A fine neighbourhood restaurant if ever we saw one, Quince finds its home in the sleepy town of Westgate - Margate's introverted cousin – where it quietly serves locals with the sort of high-quality cooking and seamless service you might expect in a higher-profile joint. Chefs and co-owners Ben Hughes and Rafael Lopez have created something special here, serving uncomplicated, produce-focused dishes that change regularly with the seasons.
The smart dining room marries charcoal grey panelled walls with warm wooden furniture and parquet flooring. Tables are large and widely spaced, while an open kitchen at the back of the restaurant has the subliminal effect of connecting diners with the food they’re about to eat. This is important, because exceptional produce and local sourcing are both non-negotiables for the team.
The ability to elevate simple ingredients to supreme heights is a skill that many chefs fail to master, but Ben and Rafa are a gifted duo and their talent shines through on every plate. An elegant starter of prawn terrine with smoky cod's roe, charred greens and crisp sourdough toast is a thing of beauty, balancing smoky, salty and umami notes with soft and chewy textures. Elsewhere, asparagus spears and gooey soft-boiled eggs with heavily salted yolks are dressed in crunchy hazelnut butter. Main course is wonderful again; beautifully cooked hake balanced on brothy, well-seasoned beans with caramelised fennel and clams. To put it more plainly: this is food you simply want to eat.
There are flashes of such inventiveness during our meal that we experience moments of genuine glee. A non-alcoholic riff on a Bellini, for example, is served in a Champagne glass with a scoop of raspberry sorbet in the middle, which we drink through short, metallic straws as it melts. Dessert is bursting with retro appeal, a punchy, orange-soaked marmalade trifle combining vanilla-specked custard, cream, fresh sponge and chunky homemade marmalade.
The restaurant is a little quiet on our visit, but warm service and the humdrum of that open kitchen in the background goes a long way to making us feel welcome and relaxed. It might be a little off the beaten track, but Quince is a gem worth travelling for.