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The north Kent coast is close to my heart. We nearly moved there a few years ago and as a family we have spent many a happy day at its various seaside resorts. The Minnis Bar and Restaurant is relatively new on the scene but is making a splash already.
With space all around and literally a pebble’s throw from the beach it is attracting a variety of different crowds. In the weekday lunchtimes you have your dedicated dog walkers, preschool kids and their parents. In the evening the vibe is a bit younger and more grown up. At the weekend the day-trippers and locals come out to play, so take your pick.
We went for weekday lunch and found ourselves in the company of a few ladies of a certain age chatting away some children yet to return to school and a group of adults who we couldn’t help overhear were off on their holidays somewhere exotic. Some people will do anything to try to make you jealous.
Jason Freeman, the patron chef is passionate about local produce and unlike most London restaurants he can actually source really local food. The beef comes from the Quex Estate five miles away, cheeses are all Kentish, duck from Faversham, game and fish are all local as well.
The food really punches above its weight. It is a delight to find a good quality restaurant next to the sea that has room and giant windows to appreciate the views. And as if that wasn’t enough Jason also cures, pickles, brines, salts and smokes his own produce on site. Adding that little bit extra to an already impressive menu.
This is a down to earth restaurant with no pretentions. The bread on the table was fresh but not specialist. The wine list is simple but refreshingly affordable. We started with their own home cured and gently smoked Loch Dart salmon for M and a house smoked haddock with Parmesan and cream omelette for me. M’s salmon was very good, delicately smokey the kind of delicacy only achieved if you are in control of the whole process nothing was too overpowering. My omelette was a treat, light and fluffy but rich with a dash of cream and again this controlled smokiness of the haddock that has a long flavour. Both were delicious and I would happily eat them again.
It was a brilliantly sunny day on our visit and I couldn’t help but think that this is a perfect place for a lunchtime meal or early supper. They have seating outside so you could watch that ‘Turner’ sky glow and ebb. The Minnis Bay vista is massive and seductive. I could watch it for hours.
The mains came and this time I really lucked out. I chose wild venison with peppered local greens. This was good, slow cooked chunks of meat with a rich sauce and greens that had a real kick to them and a little butternut squash to temper the fire. This combination was a perfect balance and only improved by a glass of 2011 Valpolecella. I enjoyed this a lot, it was hearty, satisfying and very moreish. M chose slow cooked shoulder of Kentish lamb with boulangere potatoes. This was OK but lacked the depth of flavour of my dish. True they are different meats but mine was perfect whereas the lamb should have packed a bigger punch than it did.
As we perused the dessert menu we almost missed the Minnis Platter, a selection of the day’s desserts. Obviously this was a must and it didn’t disappoint. For £11 you get five or so little treats. The salted caramel and Kentish toffee apple cheesecake did seem a bit light of the toffee apple but was scrummy nonetheless. A chocolate ale cake with Muscovado and malt cream was super and the mango and passion fruit fool cut through everything in a cleansing citrus way. There were also some ice creams and sorbets on the platter of which the strawberry was a standout winner.
The Kentish cheese board was also a good move. Three cheeses, Kentish Blue, Kentish Cobble and Ashmore, all were in perfect condition and served at the right temperature. Full marks.
I could very happily have spent all afternoon there. You could also take a full traditional afternoon tea as well which I will try another day. The deft hands in the kitchen impressed me, there are little touches of class on show here that will, I feel only get better as they settle in, I’m sure if Arnold Bennett was still alive he would have approved of that omelette.
And as for those rather boastful neighbours we had at the beginning of our meal, well I would rather have a leisurely lunch looking at the sky that inspired J.M.W. Turner to paint some of the world’s most impressive seascapes than spend three hours at passport control and goodness knows how long on a plane.