Tucked away in the basement of the Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate you will find the Empire Room restaurant, which captures the essence of an archetypal gentlemens club in the glory days of the British Empire. The restaurant has the look and feel of a special occasion venue but surprisingly with its reasonably priced set lunch and set dinner you won’t need to spend a fortune to have a lovely meal here.
The Empire Room certainly isn’t your average sea side town hotel dining room. The chef is well known in the area, he is Michelin-trained chef, Craig Mather the former head chef at the highly acclaimed and sadly missed fish restaurant Eddie Gilbert’s (one of his Eddie Gilbert dishes was Jay Rayner’s starter of the year a few years ago – which is praise indeed). Craig has for the past few years also been a Chef lecturer at East Kent College. So after reading about him taking over at the Empire Room Restaurant, we decided to go there for lunch. The set menu option is incredible value for money and we enjoyed some beautifully presented dishes along with a complimentary glass of house wine. The menu is seasonal and the highlight for me was the Fennel and Beetroot marinated Salmon with Potato mousse, a tasty and refreshing dish that was a perfect for the warm summer weather, as was the excellent ice cream served with biscuit crumb.
The restaurant has definitely upped its game since my last visit a few years back and is a great addition to the burgeoning Ramsgate dining scene.
The Empire room is normally accessed directly from its entrance on Nelson Crescent, but the hotel manager kindly let us exit via the hotel itself, which has a cosy lounge, attractive breakfast room and stunning sea views.
If you love the Empire Room you should also try their sister restaurant Little Ships. It’s in a great spot overlooking Ramsgate Royal Harbour, perfect for people watching, it’s a bit pricier than surrounding restaurants/bars but the portions are generous and the quality of the ingredents make it well worth a visit or two.
UPDATE October 2019 New Head Chef is Ross Barden (ex Sands Hotel, Margate). Craig Mather is now Executive Head Chef and is often seen at the stove in Little Ships .
UPDATE July 2021. Michelin-trained Chef Jack Hancock pops up in The Empire Room with Hearth Restaurant.
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.
The Waterside Restaurant is situated in a boutique hotel of the kind that goes a long way to revitalizing British Seaside resorts, every good resort should have one or better still half a dozen such places.
Our first visit to The Waterside was in the heart of winter and I guess the fact it was thriving then should have been the first clue to how special this place was. Something the AA recognized earlier this year by awarding it a second Rosette.
When we arrived it was nice to be welcomed back by the waitress who remembered us from our earlier visits. We had a good start – ordering a glass of Moet at a fraction of the price we would have paid in London.
The menu changes frequently enough to make it interesting. I started with the King Scallops Sweet Plate – The scallops are served with mustard brulee and cashew nut baklava, this is a dish I have had before and one I am pleased they keep on the menu. My companion ordered the crab and crayfish salad a new addition to the menu which was delicious. It took a while to choose my main course as I was torn between several of the dishes. l finally settled on the Sea Bream served very simply with potato and spinach salad – perfect. My companion had the Fillet of Plaice served with a divine crayfish risotto and scallops. The only disappointment of the evening was that they did not have the stunning Basil Ice cream we had on our last visit on their list of home made ices, but I still enjoyed the Toffee, Apple & Cinnamon and Banana & Mango ice creams that were on offer along with a nice glass of Moscatel.
We retired to the bar for cocktails. Where they serve a mixture of classic cocktails and boutique cocktails. I had an Aqua, one of the boutique cocktails containing Lycee and Melon liqueur, Vodka, Gin, Cointreau, Lime Juice and lemonade – very refreshing and a nice way to end a lovely evening.
This may have been my third visit to The Waterside but it certainly will not be my last. I don’t need the sunshine to draw me to Eastbourne when the town boasts a restaurant of this calibre, and it’s only an hour and a half away from London by train 😉
However unlike the Foliage and Parc des Eaux Vives which also closed this year. Harveys closure was deserved. We can only hope that this prime spot on the harbour does not stay closed for too long.
We have also been cheeky using the tag line “Gone for a Burton” – a play on the celebrity chef John Burton Race’s name. Isle One got in first with that one, but since they seem to have used one of our photographs without crediting us (tut….tut) it seemed only fair that we copy their tag line.
UPDATE – November 2010
Harveys has now been replaced by Jacks (The Cantina on the Marina) . I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Why the council gave the go ahead to deface this building situated in a prime location on a Victorian Harbour is beyond me. This really is in bad taste and we haven’t even tried the food yet!
UPDATE May 2011 – The “Orange Blot” that was Jacks is gone, the building now has a new more suitable paint job. Wonder who will move into this prime spot next? It would be a great location for Eddie Gilberts if they were thinking of expanding.
Does it give gourmets a good reason to leave London?
Well, it is most definitely a find, already fully booked weeks in advance, and serving up top notch food that puts a lot of London Restaurants too shame.
Getting there is really easy now too, 1 hour 16 minutes on the high speed train from St Pancras to Ramsgate then a 5 minutes taxi ride.
It is located on Ramsgates’ King Street. Not the most salubrious of locations as it is a few streets away from the more attractive harbour area. However as soon as you part the chainmail curtains at the entrance to the fishmongers on the ground floor you just know this place is a quality establishment.
To start we had the scallops and what is fast becoming Eddie Gilberts signature dish, duck egg and smoked eel soldiers, both delicious. Then came the main courses, we went for the turbot and the cod with chorizo, another two stunning dishes. All the dishes were well cooked with nicely balanced flavours. You do get the impression that you could choose anything on the menu and not be disappointed.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the quality and presentation of the desserts. The only weak spot if we were being picky was the limited choice of dessert wines, from an otherwise fairly impressive wine list. The Trimbach Pinot Gris was a good match for the dishes we chose.
This restaurant deserves the plaudits it has received from the national press. We certainly plan to return.
UPDATE : August 2011, added a few more pictures from a return visit.
Harveys of Ramsgate, part of Kent Inns of Distinction, is marketed as a dedicated seafood restaurant using locally landed fish. A fabulous idea, in theory.
Celebrity TV chef John Burton-Race of the Michelin-starred New Angel in Dartmouth is connected with it, loosely I hope, based on the standards achieved here, both in terms off food and service.
I can not see this place, surviving the winter. I certainly will not be returning or recommending this unjustifiably overpriced venue. Neither the food quality or the level of service matched the look of the venue. Bland Fish, and one of the worst deserts I have ever had (hard meringue!). Plates passed across my companion at the table, come on – anywhere that typically charges £20 for mains, needs to deliver something a bit special. Then there is the ambience issue, sitting next to a large noisy table of 10 in a half empty restaurant is far from ideal. This is most definitely not my idea of “fine dining”.
Its pretension without the quality, delivering expensive badly cooked food. Just another “Faux Gourmet” experience.