Escape to Ramsgate: Eat at the Empire Room, Stay at the Royal Harbour Hotel

Following an earlier pitch, the editor's reply dropped in my inbox like the cleaver of a guillotine. It said: 'Sorry, I can't think of one reason to send anybody to Ramsgate'. There is little arguing, out of the trilogy of seaside towns at the most easterly point on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, Ramsgate is the middle child.

Sunrise on Ramsgate Royal Harbour
Sunrise on Ramsgate Royal Harbour - picture courtesy of Thanet District Council-
Margate has Turner and is definitely hip, Broadstairs is cute as a button with its own retro-identity, and then there is Ramsgate, still finding its rightful place, and Unique Selling Point.

Ramsgate royal harbour

Could that be its Royal harbour with its beautiful sunrises? the waterfront bustling with cafés, restaurants? or its sandy beach and stunning chalk cliffs?  Sadly though Van Gogh taught here, he didn't stay long enough to get much more than a blue plaque. Moreover, the competition is severe and even all these attributes don't seem to cut the mustard. 

However, in my opinion, the town has something precious which is overlooked as it doesn't appear in any brochure, something which stroke me as soon as I arrived.

Ramsgate is a good-food-town with a popular café culture and hospitality at its heart. A place where foodies, locals and foreign students can enjoy local quality food of their liking without breaking the bank. As I soon found out tucking in a plate of fresh seafood at the recently opened Little Ships, right on the harbour front and opened all day

Ramsgate seafood platter

Next was dropped the bags time at the Royal Harbour Hotel. Talk about location, location, location, the hotel has 28 rooms, 13 of which face the sea and a restaurant downstairs but I'll come to that in a minute.

Twenty years ago, James Thomas chose this building in the middle of a Georgian crescent on Nelson Crescent and made it his new venture. Its transformation was rather spectacular. Every wall, floor, corner, corridor and staircase bears the mark of the owner and his love for collecting. Everywhere you turn to, there is 'something' to look at, and everything is comfortable, well-worn, and frankly charming, in an odd way. Staying at the Royal Harbour Hotel is not very different from paying a visit to an eccentric, bohemian great-uncle.

Ramsgate royal harbour hotel

Our room was spotlessly clean, bright and cheerful with its shades of blues. The bed was comfy, mattress thick. The ensuite was compact, perfect for a short stay, the plumbing rattled only once which seems a miracle when you consider the size and age of the place. The view, of course, stole the show. Even on a grey day, the bobbing boats were enough to keep me glued to the window.

Ramsgate royal harbour hotel

The Empire Room restaurant, in the basement, is in keeping with the rest. Normally, I would have recoiled at the plushness of the large room with its warm-red walls, but by now, I had become accustomed to the décor.

Ramsgate royal harbour hotel

Until recently headed by local lad Craig Mather, the Empire Room has a new head-chef, Michelin-trained Richard Warrington, this is his first Spring Menu. Though Craig is still very much onboard.

Toasted Homemade Crumpets Home-Cured Salmon Gravadlax, Fresh Local Handpicked Crab Tartare, Honey Mustard Dressing,

Our starter, Toasted Homemade Crumpets Home-Cured Salmon Gravadlax, Fresh Local Handpicked Crab Tartare, Honey Mustard Dressing, packed a punch. This is a flavoursome dish saying, 'You are by the sea, enjoy the local ingredients'. He, known for his one-liners, said with an air of triumph 'I always knew, I like crab', but it was the first time, ever, I saw him eating such crustacean without fighting desperately with his food.

Skate Pan roasted local skate with a fresh crab bisque, brown shrimp,  local seven score asparagus, spinach & new potatoes
The mains stole my heart. Pan-Roasted Local Skate with a Fresh Crab Bisque, Brown Shrimp, Local Asparagus, Spinach and New Potatoes. The execution of this dish was just heavenly. Every ingredient was fresh, in season, and local. The bisque was a delight as it didn't overpower the 'scallopy, delicate' taste of the fish. Skate is usually rather expensive but at the Empire Room our two-course meal cost £19.

honey combAnd where else would you find an entire fresh honeycomb for breakfast? but in a good-food-town situated in the 'garden of England', breaming with local talent.

What to do in Ramsgate when it rains

Visit Vinyl Head Record Shop -Twitter picture-
Ramsgate tunnels
Ramsgate Tunnels, the UK's largest network of civilian wartime tunnels where 60,000 people sheltered in WW2 picture courtesy of Thanet District Council
Grab a cocktail at Zest Cafe and Bistro bar (Twitter Picture) 

 the shrine of St Augustine
Take a look at the shrine of St Augustine and admire the distinctive designs of Pugin (the architect of the House of Commons)

DISCLOSURE: I enjoyed this stay as a guest of The Royal Harbour Hotel but received no further remuneration and was under no obligation to write a review. Pictures are my own unless stated otherwise. All views expressed are my own, I retained full editorial control, all pictures are copyrighted and mustn't be used without prior permission.

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