Chef Ross Barden takes the helm at The Empire Room in Ramsgate

Chef Ross Barden Photo Eleanor Marriott

Modern British dishes with a twist are being served up at The Empire Room in Ramsgate under the tenure of a new head chef.

Dad-of-three Ross Barden  took over the kitchen last month, along with his sous chef Dan Westbrook, and has created a mouth-watering new menu.

As is the trademark of The Empire Room and The Little Ships restaurant and café, both led by hotelier James Thomas and Executive Head Chef Craig Mather, fresh local veg, meat and fish are the basis of the dishes.

But Ross, 36, has created interesting options that are presented so beautifully they look (almost) too good to eat.

Starters include Carpaccio of Kent steer beef, horseradish, confit tomatoes and watercress; Windmill Community Gardens’ heritage beetroot, cashew hummus and dill crackers or diners can try Black treacle cured salmon, oyster emulsion and burnt cucumber.

Game features on the mains list with Stour Valley Game venison loin, braised red cabbage, faggot and blueberry jus, there is Romney Marsh lamb and fish lovers can enjoy locally caught skate or seabass. Vegetarian offerings include curried roasted cauliflower, black quinoa, sweetcorn salsa, lime pickle.

Desserts range from dark chocolate and orange delice, cocoa nib tulle and amazing Kent cobnut ice cream to warm vanilla rice pudding, roasted pineapple with mini doughnut or Kent damson souffle.

Ross, who trained at Canterbury College, said: “My style is local seasonal food done in a modern British way. It is taking a classic and putting a twist on it, presenting it in a new way.

“I like working with game, which is a short season, and use a good local game dealer just outside Canterbury.

“The menu will change seasonally, so, four times a year and there will be lots of attention to detail.”

Ross began in the trade some 18 years ago, starting as a kitchen porter at a local pub in Boughton, training at college for two years and then moving from pubs and small restaurants to fine dining venues including Deeson’s in Canterbury and, more recently, Sands Hotel in Margate.

He said: “I started by baking at home with my mum when I was a kid, I would watch Ready Steady Cook when I was 13 or 14 and by 15 I knew I wanted to be a chef.”

Ross Barden (right), second chef Dan Westbrook with Lucy McNally from front of house

The role at The Empire Room is the widest yet for Ross. He said: “It is a new opportunity. I have responsibility for how the restaurant and front of house operates so it’s a new challenge.”

Owner James Thomas, who opened the Royal Habour Hotel some 20 years ago and The Empire Room in 2014, said: “We are very excited to welcome our new head chef Ross Barden, together with his second chef Dan Westbrook, to build on the considerable following and reputation that The Empire Room has.”

The 40 cover Empire Room in Nelson Crescent has  set priced menus for lunch and mid week dining plus a main a la carte dinner menu.

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