Royal Harbour Brasserie
When it comes to seaside dining, Ramsgate’s Parisian-inspired Royal Harbour Brasserie really hits the spot. From its fabulous fresh seafood to its unrivalled seascape and sweeping views of the town’s marina and jetty, this popular Kent eatery offers the perfect refuge for the discerning coastal visitor – and then some.
by Gemma Dunn
Certain of a table with a view each and every time – and I love a view – it certainly didn’t take much persuading for me to up sticks one sunny Wednesday lunchtime in favour of a visit.
Located quite literally at the furthest end of the harbour arm, the Royal Harbour Brasserie certainly boasts a unique position on Ramsgate’s East Pier. Framed by the town’s fine Georgian and Regency houses, my backdrop of choice was the bustling working harbour – a scene I imagine would be even more magical of an evening.
Steering the ship (not literally) is executive chef, Adrian Mowl, who inspires and leads a team that wholly realise and translate his ongoing vision. An expert in the culinary field, he has trained at the Dorchester Hotel, London; worked a stint as executive chef in the London Olympic Village; launched the restaurant in Margate’s Turner Contemporary gallery; cooked the gala dinner for none other than Her Royal Majesty; and travelled extensively in his work. And now, a year or so after opening, he was cooking for little ol’ me.
Open six days a week, excluding Tuesdays, for breakfast/brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks, the brasserie may not bowl you over on its exterior alone, but upon entrance, it is an entirely different story. Running with the nautical theme, the main dining area blends wooden floors, mismatched seating and leather furnishings with naval excerpts such as shabby chic wicker fishing baskets and quirky sea creatures. A cheerful setting, this and the suntrap terrace, offer a relaxed, informal venue for those guests hankering to try out the brasserie’s gastronomy.
While it seems only right that the restaurant’s cuisine is a product of its palpable beachfront location, there is in fact a more profound logic behind its fabulous selection of seafaring menus. Quite simply, Mowl likes to cook the kind of food he enjoys eating (makes sense), and that happens to be – you guessed it – seafood. Luckily, I am also a fan of the seafood diet. Seafood and eat it, to be more precise.
Therefore, in full support of my ‘diet’, I opted for a crispy calamari starter. And for those who love this Mediterranean-inspired dish, the brasserie’s golden-brown freshly fried offering was certainly an unalloyed delight, paired with a fabulous aioli dip. An equally popular plate, my guest picked a classic chicken liver pâté. A rich and ultra-smooth concoction, the delicious homemade paste made for a divine choice, accompanied by hot toast and a Bramley apple and red wine chutney.
Next up, and the brasserie’s catch of the day had made its way onto my to-eat list. Highly commended for its sea-fresh options, the eatery prides itself on serving up locally caught produce from the South East coastline. On this occasion, I enjoyed a sweet, flavourful fillet of sea bass, met with new potatoes, cavolo nero, and steamed mussels in a fragrant, creamy dill sauce. Bon Appétit.
Meanwhile my guest, a confessed carnivore, went for fillet steak. The crème de la crème of the steak world, the prime cut was melt-in-the-mouth tender and served with a crisp rosti, braised shallots and a traditional Madeira jus. Refreshingly, the restaurant realises the need to cater for those who may favour meat or veggie dishes over fishy-favourites, and offers a variety of options to suit.
Not the average mid-week lunch, I came to the favourable conclusion that if I’d already indulged in two courses, what’s another when you’re amongst friends? Combining my preferred sweet treat and tipple of choice, the brasserie’s homemade Baileys crème brûlée certainly ticked all the boxes. Complete with a twice-baked cantucci biscuit, this crunchy-and-custardy delight was frankly a brilliant adaptation of the decadent French classic.
Three courses later and it’s evident to see just how each dish is underpinned by Mowl’s choice to champion quality produce from the best, and namely Kentish, sustainable sources.
Whether it is tourists, locals, fishermen, beach-goers, families, friends or couples, the bustling Royal Harbour Brasserie welcomes a varied clientele, and what’s more, it does it well. From an al fresco breakfast on the sun-decked terrace to Kent coffees, Belgian beer at the bar, house nibbles, express lunches, roasts and all-day dining, there really is something for everyone. Highlights include paella, oysters, and lunchtime specials such as mussels and bubbles (reasoning for a follow-up visit, I think!), plus for the sweet tooth, homemade ice cream and a rather impressive selection of patisseries.
However, the buck doesn’t stop with its culinary exploits. Intent on providing an experience that is enjoyable for every visitor, the brasserie plays host to a Sunday pianist who, I have been informed, often manages to include the entire sitting in a singsong. In fact, a stage area has recently been erected in the main restaurant in a bid to meet the unprecedented demand for weddings and private parties.
Embracing the very nature of a Parisian brasserie, Mowl’s formula is simple and it works: good, simple quality dishes served in a fun, relaxing setting. This destination restaurant may be tucked out of the way, but the Royal Harbour Brasserie is certainly no shrinking violet. And rightly so.
Now, back to my seafood and I’ve-got-to-eat-it diet.Royal Harbour Brasserie East Pier Royal Harbour Parade Ramsgate CT11 8LS 01843 599059 www.royalharbourbrasserie.co.uk