Stark – Broadstairs

I had not been to Stark since they moved a few doors down from the original ex sandwich shop in Oscar Road (their old premises is the home of their sister restaurant Dos). They are now located in a very “Instagrammable” wooden shack like building. I loved the new decor with it’s cool vibe. It felt like a little bit of San Francisco/New York in Broadstairs.

Getting a reservation in this tiny restaurant takes some doing, I needed to book a table for visiting friends so was limited on my dates, I marked my diary for 3 months in advance and basically checked their website almost daily for about two weeks after that to see if they had released a table on a suitable date. I was close to giving up on the idea when a slot popped up. (A comment from someone on my Instagram feed describes Stark as “the most difficult Michelin starred restaurant in the world to bag” – not sure that’s the case, but it takes some perseverance).

The restaurants focus is seasonal tasting menus with matching flights of wine, so you can just sit back and relax, there’s no need to waste time pouring over menus.

We started of with Kofta lollipops and tasty bits of Pork belly flavoured with mint, cucumber, yogurt and some warm crusty bread (needed to mop up the mint, cucumber & yogurt), very moreish.

After that it was a well paced delivery of beautifully presented dishes and matching wines.

Although we struggled a bit to keep up with the wine, our fault for talking so much I expect.

The standout dish for all of us was the fish – an absolute stunner of a dish simply described as Hake, Seaweed, Shrimp. With a rather lovely matching white wine.

I couldn’t eat all the dessert, a bit too much chocolate for me, as I was already full by that stage. It was served with a glass of Emilio Hidalgo PX sherry, a controversal choice at our table, as not everyone has a sweet tooth like I do. I’ve drunk a lot of different brands of PX over the years and the Hidalgo one is arguably the best, liquid heaven (I actually have a bottle in the house, unopened waiting for a suitable occasion to indulge).

Stark is not a cheap night out especially given it’s status as Thanet’s only Michelin starred restaurant.  You have to admire their bravery for realising their own vision (their hopes & fears are literally written on the ceiling & plates). They have created a wonderfully cool and relaxed atmosphere with Sophie as front of house and Ben working hard in the open kitchen.

Stark is a great destination restaurant for a special occasion.

 

UPDATE: July 23 – Sister restaurant Dos mentioned above is now closed.

UPDATE : March 24 – Closing with last service on 31 May. New Restaurant will be opening on Mersea Island in Essex in June.

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Travellers in Italy – Pizzeria & Rosticceria (Closed)

On our visit to Ramsgate’s newest restaurant (it’s only been open for three weeks at the time of writing this review) executive chef Craig Mather was manning the small Kitchen area and pizza oven left over from Pizza Express, the previous tenants of this landmark building overlooking the Royal Harbour.

Travellers in Italy may be a strange name for a restaurant but I think any travellers to Italy would be more than happy to find somewhere that served Pizza this good. The sourdough base was lovely, but what really stood out to me when I took the first bite of my Tartiflette Pizza (crispy smoked pancetta, slow cooked onions, confit garlic, Jersey Royals, cream, parmesan and thyme) was the delicious fresh ingredients used to create it.  My companion had the Gamberi Pizza (King Prawn, chilli, cherry tomatoes, rocket and parmesan) which he was equally enamoured with. GB Pizza in Margate make excellent Pizza and are understandably renowned locally, but I have to say based on this visit, Travellers in Italy can give them a run for their money.

I couldn’t manage a whole Pizza, so they very kindly boxed the remaining slice. Here’s hoping it reheats ok, as I’d hate to waste it.

The room looks lovely now, so much warmer looking than its previous incarnation and the staff are both friendly and efficient.

James Thomas the owner of the Royal Harbour Hotel is building a small restaurant empire here in Ramsgate, first with the Empire Room in the basement of the Royal Harbour Hotel, then Little Ships the excellent brasserie overlooking the harbour and now Travellers in Italy. I wonder what’s next.

UPDATE September 2022 – Recently dined here with visiting friends, who were very happy with the quality of the pizza, the efficient service and the lovely view over the Marina.

The Empire Room mentioned in the above review is now closed.

UPDATE July 2023 – Travellers in Italy is now closed.

 

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Using Ramsgate as a Hub

One of Ramsgate’s strengths is its excellent infrastructure, with multiple high speed train routes from London and some very useful bus routes.

This makes Ramsgate an ideal place to use as a hub  to visit the nearby places of interest (although there’s lots to see and do locally in Ramsgate too). If you’re visiting Ramsgate for a bit longer you may want to go further afield – for example to try one of the four 1 Star Michelin Restaurants within easy reach.

  • Stark in Broadstairs is only 5 minutes away by Taxi or you can build up an appetite with a leisurely 40 minute coastal walk. (UPDATE : Closing with last service on 31 May. New Restaurant will be opening on Mersea Island in Essex in June).
  • The Fordwich Arms is a 20 minute train ride to Sturry and a pleasant 15 minute walk or a 5 minute taxi ride to the tiny village of Fordwich.
  • The Sportsman in Seasalter is a 35 minute train ride to Whitstable and a 10 minute taxi ride to Seasalter.
  • The Bridge Arms in the village of Bridge near Canterbury.

The Map below covers these restaurants and some other restaurants and cafes to try on Day Trips.

Day Trips from Ramsgate

The following Map provides some ideas for day trips from Ramsgate. These suggestions are generally less than one hours drive away and reachable via Public Transport.

The Map includes Museums, Castles, Vineyards, Wildlife Parks, Nature Reserves and places that provide activities like Climbing, Gliding, Ballooning, Canoeing & Boat Trips.

If you’re visiting Ramsgate and planning to stay local. Check out the Visit Ramsgate Website and the Maps & Trails page that covers Eating & Drinking, Tourist Attractions and Activities in Ramsgate.

You will also find lots of useful information covering eating, drinking, shopping and accommodation in the No Expert East Kent/Thanet Guide.

 

 

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Time for Christmas Decorations

No Expert Maps

It’s almost time to put up the Christmas decorations!

December is just days away, and there’s already lots of Christmas activities being advertised, so this weekend I’m doing a Christmas swap over for some of the standard No Expert Maps  (ones that that apply all year round and cover the locations of Restaurants, Cafes, Bars, Pubs, Shops, Barbers, Salons and Spas). The Maps are now displayed with Christmas themed Icons.

  • The Christmas Eating & Drinking Map provides links to Christmas Menus and information on Events/Party’s.
  • The Christmas Shopping Map provides links to information on special Christmas offers.

Christmas Maps can be added to a website or blog in the run up to Christmas and removed after Christmas or included for the duration of special Christmas Events, like these ones :-

Larger Maps

The Christmas Maps (and the standard Maps) can be set up to cover quite a large number of businesses/items in a single Map, the Maps zoom facility enables you to select to focus on a specific area of the Map. You can also use the Side Menu option (click on the Side Menu icon in the top left hand corner of the Map) to not only view an index of the Maps contents, but also to switch off/on the layers being displayed.

The example below covers over 500 businesses, it is part of Thanet District Councils Shop & Eat Local this Christmas campaign.

The contents of this Map are also available in a series of smaller Maps one for each Town in Thanet – Click here to see these Maps.

You can also use the following links to go directly to the smaller Town specific Google Maps

Town Maps 

Thanet Map 

Some No Expert Map Benefits
  • Bespoke No Expert Map Icons will stand out more than the standard Google Map icons.
  • The No Expert Map Icons provide strong visual clues to the type of business/event.
  • The No Expert Maps can be kept up to date (the default Google Map displays often show business that no longer exist or have moved location).
  • The designated Layer structure allows for a logical filter method to display Mapped items.
  • Trails can be mapped out with distance information.

 

 

Click here to learn more about No Expert Mapping.

 

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STARK – good things come in small packages

STARK in Broadstairs is named after Game of Thrones Ned Stark (seriously) and like that show it’s not to be missed. It’s rare to find a restaurant of this calibre outside London, it can genuinely give that other Kent gem The Sportman in Whitstable a run for it’s money. The tiny 12 cover restaurant which is open only in the evenings Wednesday to Saturday, is run by husband and wife team Ben and Sophie Crittenden and although the food could easily grace a more sophisticated venue, the location in a former sandwich bar is comfortably casual.

The focus is entirely on a well thought out, well structured six course tasting menu with excellent ingredients and matching wines. The menu changes on a regular basis to showcase the talents of Chef Ben Crittenden formally of The West House in Biddenden.

All the dishes we had were very good, tasty and beautifully presented. Personal favourites being the pork, miso and sweet corn dish and the chocolate, coffee and buttermilk dessert. The matching wines were all very good too, although the Cotes du Rhone was a less successful pairing, as it’s always going to be difficult to match a wine with a soup dish.

Getting a booking at STARK might be a challenge, following a very positive review in the Guardian and The Good Food Guide naming Ben as the guides “chef to watch” so best to plan ahead. This is a destination restaurant and I’m thrilled that it’s on my doorstep. I certainly made sure I didn’t leave the Restaurant before I made my next booking.

My return visit confirmed Starks consistency, with another delicious tasting menu and good quality wines.

UPDATE  October 2019 – STARK has been awarded a Michelin Star and following refurbishment is now only 10 covers.

UPDATE July 2022 – The price has increased quite a bit since our first visit, which now reflects is Michelin Star status and increased produce costs.

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The Fordwich Arms – Pub Fine Dining

Having visited The Fordwich Arms a few times in the summer months, I rated it as a decent country pub. I was really pleased to hear that it had seriously raised it’s game on the food front especially after reading a glowing review in the Guardian. So we happily booked a table for lunch with high expectations.

Fine dining in a pub is very difficult to pull off.  The Sportsman in Whitstable is one of the rare places that manages it. The Fordwich Arms is trying very hard. The excellent bread and theatrically presented amuse bouche which would be quite at home in a traditional fine dining restaurant somehow jarred in the pub setting. The smell from the wood fire, the rude customer at the bar listening to what sounded like racing results on his phone, and the draft from the door when it was left open a bit too long were off putting. Although these observations may seem petty in retrospect, they illustrate the differences between fine dining in a pub and fine dining in a restaurant.

The Fordwich Arms has an a la carte menu and a set lunch menu for £35 which was inviting enough to stick too rather than splashing out out on any of the a la carte options.

My starter of Smoked Trout, Oyster, Apple and Horseradish was beautifully presented and quite lovely, my companion had the Chicken liver Parfait, Red grape and Gingerbread  which looked good with it’s grape scales, but was otherwise fairly ordinary. We both had the Chalk Farm  Sika Venison, Plum, Pumpkin and Braised Sholder Crumble for our main course. It was tasty but nothing special. For dessert we ordered the rather delicious Fordwich Snickers. To accompany the meal we ordered some wine by the glass, but were disappointed with all four rather lacklustre wines.

Paying the bill was more pub than fine dining as after waiting a bit too long for table payment we joined the customers vying to order their pints at the Bar and paid there.

It’s early days for the Fordwich Arms new management and kitchen and we wish them well, the pub is in a lovely setting by the river. The town of Fordwich (the smallest in Britain) is worth visiting. You can go Canoeing with Canoe Wild or book a relaxing river trip with Fordwich River Tours for example (starts just outside the Fordwich Arms) and for the more energetic there’s pleasant country walks to Canterbury, Stodmarsh NNR and around Westbere lake.

UPDATE October 2018 – Fordwich Arms awarded a Michelin Star.

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