Of course there’s always a time and place to wear a Kiss Me Quick Hat, push £1.62 into a Penny Cascade machine and enjoy some candy floss while banging around in a bumper car.
Thankfully that place is not Minnis Bay, else as well as JW Turner, whose paintings were heavily influenced by this coastline, proverbially turning in his grave, I’d have turned the car round without stopping.
Instead Minnis Bay is a super simple beach. It has the obligatory concrete wall to Canute the sea back, a lifeguard station and beach huts. And that is that.
Perched about 100 metres back and 20 metres up is the Minnis Bar & Restaurant, one of those rare places which seems to offer something for every type of diner – and achieves it.
It was my wife’s birthday so we’d been back to the hotel – we stayed at the wonderful Walpole Bay Hotel in Cliftonville, Margate, which is a whole story in itself – and scrubbed ourselves, and the children, up.
But we could have equally been straight off the beach, covered in sand with a dog or two in tow. The generous patio area was filled with such families enjoying the late evening sunshine, a beer and a bucket of mussels.
Instead of joining them we went through to the restaurant for a civilized meal, or as civilized as it gets when there’s a two- and four-year-old in the party.
The picture window and its stunning view over the Bay dominates everything else in the restaurant – the setting is so amazing that it’s only right for the interior to be straightforward and simple.
The same could not be said of the menu, which offered contemporary takes on some firm favourites, and was flexible enough to accommodate dietary requirements.
My eldest daughter has Coeliac Disease – a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten – which can make it tricky to eat out. But an earlier phone call and a chat with our waiter made it clear we didn’t need to worry – the chefs could tailor nearly all of the dishes to make them gluten free.
This level of bespoke cooking was a welcome relief, especially after spending the last two weeks camping in Germany, where nobody was willing to serve up even a cheese omelet in case it was contaminated. Insert own health and safety grumble here: ……………………………………………
We ordered our starters of Deep Fried Fresh Spicy Crispy Squid (nice, but perhaps a little tough, and also tricky to say while supping a superb pint of Gadds’ Seasider), some marvelous mussels and then the mains (more later) when we heard those magic words: “Would you like us to bring the childrens’ mains with your starter?”.
“Yes we would. Definitely, please, before they start the ‘I’m hungreeeeeeeeee’ Mexican moan.”
Having simple tastes the girls shared a roast beef dinner, which came with the most amazing (gluten free) gravy and some very pleasing roast potatoes.
After enjoying our starters, the beer, the silent eating of our children and the view we were nicely relaxed and ready for our mains.
My wife had her first ever Baked Crab, and I opted for Mackerel with Marinated Spice Cucumber, which I loved.
The Crab was less of a success, but not because of the quality of the cooking, which scored high, but because of her taste buds. “That’s the first and last time I’m having crab,” she said. “Well done for trying it,” I answered, forgetting for a moment that it was her 30-something birthday, and not her fourth.
With mains at around £12-£15 [chk] we felt that the pricing was at the top end of the range for the food we were served, but agreed that the whole package of the location, the view, the ambience and the service made it worth the money.
And we reached that conclusion before dessert.
After looking the menu over I was very tempted to carry on the family tradition, as started by my dear departed dad, of asking “for a little bit of everything please” as they all looked so good, but I figured that would be inappropriate.
Then we spotted it – The Minnis Platter, a selection of miniature desserts. Perfect. And they were, despite having to go halvies with my wife. Well, it was her birthday.
By this point we’d exhausted our childrens’ good manners and ability to sit still, so we said our farewells and went for a post-prandial paddle in the setting sun – a perfect end to a great meal out.
• The Minnis Bar & Restaurant, The Parade, Minnis Bay, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9QP. www.theminnis.co.uk 01843 841 844
• Evening meal for four (excluding drinks) £62
• Open from 10am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, 10am to 10.30pm on Sunday