Well now it is not often I sit down and review a restaurant via my blog/web site but I think this place is worthy of a mention to those of you who follow my ramblings!
It was a very chilly Saturday morning a few weeks ago with the threat of heavy snowfalls that made me think we must be mad making a hundred mile round trip to meet for lunch with some long term friends.
Well we set off to the East of Kent to the farthest point one can travel to… namely the sleepy town of Broadstairs. Famed as the birthplace of a former UK PM – Sir Edward Heath, literary connections with Charles Dickens and Oliver Postgate of Clangers fame!
The place we were to frequent is the recently launched little Tapas Bar & Restaurant called Albariño … This is also a rather stunning Spanish wine that is a favourite of the husband and wife team that set the place up.
Steve Dray is a local lad having grown up down the road in Westgate-on-Sea before going off on his travels around the UK and then also to foreign climbs. He met his French born wife Stephanie in Manchester. Before they settled back in the Isle of Thanet they had spent a year out on the Caribbean island of the Turks & Caicos with their young son Stanley! We thought them mad to come back to chilly old “Blighty” but Steve had spent the previous six – nine months looking for various business opportunities before he stumbled upon the site he has now opened as Albariño.
The restaurant is located in the old part of the town in the narrow Albion Street with a little garden area opposite and then some lovely sea views for those summery days! Not so inviting on a cold winters day! However, we had what could best be described as a real flavour of Spain on this visit. The place is small, a big long bar dominates the room… Steve had it specially made from old snooker table slate! You can even spot some errant grooves in it made by the less professional “pot blacker’s”. An open plan kitchen enables you to watch Steve beaver away with your order and front of house service is attentive and friendly!
The warm welcome with a glass of Cava kicked our meal off as we tucked in to some big fat green olives and a dish of some homemade chickpea & fennel seeded chips that were light textured and crusty to whet the appetite!
We then chose to partake of the Chef’s selection of tapas whereby we were served a selection of that day’s tapas to share. Well what can I say but they were spot on, an imaginative array of dishes that really got the taste buds tingling! We kicked off with a some braised wild rabbit with artichokes, then came a delightful light tortilla with potatoes and onions, followed closely by a spicy Sobrasada Sausage, Garbanzo Beans and Spinach. We also had an amazing slow cooked Ox Cheek in a liquorice sauce with a garnish of butternut squash and fried sage leaves. Flavours were intense and cooking was top notch. We also shared a meat platter and also had some very good Ham & Cheese Croquettes as well that were to die for!
To round it all off we tried the Chocolate Almond Torta with Honeycomb Ice Cream and the Olive Oil & Polenta Cake with Goat’s Curd that were both to die for!
This was all in all a very good meal that showed some real signs of brilliance! Good solid culinary execution, an overall understanding of ingredients, combinations and balanced flavours. If you look at their web site they also list their suppliers which I feel shows just how serious they are about what they do, they support local suppliers and Steve’s passion to buy as local as possible even though his food is pretty authentically Spanish shows just how small the world is. It also illustrates well how creative the guy is as well!
If you are in the area or fancy a day out then make the trip…Book a table or just turn up – you will not be disappointed and do tell them Hari sent you!
I have used the photos from his web site as well but must credit Matthew Walters with them… they make me feel hungry again!