Canterbury & Whitstable
I am a Canadian who will be living in Whitstable and working in Canterbury for three months starting mid-January. I am an adventurous foodie who does not eat meat or poultry but will try anything else. I am looking forward to cooking and eating local foods and also interested in dining out particularly in cheap and cheerful and mid-priced restaurants and take-away establishments. I would be grateful for any hints or suggestions for dining out and also for food shopping (natural food stores? farmers? specialty shops?).
I see you don't exclude seafood which gives you some good opportunities in this coastal county.
Wheelers Oyster Bar is the obvious choice in Whitstable and you'll probably want to check out the Sportsman at Seasalter (at least I would if I livedanywhere near there).
The Goods Shed in Canterbury is the home of the permanent farmers market and also has a reasonable restaurant.
Lots of other places round the county if you have a car for the time you're with us (although the palces I know tend to be around Dover). We're planning a few days around there in the spring - mainly for eating and a bit of tourism, so I look forward to reading your reviews.
Re: The Sportsman, it would be everyday if I lived there. It is the best pub in the UK, nothing else I have tried comes close. Stephen (Harris) the chef has one Michelin star for his food which concentrates on local produce much of which is sourced within sight of the pub.
Age & Sons gets good reviews and is in Ramsgate, plus I think there is a great curry house there as well.
It'd be great if foodhead could post about his/her trip.
My reasons are self-interested too since my wife and I are considering leaving London for Kent and knowing about more food options in the area would be great.
That said, I thought this would be the best place to post a quick review of the Goods Shed in Canterbury.
We were in Canterbury for non-food-related reasons and after a bit of research this looked like the place to have a Saturday night dinner. True to its name, the restaurant shares a large shed with a farmer's market. The restaurant is on a raised platform beside the market. We had been to the market earlier in the day and grabbed sandwiches for lunch. In the evening the market was closed, except that is for one stall which had been baking bread all day. Now, it was baking bread and bringing it up to be served at the tables in the restaurant.
For starters, I had Seared Scallops and my wife had the Crab and Armagnac tart. Scallops, fresh scallops with Roe, are one of my favorite foods. When fresh, their natural creaminess usually means that very little is needed to bring out the flavor. In this case, a bit of olive oil, garlic and chickpea puree and three beautiful scallops made for a wonderful starter. The Crab and Armagnac tart was equally a standout in flavor.
For seconds, I had the Duck Breast and my wife had the Wild Bass.The Duck Breast was perfectly seared and tender. The potatoes and spicy pear made great accompaniments, as did the bed of broccoli underneath. Served also with a sauce in which I detected a hint of aniseed (perhaps Ricard?) The Wild Bass was creamy, falling apart at the touch of a fork.
Puddings were an Apple Cake with Toffee Sauce and a Creme Brulee. The Creme Brulee was faultless, but then its creme brulee. The Apple cake was a bit dry but that was overcompensated by the rich toffee sauce.
We've been to the Sportsman in Seasalter so it is hard not to compare. The Sportsman, however, is operating at a level, in both quality and creativity of cuisine, balancing them so well, that is also an unfair comparison. The Sportsman is probably our favorite place in the U.K. at this moment too.
The Goods Shed is serving great food. The freshness and quality of the food was there. The balance with other flavors on the plate is well-done. The Mains outshone the Starters, which is not usually the case. And they both outshone the desserts which were pleasant but not outstanding.
Pricewise, the starters were 6-8, The Mains 15-19 and the desserts 6.50. This seemed a bit over-priced to us, even considering the quality of the food, for a place not in Central London.
Still, if you are in Canterbury for the evening, this is a great choice and we'll probably go back.
If you have a car, though, it is hard not to resist making that 6 mile drive up to Seasalter...