellow Pepper Fricasee with fresh caught fish of the day and a dill and tarragon dressing) showed that there was some pretty sophisticated cooking going on in the kitchen. The Chef is described as Michelin trained.

The place is quite large so it will be interesting to see how the Kitchen and Front of House cope when it gets busy. Although the self service nature of the Wine service should help.

The Bench Wine and Tapas Bar is a real asset for Ramsgate. It’s well worth a visit, although the costs will mount up as its certainly easy to get carried away and try lots of different wines. I have my Bench Wine Loyalty Card  now so I’m all set for the next time.

The Bench is open 7 days a week from 11:00 a.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays they will be open until 2:00 a.m. There is lots of outside seating and they also have Wine Tastings every second Wednesday Evening.

Bench on Urbanspoon

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Go West : Vinylhead Cafe and McBride & Valentine’s Coffee House

Visitors to Ramsgate often focus on the Harbour area nestled in between the East Cliff and the West Cliff area, which is understandable, but it is well worth exploring further afield. By going west you can squeeze in a visit to the Updown Gallery, St Augustine’s and The Grange, and if the weather is nice there is Ellington Park. You also have a couple of note worthy cafes on that side of town.

Vinylhead on Urbanspoon

If approaching from the coast side, the VinylHead Cafe is at the far end of Addington Street. It is a Vinyl Shop as well as a Cafe and has a fantastic ambience.  I actually think that it is the coolest cafe in Thanet, it attracts a lot of Artists and Musicians.  The Cafe is licensed and they have Open Mic sessions on Sundays. On the food and drink side, they provide homemade soups and stews, paninis and a small selection of cakes. There is also a small outside courtyard which is a real suntrap in the Summer.

 

McBride & Valentine Coffee House on Urbanspoon

At the top of the hill and round the corner in Grange Road, you will find the McBride & Valentine’s Coffee House, a newly opened bistro style cafe. They have a nice cosy basement room. Their specials menu changes regularly and can include items like Noodles with chicken or prawns, Minestrone Style Stew, Chicken Caesar Sandwich and Falafel or Pulled Sticky Gammon in a Brioche roll. They are also an outlet for savory items and cakes from my favorite local Artisan Baker Never Mind the Cupcakes.

The McBride & Valentine’s Coffee House is very easy to get to by public transport as The Loop bus stops right out side. They also regularly host Art Exhibitions.

 

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The Sportsman : Seasalter near Whitstable

Whitstable is a popular historic seaside town that is about 40 mins from London and 30 mins from our new home in Ramsgate. On arrival at Whitstable station you can order a taxi for the 15 minute journey to The Sportsman in Seasalter. The taxi office is right next to the station and they have lots of cars on call, or you can head into Whitstable itself, explore the shops and harbour, then do the beach walk to Seasalter which takes approximately an hour and half.   On a beautiful sunny Winter day, like the one we had for our visit, its worth arriving early at the restaurant to give yourself enough time to walk on the beach at Seasalter. Bring your binoculars and watch the birds and seals off the Isle of Sheppey.

The Sportsman is one of only a handful of pubs with a Michelin star. They keep it simple and use very local ingredients, i.e. meat from the surrounding marsh lands, fish and oysters from the Thames Estuary and vegetables from their rather extensive Kitchen garden.

There are blackboards by the bar where you choose the dishes you want, or you can go for a tasting menu. There are two, a larger one you pre book and a 5 course one you can order on the day. We like the little extras so we had the 5 course tasting menu. The tasting menu doesn’t change much, so if you go often you’ll probably appreciate the blackboard options.

We started with a glass of Charles Heidsieck champagne, which was a good accompaniment to our first few dishes. A lovely selection of bread was served with home-churned butter and Seasalter seasalt followed by the amuse-bouche which consisted of an egg shell filled with yoke, cream and smoked eel. Then we had a stunning cod and crab bisque and two of the famous Whitstable oysters cleverly presented in a box of seashells. Next came our favorite course a delightful red cabbage dish, we ordered some Chablis to drink with this and our main course of Monkshill Farm Lamb with Mint Sauce which was a sort of miniature Sunday lunch, as it is served with one roast potato, a sliver of onion and one floret of cauliflower. Pre desert was a quince lollypop in cake milk. Then with our dessert wine we had half a chocolate and salted caramel tart with vanilla ice cream – the tart was very rich, I for one couldn’t have managed a full one, although my companion thought he could :)

The Sportsman has a lovely casual ambience and an excellent wine list.

Please also note that this is a very popular restaurant and booking is essential. Typically you would need to book between 4 and 6 weeks in advance to get a table.

Marks out of 10 for The Sportsman

Food 7.2

Service 7

Ambience 7

Sportsman on Urbanspoon

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Weekend at The Albion House Hotel : Ramsgate

Despite the title of this post we were not actually staying at the newly opened Albion House Hotel. Although we did find ourselves spending a substantial part of the Weekend there. We started with Champagne Afternoon Tea on the Saturday and returned the next day for our Sunday Lunch.

The Hotel which is open to non residents is quite lovely, perched up on the East Cliff of Ramsgate. The building has been substantially renovated during its conversion to a luxury boutique hotel, it now combines Regency splendor with lots of innovative modern designer touches courtesy I believe of Fontaine Decorative a local company who source stunning French Furniture and Decorative items.

The Hotel is in preview mode at the moment. The plan is to concentrate on the Town Bar and the Hotel Rooms themselves before they make full use of the Dining room. They also have some exciting plans for the Cellar.

Champagne Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea is in the Town Bar.  Sandwiches, Tea and Champagne are served at your table. Cakes are laid out buffet style on the table by the window. It’s very much a case of eating as much as you want, as extra sandwiches are brought out on request. The Earl Grey Tea I ordered was particularly good, it’s from a company called Canton Tea and had a strong Vanilla flavour.

Sunday Lunch

The Sunday Lunch menu is pretty much as expected, a small selection of starters, a couple of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes for the main course with dessert options and/or cheese to complete the meal. Lunch and Dinner are served in the Dining Room located at the front of the Hotel. It’s an attractive room with beautiful large fire places and quite spectacular views of Ramsgate Royal Harbour – an ideal place to watch the sun set.

We ordered the Pork belly, scallops, apple puree & red vein sorrel and Wood pigeon breast with frisse & oak leaf salad. The Wood pigeon was served only slightly pink (so if you like it pink, best to say when ordering). We followed this with some nicely cooked Lime & jerk spiced sea bass, potato cake and samphire accompanied by a rather nice bottle of Albarino – the hotel has some excellent options on their wine list. Then for dessert we had Dark chocolate torte with white chocolate cream and raspberries and Vodka, lemon & lime posset with mixed berry compote, accompanied by a couple of glasses of Dessert Wine.

The Hotel is a real asset to the area and we look forward to returning soon as we still have to work our way through the bar snacks in the lovely Town Bar ;)

Albion House on Urbanspoon

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East Coast Dining Room : Tankerton-on-Sea near Whitstable

All our past visits to the seaside town of Whitstable (aka Islington by the Sea) have been for the sole purpose of dining at The Sportsman that fabulous one star Michelin restaurant in Seasalter. This visit would have been the same if I hadn’t discovered that 5 weeks notice was not enough to get a booking there at this time of the year. So I instantly thought of The East Coast Dining Room, a Whitstable restaurant I had heard good things about. The Restaurant does not seem to be courting a Michelin Star, instead it comes across as one of these places that is quite content to be the good neighborhood restaurant that everyone would love to have on their doorstep. The restaurant is just a short walk from Whitstable train station (just one street back from the beach at Tankerton-on-Sea) and is fairly easy to spot with its attractive outside seating area and Ice Cream cart by the door. The cart on this occasion was advertising their amazing Gingerbeer Sorbet.

Inside there are two pleasant dining areas. After a warm welcome and efficient delivery of the Menus, we decided to go a la carte (although their £30 Xmas menu did look really good). There was no need to order expensive bottled water, tap water flavoured with cucumber was swiftly brought to our table. If you haven’t tried cucumber water I would highly recommended it, it’s refreshing and apparently good for you too. The bread was then served with butter, salt and some really good olive oil (Planeta DOP Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil) that they also sell by the bottle.

For starters we had Chorizo and Butter Bean Stew with Cod Croquettes and Game Rillettes with Devils on Horseback. We both selected fish for our mains. I had a rather lovely Roast Monkfish dish with Corriander sauce, Grilled Aubergines and Pink Fir Potatoes and my companion choose the Mullet, with Bacon and Crab Chowder and Deep Fried Anchovies. We accompanied this with a half bottle of excellent Chablis. They have a good selection of wine including several options served in Carafes or by the glass. The dessert wine selection is also good, we choose Moscato d’Asti to accompany our desserts. My companion was very happy with the aforementioned Gingerbeer Sorbet with Lemon and Ginger Posset, a memorable dessert and I had a Chocolate and Pear Brownie served with Coffee Jellies that worked really well with the Brownie.

The service was friendly and professional. The Restaurant was just over half full on the Winters day we went for lunch, but I suspect that getting a table here in Summer is not so easy. Most of our fellow guests were Whitstable inhabitants who know a good thing when they see it. I think one of the best things you can say about a Restaurant is that you will be back, and we will be back, although not before squeezing in another visit to The Sportsman.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.9

Service 7

Ambience 6.7

East Coast Dining Room on Urbanspoon

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This will be our first Christmas in our new home in Ramsgate, Kent, and our restaurant choices for the festive season are all relatively local :-

WHITSTABLE

We will be doing posts on our visits to Whitstable covering:-

RAMSGATE

We will be wining and dining at:-

  • The Albion House Hotel – The newly opened Boutique Hotel. We have a Lunch and a Champagne Afternoon Tea planned.
  • The Royal Harbour Brasserie - To bring in the New Year. This is one of the best spots to catch the stunning firework display that takes place every year  in the Harbour.

and no doubt we will be popping into our other favorites (and regular haunts) such as:-

  • Flavours by Kumar – A restaurant that “serves up some of the tastiest Indian food in the southeast” according to a recent article in The Guardian.
  • Vinyl Head – A cool Cafe that does amazing Soups, Stews and Cakes. The Coffee is first rate too.
  • Caboose - Our favorite Ramsgate breakfast venue. They also serve excellent Coffee.

and Fort’s Cafe in Margate – Our favorite Margate breakfast venue  or maybe Wyatt & Jones in Broadstairs. We are almost spoilt for choice. So I know we are going to have a Merry Xmas :)

Wishing all our readers a Merry Xmas too.

 

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B is for Broadstairs

On a stunning sunny Sunday in October we made a beeline for Broadstairs taking in the beautiful beach at Viking Bay, Breakfast at the delightful Belvidere Place Boutique B & B, the highly acclaimed Broadstairs Food Festival and the hidden delights of Bleak House.

I’d like to say we did the picturesque beach walk from Ramsgate to Broadstairs but alas we didn’t allow ourselves enough time. Instead we jumped on the regular Loop bus for the 15 minute journey to Broadstairs.

Belvidere Place

We had pre booked breakfast at Belvidere Place, Jilly Sharpe’s rather special Boutique Bed & Breakfast. It’s a beautiful quirky and artistic place with just the right level of civilized informality.

There was no menu, breakfast is based on whatever goodies Jilly can source locally. We were offered the choice of figs or baked apple to start. We opted for the Apple served with yogurt and just enough Muesli. Very healthy and tasty. Next course was bacon, tomatoes and egg served with toast and a delicious stuffed mushroom. Arbroath Kippers were also on offer. After a leisurely morning reading the newspapers, chatting to Jilly, her friendly staff and guests lucky enough to be staying in the much in demand 5 bed-roomed B & B, we headed off to the Broadstairs Food Festival.

Broadstairs Food Festival

The Broadstairs Food Festival is an event that attracts a lot of mainly Kent based suppliers and Restaurants. This year they had 100 plus stalls and 53,000 plus visitors over the course of 3 days. The Kitchen Theatre demonstrations were from several well known local chefs like Matt Sworder from the Corner House in Minster.  Steven Edwards who won Masterchef The Professionals in 2013  also did a session. The Kitchen Theatre presentation highlight I suspect though was from GBBO semi finalist and Broadstairs local Chetna Makan. Her session was interrupted by a surprise visit from the ever so slightly famous Paul Hollywood – check out the fun videos published by the Isle of Thanet Gazette. It’s just like being there ;)

Top Kent Restaurants like Wyatt & Jones and Rocksalt had stalls, as did Quex Barn – the wonderful deli at Quex Park.  There were tastings for Dudda’s Tun our favorite Kent Cider, and East Kent College were showing plans for their 4 star Training Hotel due to open next year.

We had hoped to get food from The Ambrette stall but they weren’t there this year. So for a late lunch we had some Pad Thai from an old favorite Siam Kitchen, followed by a dessert of coconut macrons and salted caramel bars from Sylvia and Terry.  We also brought some bread from McCarthys Country Store.

Bleak House

We took refuge from a very busy Broadstairs in Bleak House, which despite its uninviting entrance via the kitchen area is a lovely tranquil spot for drinks or afternoon tea.

You can pre book the formal Afternoon Tea in the Great Expectations Dining Room overlooking the garden and visit Charles Dickens study and the Smuggling Museum.

So after our lovely day out, we are certainly looking forward to next years Food Festival and to having a good few more breakfasts and afternoon teas in lovely Broadstairs.

 

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Chez Bruce – as good as ever

If there is a secret formula for what makes a good restaurant then Chez Bruce mastered it years ago.  We have eaten lunch here a good few times, it’s surprisingly good value (currently £35 for 3 courses). Definitely one of London’s best Michelin Restaurant deals.

On this visit I started with some stunning fish cakes with just a hint of saffron and my companion had a Spanish chilled Tomato soup called Salmorejo, this was so beautifully spiced he felt that it had spoilt him for other soups. For main course I chose the Confit Rabbit with coco beans, pepper relish, cherry tomatoes and Provençal sauce, a nice rustic dish of comfort food and he went for the Wild Brill with Roast Scallops, both dishes were of the usual high standard.  Then we had an extra cheese course prior to our dessert – The Chez Bruce Cheese boards are not to be missed. The dessert, which we hardly had room for after this feast, was an Apricot and Almond Tart and a Bramley Apple and Blackberry Crumble.  I would also recommend asking the friendly Sommelier to select glasses of wine to match your dishes as they have a good range by the glass (most for less than £10.00). Another nice touch here is the lovely home made shortbread that comes with the surprisingly reasonable bill. We are already looking forward to our next visit ;)

Marks out of 10

Food 8.2

Service 7.9

Ambience 7.5

Chez Bruce on Urbanspoon

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Chequers Kitchen Restaurant & Cooking School – A Foodie Oasis between Sandwich and Deal

Chequers Restaurant is located in a former pub near the Royal Cinque Golf Course. The pub has been turned into a rather lovely Restaurant and Cookery school. We first spotted it while walking from Sandwich to Deal. Our original intention was to time our walk so we could have lunch in Deal. However with at least an 1 hour or so left to walk to Deal we started to spot the signs for Chequers – 1 mile away, then 1/2 mile away. So we thought we would check it out. Wow, what a treat for a couple of foodies to find in the middle of nowhere, it was like spotting an Oasis in the Desert. We have popped in for lunch a couple of times now and its always been a delight.  Lots of locally sourced food influenced by Chef Pieter van Zyl’s South African background.

On our last visit we ordered 3 small dishes to share. Beautiful Tempura prawns with Chef Pieter’s sweet chilli sauce (I keep ordering them when I visit because they are so good), Spanish Omelette and really tasty Cape Malay pickled fish along with warm homemade bread. The Chef also gave us a taster of Vichyssoise which was perfect for a warm day. Then for dessert we ordered ice cream. Not just any ice cream, it was Taywell ice cream. Their Honeycomb ice cream is seriously good.

Chequers do lots of interesting events and cookery demonstrations so it’s well worth checking out their web site -www.chequersrestaurant.com.

Marks out of 10

Food 7

Service 7

Ambience 7

Chequers Kitchen Restaurant & Cookery School on Urbanspoon

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Prawn and Pig pop up on the Ramsgate Riviera

It’s always sad when a much loved Restaurant closes. So we welcomed the chance to re visit some of dishes from the sadly missed Eddie Gilbert’s at Craig Mather and Gareth Olivers 2 Day pop up in The Mariners Ramsgate. So of course we had to order the playful Eddie Gilbert signature dish of Soft Boiled Duck Egg and Smoked Eel Soldiers (Jay Rayner’s starter of the year a few years back), it was just as I remembered it. The menu was Tapas in both food style and plate size. It included some lovely Cured Ham and Cheese Croquettes which along with the Squid, Chorizo, Pork Belly and warm weather made for a very Spanish vibe. The waitress recommended 4 dishes per person so we pretty much ordered all the dishes on the menu which was an excellent approach especially when accompanied by a nicely chilled bottle of Prosecco.

Our favorite dishes were the aforementioned croquettes and the House Soused Mackerel with warm Shallots, Potato and Water Cress. Shame this was just a pop up as it would be great to be able to have this Mediterranean style food on a more regular basis especially when Ramsgate manages so well on a warm sunny day to look very much like one of the better resorts on the Med with its stunning Marina, impressive Architecture and almost cosmopolitan atmosphere enhanced by the local language schools and increasing number of foreign tourists.

Hopefully after the success of this pop up we will see more of this type of event. In the meantime there are the excellent Gala Dinners organized at East Kent College where Craig and Gareth are Chef Lecturer’s to look forward too.

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The Corner House – Minster

The Corner House is a restaurant with rooms in the lovely village of Minster near Ramsgate. The head chef is Matt Sworder who worked in several London restaurants training with Gordon Ramsay (La Noisette), Anthony Demetre (Les Deux Salons) and Adam Byatt (Bistro Union) before returning home to his roots in Kent.

The Corner House, formally Mortons Fork has always had a good reputation locally, but with its re-branding, refurbishment and new chef, it has upped its game.  It has two dining areas with a bar and kitchen area in the middle. I liked the entrance where you walk in and see all the freshly baked bread. There is a real warmth to the place. The staff are friendly and efficient, nothing is too much trouble. The food is distinctly British and locally sourced.

The home made bread is really good and do eat your crusts as they are very tasty. We also found a couple of gems on the menu. The Beetroot cured Salmon, cucumber jelly and horseradish cream starter was excellent as was the Duck breast with spiced puy  lentils, peppers and pea shoots. A couple of the other dishes were more ordinary – the Venison Steak and Chips, and the Asparagus with Egg were pretty conventional, so on my next visit I will definitely try and go for the more exotic options.

Desserts were a highlight, we had a lovely white chocolate cheesecake and delicious home made Brown Bread Praline Ice Cream served in a Kilner Jar. You can see how much we enjoyed our desserts from the empty plate/jar in the photograph ;)

Marks out of 10

Food 6.2

Service 6

Ambience 6

UPDATE – March 2015 : The Corner House won the The Taste of Kent Best Restaurant in Kent Award 2015.

The Corner House on Urbanspoon

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