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|Address:||Samphire 4 High Street, Whitstable, Kent CT5 1BQ|
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Excitement and expectation often surrounds news of a new chef in a popular restaurant. Which new dishes will arrive? Will the style of food be changed? However, the transfer process can also be an upheaval as new ingredients need to be sourced and new menus designed.
I went along to the trendy Samphire restaurant in Whitstable, a place I have had very good meals in the past, following news of a new boss in the kitchen.
The atmosphere in Samphire is always excellent. Old-style wooden tables, candlelight and the buzz of customers with good background music fills the air. The menu is concise and balanced between meat, fish and vegetable-based dishes, with adventurous options available.
We started with an appetiser board of olives, marinated tomatoes with fried almonds and an oil and vinegar pot for the slices of white bloomer that accompanied it.
I couldn’t say with certainty that the bread was baked on the premises, while for £5 I thought it could have been warmed. For my first course I went with the leek vinaigrette salad topped with brown shrimps. Four cut leeks were topped with a delicious dressing, which was sharp but did overpower the shrimps a little.
My guest went for the fennel and salami salad with blood orange and goat’s cheese. The over- generous oil dressing really detracted from the salami flavour and saturated the fennel. The blood orange was replaced with a normal orange in a dish that won’t live long in the memory.
For our main course I went for the sumptuous Monkshill Farm pork belly on a bed of creamy mashed potato and savoy cabbage. It was accompanied by a generous-sized portion of crackling and a delicious apple sauce that sweetly complemented the pork. This was more like it! The pork was cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth – it was superb.
My guest went for the leek gratin with poached egg and grain mustard. A quick taste confirmed that the poached egg was very nice and the mustard flavours an extra kick. It wasn’t a bad dish, but my guest wished she had gone for the ‘less plain’ braised ox cheek on the menu.
The portion sizes were very good, as has always been the way at Samphire, and so on this occasion we decided against dessert and had another drink to soak up the atmosphere.
The service is still very good and the dishes are still at the top end of what we had come to expect from a restaurant with a good reputation, but we found that attention to detail in making sure dishes had just the right balance was a little off.
The bill came to £62.80.
With a new chef and a new menu, things were always going to take time to bed in and be exactly as desired by the new maestro in the kitchen. I am looking forward to giving Samphire another try in the near future