22 July 2014

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Rocksalt - 199762_148331545231465_143140355750584_297024_6875257_n_-_2011.jpgSalt marsh lamb, fresh fish, Whitstable oysters, apples, cherries, cheesemakers galore – the gentle landscape of the Garden of England is stuffed with artisan growers and producers. Add the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale (150 acres of orchards displaying 4,000 historic varieties), a profusion of farmers’ markets and independent food shops, and it’s obvious that Kent is no longer a place to pass through on the way to the Channel ports – it’s a place to relish, to explore. For the past decade, the county has been a magnet for talented chefs whose top priority is to promote the wealth of fantastic produce on their doorstep. With a choice ranging from Michelin stars to cheerful, budget eateries, Kent is a fabulous place to eat out.

Age & Son, Ramsgate

The Victorian warehouse setting belies the fact that this is a bright, modern café-cum-restaurant with no shortage of ambition and confidence. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s a popular spot with locals who flock in for the excellent-value, seasonal menus.

Albariño, Broadstairs

In the somewhat paradoxical setting of a faded seaside town, Albariño’s authentic taste of Spain is happily combined with an uncompromising devotion to local ingredients. From gurnard to slow-cooked ox cheek, it’s food that feels right for the time and place.

The Allotment, Dover

This terrific neighbourhood venue is a refreshing antidote to most standardised high-street eateries, thanks partly to its all-day modus operandi. Ingredients are sourced principally from local suppliers to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner, with coffee and cakes filling in the gaps.

Eddie Gilbert, Ramsgate

Jettison all preconceptions about chippies as you walk through the takeaway/wet fish section to the restaurant above. The cooking is broad in scope and has plenty to please, from roast local cod to ballottine of braised Alkham Valley lamb.

Kent coastline - iStock_000019112075Small_Kent.jpgKent coastline - iStock_000019112075Small_Kent.jpgThe Goods Shed, Canterbury

Britain’s only all-week farmers’ market is where lucky Kent foodies descend to buy locally grown produce or grab a bite in the unpretentious restaurant. Impeccable produce from the stalls and the kitchen’s ability to let natural flavours shine through keep regulars coming back for more.

JoJo’s, Whitstable

Happily settled into its tapas-style premises overlooking the North Sea, JoJo’s has worn in and warmed up very nicely. This is what a neighbourhood restaurant is meant to be: low key and comfortable, with a robustly seasonal and quirky menu. From Kentish wild venison to fish from local day boats, everything is prepared with enviable simplicity.

The Marquis at Alkham, Alkham

It is hard to believe that such a little gem is thriving in the heart of an out-of-the-way Kentish village, but this contemporary restaurant-with-rooms ticks all the right epicurean boxes. The food demonstrates devotion to the locality, so you’ll find rabbits and venison, vegetables, eggs and beer – all procured from the Kent countryside.

Read’s, Faversham

David and Rona Pitchford continue to do what they do best: serving up inspired modern classics that make the most of top-quality, seasonal ingredients. David’s experience behind the stove shows in his deep understanding of flavour – but he’s not afraid to keep things simple. One of Kent’s finest.

rocksalt_2011 - Rocksalt4.jpgRocksalt, Folkestone (pictured, right)

Mark Sargeant made his name with Gordon Ramsay, and his thoroughly modern, solo gaff already has high-profile status as a place to eat – coupled with a fabulous harbour location. Menus take full advantage of the local catch and top-drawer bounty from the surrounding countryside, with a pleasing assortment of clear, brightly flavoured dishes on offer.

The Sportsman, Whitstable

A shabby pub on a down-at-heel coastal road may seem an unlikely place of pilgrimage, but folk come from all over – The Sportsman is one of the most famous eating-places in the country. Based on determinedly local supplies and enterprising home production, Steve Harris’s cooking is impressively simple in concept and dazzling in execution.

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