A popular choice for day-trippers in the southeast looking for a foodie day out by the sea, Whitstable deserves a little more lingering. In the summer, especially, this quaint little fishing town comes alive with the sound of fish and chip papers rustling, Prosecco bottles being popped on the beach and oyster shells being cracked open. And each July it even hosts a whole festival dedicated to local oysters.
It’s not strictly in Whitstable (happily if you want to escape the crowds it’s in neighbouring Tankerton, where the beach is quieter) but Jojo’s is a local institution. Renowned for its casual vibe and vibrant tapas-style menu (firm favourites include excellent cured meats, lamb cannon and calamari but there are always a few daily specials) bookings need to be made in advance, especially for dinner at weekends.
The cafe at the front is a good spot for a coffee or a freshly squeezed juice. If the weather is nice, sit out at the front and watch kite-surfers riding past. jojosrestaurant.co.uk
2. David Brown’s Deli and Wine Bar
To pick up a beachside picnic, head straight to David Brown’s Deli and Wine Bar. You’ll find plump olives, excellent Serrano ham and delicious pasties de nata as well as excellent coffee in the deli (spot all the locals outside it drinking espressos in the morning).
Next door is a small but perfectly formed wine bar with just one table; book it to enjoy a lunch of small sharing plates such as antipasti, chicken liver parfait and locally caught fish. Swing by on a Friday night in the summer and people will be spilling out onto the street. davidbrowndeli.co.uk
3. Sundae Sundae
There’s not much space inside Sundae Sundae ice cream parlour and sweet shop but it’s great fun and very cute. An Aladdin’s Cave of fun, kitschy sweets and memorabilia, children will love its quirkiness. sundaesundae.co.uk
4. The Cheese Box
Head to The Cheese Box on Harbour Street for all manner of local cheeses from Dark Horse Ancient Ashmore to Kentish Blue. It also sells cheeses from further afield. Order a cheeseboard to eat in, with a glass of wine. Or, if you’re after something more substantial, stock up here then head next door to its new sister restaurant headed up by local chef Michelle Booth. Wednesday nights are all about pies. thecheesebox.co.uk
5. The Wine Room
Serious wine buffs should make their way to The Wine Room in Tankerton, a spacious and well thought-out wine shop run by the knowledgeable Henry Rymill. Try to coincide your visit with one of the shops regular midweek wine tastings; they’re often focused on a particular region and paired with small plates from Jojo’s for a small fee. Rymill likes to champion English wines too so there’s a great range of those to sample. wine-room.co.uk
6. The Twelve Taps
The Twelve Taps is the newest bar in Whitstable and, even though it’s only been open for a short time, it’s all ready popular. The vibe is chilled and dogs are welcome. Try artisan gins such as Silent Pool, from Surrey, or Blackwoods, from the Shetlands (there are around 13 gins on the drinks menu), or order a Blueprint coffee or one of a regularly changing line-up of craft beers. The owners have plans to add food, too. thetwelvetaps.co.uk
7. The Front Rooms
A ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ b&b that’s unassuming from the outside but smart and cool inside The Front Rooms is attached to a contemporary art gallery and always has a log fire on the go in the winter. Set in a Victorian townhouse, guests staying in one of its three bedrooms enjoy a simple but carefully put-together continental breakfast delivered to their room or taken in the gallery (think granola, croissants, fresh berries and yoghurt).
It’s handily located, a short walk from Harbour Street and opposite the seafront but set back far enough to avoid the beachside jingle jangle of boats at night. thefrontrooms.co.uk
8. The Sportsman
Probably the most well-known restaurant in the area, The Sportsman is a Michelin-starred gastropub in Seasalter but isn’t half as pretentious as that sounds. Take a taxi out to it for lunch then enjoy a leisurely walk back along the coast to walk off any excess. Bookings need to be made quite far in advance but it’s worth it.
The menu changes frequently but there are always local meat and fish dishes (think Monkshill lamb, Thornback ray or Whitstable native oysters – at their best in July). Puddings are outstanding; we liked the apple soufflé with salted caramel ice cream. thesportsmanseasalter.co.uk
9. The Oyster and Chop House
Not many people venture to Herne Bay for lunch or dinner. They do so mainly to go to the pier and the arcades, or for fish and chips. But our tip is to venture there specifically to eat at The Oyster and Chop House. Produce is sourced from the surrounding areas, including game from local hunter, John Caddick, and it’s great value. The seared scallops with apple and homemade cured ham are delicious, as is the steak bavette. oysterandchophouse.co.uk
10. VC Jones
The best fish and chips in Whitstable? VC Jones, hands down in our book. The reason? They cook their chips in beef fat. True, the flavour isn’t for everyone but the smell wafting out onto Harbour Street is enough to lure us in every time.
It’s a family owned and run chippie and has been for three generations, and one of the family will likely be serving you your supper. There’s almost always a queue of people outside, either waiting for a takeaway to eat on the beach, or waiting to eat in the restaurant. vcjones.co.uk
Words and pictures by Leanne Bracey, June 2016
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