In the last few years, Margate has been called “Shoreditch-on-Sea” — a reference to its shared characteristics with a much-changed east London over the past decade. This is a town with an artistic heritage (Tracey Emin is from Margate and the Turner Contemporary opened here in 2011) but in the past half decade, a group of new, creative incomers has arrived. The small seaside town on the “island” of Thanet, on Kent’s east coast, used to serve as a destination for English holidaymakers. Today, it is reborn, and has replaced Brighton as the go-to trendy getaway for London’s hipster class — but 90 minutes on the train out of King’s Cross. Margate’s food scene, like its art scene, is thriving: take in excellent modern seafood restaurants, a cafe devoted to cheese, a speciality coffee shop, a traditional gelateria — and more.Read More
The Best Places to Eat in Margate, Kent
From a cheese and wine shop on the sea’s edge, to tiny modern seafood restaurants, and unmissable Campanian delicacies
1. Fort's Cafe
Formerly a next generation greasy spoon that looked eastwards to Antipodean brunch culture for a few flashes of nouveau embellishment, Fort’s has been taken over by Will Pitts, Chris Rye, and Jessie May Peters, veterans of London and Paris’ speciality coffee scenes. The focus is excellent coffee from Cornwall’s Origin, and excellent sandwiches of all stripes, with sage fried egg and tomato confit; chorizo hash with caramelised red pepper; and mackerel and horseradish pâté stars.
A new arrival from the team behind east London favourite Brawn, Sargasso has taken a prime position on the Harbour Arm and dedicated it to the breezy Mediterranean cooking that has one its antecedent so much praise. A meal can be created from snacks alone — including stunning Cantabrian anchovies in oil and herbs, and some cloudlike Parmesan fritters — but those in search of heartier sustenance can look to crab and girolle spaghetti; grilled quail with romesco; and turbot with olive oil and lemon.
3. Mala Kaffe
Music industry couple Johan Karlberg and Carey Mann Karlberg opened this Scandi-inspired hole-in-the-wall café on the Harbour Arm right when Margate kicked off a couple of years ago. Good espresso comes from Allpress; pour over and filter coffee is now supplied by local roaster, Curve. Solid snacks, somehow assemble from behind the tiny counter are chiefly in teh Scandinavia open sandwich tradition. Of them, prawn smørrebrød is the best. Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s also pickled herring boards and cinnamon buns. One might call it “Brit fika on sea.”
4. Bottega Caruso
It is testament to Margate’s recent resurgence that a restaurant, deli and fresh pasta shop — specialising in the cuisine of Campania, in southern Italy — is a viable business in this small English seaside town. Bottega Caruso imports artisanal produce from an area called Sannio including cheeses, salumi, nduja, wine, pickles, olive oil, the company’s own family’s bottled tomato sauces and jars of preserved cime di rapa. The joyous and generous weekly-changing menu might include escarole, kale and bean stew; braised cuttlefish, squid, peas and Jersey Royals; troccoli pasta with wild sea bass and bottarga; or cavatelli pasta with asparagus and broad beans. One for lovers of food and of Italy.
5. Peter's Fish Factory Margate
Margate CT9 1EZ, UK
Yes, there’s the Buoy and Oyster’s summer pop-up for more gussied up fish and chips, but Peter’s is the seafront original and the place with a phenomenal queue come feeding time. All usual chippy rules apply: request a fresh fry on the fish (but it’s pretty much standard, except at the peakest of peaks); seek a battered saveloy if you find it; add curry sauce.
6. Mullins Brasserie
Mullins, in the middle of the old town, is a modern European brasserie, which adds to its dishes the seasonings and spices of the Caribbean. Bajan chef-owner Antonio Forde’s restaurant, inside a converted butchers shop, offers not just modern iterations of Caribbean dishes, such as jerk chicken, rice ‘n’ peas and fried plantain, but spiced versions of British classics, too: Jamaican beer-battered fish goujons served with hand cut chips, and homemade tartare sauce.
Like Hantverk & Found, Angela’s is right up there with Margate’s finest modern seafood restaurants. It is marginally more spacious, a touch lighter and brighter, than H&F, but still cosy and homely, with the atmosphere of a front room. And like all good seafood restaurants, things change here all the time: “We have a daily changing menu depending on what is fresh from the boats that morning,” they say. That menu might include diver scallops, with almond and brown butter; gurnard with celeriac, wild garlic and shellfish sauce; or turbot served on the bone with hollandaise. A Margate must-visit.
8. Little Swift
Margate CT9 1DH, UK
A wine and cocktail bar, Little Swift’s front entrance on a cobbled street leads the thirsty to a terrace downstairs and the harried to a wide selection of natural wines, bottled cocktails, cheeses, and charcuterie to take away or cobble together a picnic. But the secret at the back is the slushy spinner — offering frozen cocktails in colourful takeaway cups to take down to the sand.
9. Melt Gelato Parlour
Margate CT9 1DH, UK
It’s true that the most iconic ice cream shop on this coastline is a few miles south east in Broadstairs: Morelli’s is a classic Anglo-Italian gelateria that deserves its reputation. But the homemade gelato from Melt is the next best thing. A trip to the English seaside is incomplete without an ice cream cone, and flavours here veer away from the ordinary: vegan salted caramel; Reeses peanut butter cup; and marshmallow are just three of about 20 options. It is situated on the seafront, at the base of the Sands Hotel.
10. Buoy and Oyster
The full name for this little spot, according to Google, is: Buoy and Oyster: Seafront seafood restaurant and cocktail bar overlooking the beach in Margate. In other words: everything one wants on a day trip or weekend away in the town. Expertly cooked fresh seafood, assembled in modern, simple ways, such as in a dish of skate wing with caper butter and samphire; and in traditional formats, such as with its classic fish, chips, and mushy peas; or simply a platter of fresh shellfish over ice, with a bottle of Tabasco and some shallot vinegar.
Another symbol of Margate’s new status as “Shoreditch-on-Sea” — Cliffs is a cafe, record shop, yoga studio, hair salon and coffee roastery. All in one! Sticking to the food, Cliffs does brunchy plates and speciality coffee; the kind of cafe in which one finds themselves surrounded by arty magazines on shelves and coffee table books on coffee tables. Sure there’s a good English breakfast, and scrambled eggs with soldiers, but there’s a kimchi cheese toastie, too, because they’re cool and delicious. Sandwich-wise, there’s a fish finger number and a vegan open sandwich, which is pretty much avocado on toast. Natch.
12. Barletta at Turner Contemporary
Natalia Ribbe and Jackson Berg’s seafront spot inside the Turner Contemporary is perfect for a simple lunch or dinner, or a beautiful pastry from Emma Tillyer, formerly of London bakery Flor. The menu changes regularly but expect some fine pasta, perhaps with a ragù of ox cheek; an exquisite chicken Caesar; and a plate of madeleines for dessert.