Two days in Margate; where to eat
For a proper British seaside trip, set your sat nav in the direction of Margate. Despite its postcard-scenic sandy beach and vintage amusement park, there’s so much more to this coastal Kent town than sandcastles and ice cream cones…
If you’re planning a trip to Margate, ensure these foodie hotspots, rounded up by Lucy Golding, are on your to-do list.
This multicoloured, mini street-food mecca has become the poster-boy for millennial Margate and its emerging culinary credentials, bringing what could only be described as the lovechild of POP Brixton and a bohemian beach club to the Royal Crescent promenade. Having opened in 2017, the Sun Deck has brought a touch of tropical climes to this Kentish town as DJs muse their Marbella dreams and locals order margaritas as the sun starts to set. For a bite to eat, try creole fish hut Po’ Boy, or grab a Pork & Co burger – an outlet of Canterbury’s popular pulled pork joint.
Once the Sun Deck shuts up shop at 7pm, continue to soak in the Atlantic views and sweeping coastline with an Aperol spritz or rum punch, just a couple of minutes’ walk away at Ziggy’s . This Jamaican inspired rooftop bar sits on the cusp of Dreamland. If you’d prefer to keep the mood a little calmer, then venture along the seafront and up the sophistication with a glass of local sparkling wine at the beach-facing balcony of the Sand’s Hotel.
If beer is your jam, Xylo – which opened in summer 2019 – is embracing the Shoreditch-on-sea tagline that Margate is beginning to make its own, with a minimalist, sea-front-facing microbrewery and tap room.
Around 100 pairs of illustrated breasts etched across its frontage welcomes diners to quirky Hantverk & Found and adjoining wine bar Big Naturals, located on picturesque King Street – indisputably Margate’s prettiest thoroughfare. Whether a depiction of the bar’s namesake or homage to its very own art gallery situated on the first floor, it’s an appropriate welcome to a creative gem of a restaurant with something really special about it.
Begin with a glass of biodynamic wine and bowl of beautifully salt-laden padron peppers in the Big Naturals courtyard. Stroll through to the dining room (The Hantverk & Found part), where seafood is the speciality.
Using Kent-sourced seafood, its influences stem from further afield with dishes including Japanese dressed oyster with yuzu ponzu and toasted nori. Share a few small plates before getting messy with a whole cracked crab or seared trout served with peas a la Française and caviar, whilst rattling through the frequently changing wine list.
New Street Bistro
See in Sunday lunch back in the Old Town and at the recently opened New Street Bistro, headed-up by chef Tomas Eriksson; a kitsch and cosy 16-cover spot oozing with small town charm.
With little room to swing a lobster, conversing with neighbouring tables is virtually unavoidable here and perhaps the intention. Tomas is behind the town’s acclaimed supperclub venture, Margate Supper; so communal dining is clearly in his blood.
Service is comprised of a supremely slick and attentive one-woman band, whilst a full restaurant brings with it the heart-warming hum of a neighbourhood-bistro buzz.
The in-your-face and fabulous Bus Café is a must-visit breakfast spot during any weekend in Margate – whether it’s a cosy table on the upper-deck, or a sea view bench outside. You can’t book and it fills up fast, as they serve up a hearty and healthy (ish) breakfast and lunch menu catering to vegans, gluten-free folk and those looking for something to soak up a hangover.
Enjoy the signature ‘Hash Mound’ consisting of various ingredients piled generously onto a potato and red onion rostie. We tried ‘The Hangover’, an unapologetically and rustically orchestrated pile of organic goodness; think re-fried baked beans, gluten-free sausage, mumbled eggs, mushrooms and spinach with homemade ketchup.
Allegedly, a favourite haunt of Margate local and incognito food critic Marina O’Loughlin – the grade two listed Post Office has been successfully converted from its former function to something surprisingly boujee.
Brimming with natural light, the expansive and high-ceilinged space is a cool and calming sanctuary from the bustle of the old town. It’s the kind of restaurant you’d expect to stumble on in a grandeur spa town, and not the once-shabby seaside resort Ms O’Loughlin affectionately refers to as Margz’.
The wine at The Post Office not only keeps things predominantly French, but natural – whilst wine man Jeremy and his team knowledgeable team will happily hand-pick a small selection to pair with each course, with the odd cheeky bin end thrown into the mix.
Described by a local friend as ‘so good it will make you weep Italian cooking’, Bottega Caruso cannot be rushed. A long lunch is definitely in order here, which one could well extend into dinner if the choice presented itself and tables were ever available last minute which, understandably, they never are.
Husband and wife team, Harry and Simona, run the show. They clearly have a passion for Margate, fine produce and each other, meaning results are a Southern Italian kind of seduction, with a lovingly-orchestrated and authentic menu influenced by Campania, where Simona is from. Let Harry take the lead with his dish recommendations, and he’ll no doubt suggest the parmigiana, a Caruso favourite and the Vedura e fagioli – Simona’s grandma’s recipe, a light green stew made with greens and beans.
The pasta is made daily with ancient grains imported from Sannio, so good you may cry (the Troccoli all’ortolana should come with tissues), whilst the Polpette di pane al sugo (ragu and meatballs) is worth ordering for its tomato sauce alone, and made by Simona’s family in Italy. The sauce is also sold in Bottega Caruso’s in-house shop, alongside hand-crafted pasta, handmade cheeses and cured meats from Castelpoto.
The Store Room
Set back from the madness of the sea-front frolics, you’re unlikely to stumble upon The Store Room by chance, which is set on the first floor of creative-hub Printworks in Union Row, and the flagship site of Margate-based coffee roaster Curve.
On a Sunday morning, this is where one will find the yoga-mat-wielding ‘Margate-ians’, swanning-in all chillaxed and toned, to take a pew in the light and calming café space or adjoining patio – perfect for those sunny days.
The coffee, which is roasted just up the road at Cliff’s in Cliftonville – is all about celebrating the best of seasonal blends and predominantly south and central American sourced beans, bags of which are also on sale on site alongside keep-cups and fancy filters. The brunch menu (served from 9am-3pm) brings big flavours and portion sizes to match with a selection of open sandwiches on sourdough. The rocket aubergine with seeds, sriracha & a soft-boiled egg or the smoked salmon with pickled fennel & onion, created with ingredients of note-worthy quality will knock the wellness right into you. For something a little dirtier, the cheddar & kimchi grilled cheese sandwich is garnering a legendary status amongst those in the know.
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