Locally sourced food, a seasonal menu which is appetising and interesting but also familiar and an informal atmosphere with great harbour views are just some of the selling points of Ramsgate’s Little Ships restaurant in Harbour Parade.
The former Miles Bar was opened in June by James Thomas and chef Craig Mather, the pair behind the Empire Room restaurant at the Royal Harbour Hotel, and is proving so popular that it may become the flagship of a planned coastal expansion.
The pair say the idea is to roll out the concept to other seaside spots including Margate, Folkestone/Dover and Brighton.
The 80-seater venue with outside tables, was refurbished, restyled and rebranded in just 8 days.
The Little Ships’ name plays tribute to the flotilla of privately owned boats used to help evacuate stranded British troops from the Dunkirk beaches in 1940. It also refers to Thanet local trawlers, which supply the fresh fish cooked in the restaurants.
The awning sports the colours of the Dunkirk medal ribbon and inside James has also displayed some wartime belongings from a family member – including a Dunkirk medal.
Craig has installed a locally-made Harrison charcoal-fuelled free-standing oven in his new open kitchen which, with temperatures of 300+°C, causes natural sugars in foods to caramelise, creating distinctive flavours.
He said: “Costing over £6,000 these hand-built ovens aren’t cheap, but when you taste the food, you’ll know why we invested in one.”
The furniture comes from a French restaurant that was being cleared and reclaimed wood panelling and polished wooden floors, with the huge glass doors, create an open space with great views for customers to enjoy.
But the most important thing is, of course, the food, so my partner and I went down to give it a taste test.
The prawn and avocado cocktail was a thing of beauty (who doesn’t want prawn cocktail in a glass?) with a great combination of flavours.
Choosing a main meal was difficult, not because the menu is overloaded but everything looked, and smelt, great.
I plumped for seafood linguine and was not disappointed. Plenty of prawns, mussels and claims, a really flavoursome white wine, garlic and chilli sauce plus sourdough bread (requested as an extra).
My partner decided to give the flatbread kebab a go, opting for the Dukkha marinated, grilled mackerel fillets, tahini yoghurt and spicy sriracha sauce.
It was served up with shaved pickled red cabbage, shallot, radish, tomato and coriander and was packed with a spicy punch. Be warned, this is a lot more filling than you’d think so pace yourself!
Dessert was a challenge but we managed to find a tiny space. My lemon posset was tangy and cooling. My partner’s British Victoria sponge, sandwiched with raspberry ripple ice cream and strawberry jam, was a work of art and I’m assuming it tasted pretty good from the speed in which he cleared his plate!
This is top notch food without the pretentiousness that can be found in some restaurants. Instead the atmosphere is chilled, the front of house staff are attentive and helpful without being in your face and the menu has something to offer whether you are a picky eater or a bit more adventurous.
That the restaurant was packed out on a Wednesday night is testament to good food and good service.
Craig said: “If you are not sure then it is comforting to see something like chicken Kiev on the menu, of course it is nothing like the frozen things you buy from the supermarket but it is familiar. Or if you want something more sophisticated there are choices like the linguine.
“All of it is fresh, local, cooked from scratch. It’s just good food at decent prices.”
I couldn’t agree more and am going to be back so I can order my own flatbread kebab instead of swiping pieces from my partner’s plate, oh and some Scottish mussels, and the breakfast, and then there is the Belgian chocolate pot….
Little Ships Restaurant & Café
54-56 Harbour Parade, Ramsgate
Call 01843 585008
Open from 8.30am-9.30pm (ish)
5 star food hygiene rating
For menus and bookings visit www.resdiary.com/restaurant/littleshipsramsgate