If you are looking for a taste of Kent then The Empire Room in Ramsgate is one place you should head for.
The menu has a plethora of local ingredients, including cod from Ramsgate fishing fleets, veg from Rose Farm and the brilliant Windmill Allotment Project, cheese from Cheesemakers of Canterbury, meat from Worgans butchery at The Goodshed in Canterbury, fish from Fruits de Mer in Broadstairs and rapeseed oil from the Quex estate.
Many of the drinks on offer are local too, with ales from Gadds brewery and juices from the Little Stour Orchard.
The ingredients are not the only Kent treasures – the kitchen is headed by homegrown Thanet chef Craig Mather.
Craig trained at Thanet College before spending four years at one Michelin-starred Mallory Court Country House Hotel in Leamington Spa.
In 2009, Craig took on the challenge to start a restaurant within a fishmongers named Eddie Gilbert’s with the owner, Jonny Dunhill, and later taught at Thanet College.
Since 2016 he has been head chef at The Empire Room with a big push on his menus for local Kentish seasonal produce, cooked simply to allow the quality of the ingredients to thrive on every plate.
Diners are treated to the wonderfully quirky surroundings of The Empire Room, which is stuffed with interesting posters, books and curios, and, of course, superb food.
For our latest visit I plumped for slow braised rolled shoulder of Kentish lamb, crispy lamb belly, fondant potato, heritage carrots, roasted cabbage, mint sauce and lamb gravy.
The lamb was tender and everything was packed full of flavour.
My partner went for roasted fillet cod, local new potatoes, buttered spinach with a tomato, chorizo and mussel stew. I’m assuming from the noises that this was delicious!
We then sampled the warm banana cake, vanilla ice cream, caramelised banana and caramel sauce. I confess I always order this. It is the best banana cake ever. Try it – you’ll thank me!
My mum and stepdad tried out the sharing platter and my sister opted for roasted Kentish plums with frozen nougat ice cream, warm caramel sauce and toasted almonds.
The dishes looked, and tasted, fantastic and the service was prompt, polite and cheery.
There are a few tables left for Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve if you want the perfect festive feast without the washing up.
And if you want to treat someone there are also gift vouchers on offer (I’d be happy to get one!).
The Empire Room Restaurant
Call 01843 582511
10-11 Nelson Crescent, Ramsgate, Kent CT11 9JF