Review: An Opinionated Guide to Margate

An Opinionated Guide To Margate

By Dan Thompson

An Opinionated Guide To Margate is published by Hoxton Mini Press (Hoxton apparently being, these days, one of Margate’s most westerly suburbs). It covers local shops, the town’s broad spread of cafes and restaurants, and key tourist attractions like Margate Caves, Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, and Turner Contemporary.

The book includes beautiful photography. If you’ve fallen out of love with the town, it’ll remind you just how beautiful the landscape is, and how good the historic buildings look.

It also shows the real impact of 20 years of regeneration funding. Yes, the big projects are all there – Turner Contemporary, Dreamland, Margate Caves.

But there’s also something interesting in the way that shops, cafes, and restaurants working independently have created a distinct Margate look. Think slightly battered industrial furniture, peeling paint, handpainted shop signs, and the colour palette Zoe Murphy pioneered around 2010.

It’s a straight line from businesses like The Reading Rooms, Forts, and Tom Thumb Theatre (that might now be seen as pioneers) through the mid-wave of businesses like Margate Bookshop and The Bus Cafe, and up to more recent arrivals. This newer wave, roughly opened as and since Covid arrived, are undoubtedly playing to a wealthier audience, but post-gentrification the Margate style is still there.

Totally Locally, the national ‘shop local’ campaign, has shown how spending £10 in a local independent can mean up to £50 going back into the local economy. This book suggests just some of the good places that £10 can go.

But there are some notable omissions – it’s odd to write a guide to Margate that misses cornerstones of the Old Town like GB Pizza, Breuer & Dawson, and Paraphernalia. And most of the galleries, studios, and art spaces that have made Margate what it is are missing – where’s Zoe Murphy’s workshop, Marine Studios, Crate and Limbo?

Of course, at the end of the day it is one person’s take on the town, and like any guidebook that aims to be contemporary, it only captures a moment in time – in three months time, it’ll be a historic artefact. But it’s worth having, right now, and would make a good Christmas gift. Even if by next summer, the town will have moved on and everyone will be excited by something new.

An Opinionated Guide To Margate is published by Hoxton Mini Press, and is available from Margate Bookshop, 2 Market Place, Margate.


  1. i have been watching a series about an aquariam on the south coast , you can see both young and old enjoying thier visits , and no doubt children want to return to see things like sharks and rays , how many children would want to visit that blot on the landscape that is the turner gallery ? , and if any did would they want to return on a regular basis, thanet was conned by that monstrosity

    • Actually Real World, you can see many children/toddlers/babies/families upstairs in the Clore Studio(?) regularly – with activities and books and comfy seating and cushions. The blots are elsewhere.

  2. Does the book show the boarded up shop fronts ? The litter ? The graffiti ? The weeds ? The homelessness ? The street drinkers ? The dope smoking ?

    • No Poundland, Morrisons and The Works?

      I bet it doesn’t even mention the boarded up theatres!

      As for pioneers, surely that is Cafe G – opening a cafe/restaurant in an old off licence just prior to the influx of the (f)art crowd (and Dan Thompson).

  3. ‘in three months time, it’ll be a historic artefact’ – probably not as most of the places it mentions have been around for some years. Does appear rather superficial ‘cos despite its problems Margate is a lot more interesting than this book would seem to suggest.

  4. No mention of the author of this tosh.
    Wouldn’t be Dan Thompson, would it?
    What is it they say? Opinions are like backsides – everybody’s got one.

    • You’d think Dan (and Kathy) would notice such an omission… it’s Emmy Watts.

      Strange how the ONLY people who think Margate has been “regenerated” are the ones who didn’t live there prior to when “art” ruined the place.

      • Is there perhaps confusion between regenerated and degenerated ?

        The low tide may have started to turn a few years ago with the opening of the Turner and the re-opening of Dreamland. However, it has ebbed again as Dreamland has failed as an amusement park; The Winter Gardens and Theatre Royal (along with many public toilets) have closed; and much of what is left is unable to generate sufficient turnover to thrive for very long . . .

  5. Perhaps a book on ‘Art’ and the DFL gentrification of Margate might get some buyers here
    My view is that ‘ART’is not the problem because life would be like a community of robots without it.Man and Women have made art since the dawn of humankind, and it’s merely a difference of opinion as to what is art is on display here
    Checksfield is of course putting in his pink pennyworth,but that’s normal for him
    I admit I am not a fan of the Turner, because I think it is cultural imperialism, and that yes, a sea life centre would be more appropriate.I also think the locals in Thanet were never asked about how the £200m spent in the last two decades should be spent, but that is also true of Westwood Cross.

  6. Typical coffee table book for people (and hotels who will put one in every posh Margate hotel room) who have £10.95 to waste. Soon out of date and part of the Hoxton Mini Press series – if you look at the other titles then you will soon see what a waste of money this is.

    • Well found, JS. I’ve been looking at the ‘about’ section of their web-site. Reads like The Good Life meets Steptoe and Son.

      • The covers look like they were designed during a tea break (and they still had time to pop out for a fag!).

    • And that’s the big problem with this so called “regeneration” of Margate, businesses often last weeks rather than years – not helped by often rude and indifferent service (the idea of an independant bookshop in Margate appeals to me greatly, but the one time me & my better half went in there we were totally ignored while the owners conversed with each other. Never again!).

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