COBRA Good Curry Guide
'BEST IN SOUTH EAST AWARD'
The Ambrette Restaurant
44, King Street, Margate, Kent. CT9 1QE
Tuesday 29th January, 2013
Margate is a lovely, golden sanded, English sea-side town which could do with some tender loving care. I have no idea what the local building contractors are doing, but it is obvious that they are doing very little in Margate. Which is a great shame, because apart from the hideous high rise block (possibly 70's), which quite frankly, blights the whole beach front and should be ceremonially raised to the ground (as was the equally hideous Tricorn building in Portsmouth!) Margate has some wonderful Victorian architecture which is in desperate need of restoration. Old and new can co-exist. To prove my point, these historical properties sit very comfortably with the modern Turner Contemporary art gallery.
The Corinthians are responsible for the quote, 'A Rose Among Thorns,' which is how I would describe Chef Patron Dev Biswal's - The Ambrette Restaurant. I find it surprising that he, with his Bollywood model looks, decided to open his restaurant here. However, all that I can say is that clearly Dev has vision.
The Ambrette Restaurant frontage with private parking for clients
Dev has taken over a significent, three storey period, former hotel, which still retains much of its elegant past. There are lovely stained glass windows advertising 'Cobbs Stout', and the double entrance doors open into a small bar area, which I hope will be restored to its former glory and not 'modernised' as the building would not suit this style. The floors in the bar and dining room are polished wood and by the width of them, are original. There are fire places which I would have liked to have seen in use on this cold January day, but I suspect that this will happen in time, as fire laying is a job that requires care and attention, and one which adds immense pleasure to the clients overall enjoyment. The restaurant has a relaxed atmopshere, akin to the pub, which is lovely and homely. There is also an orignal black painted winding staircase which is hidden behind an ugly glass fire door.
The Dining Room
The Ambrette is a definite hit with the local clientelle, as the restaurant was busy with lunch time diners. His menu, which is expertly executed, is quite different from any other fine dining Indian restaurant. The menu contains no curry dishes, which in my opinion is a great shame. Is this because Dev is perhaps trying to re-invent the wheel? Truly authentic Indian cuisine means rich sauces, in flavour and texture. Made from roasting, grinding and frying spices then combining them with fried onions, garlic and ginger. These sauces make Indian food so delicious and there is nothing more wonderful than tearing a light and fluffy Naan, hot from the tandoor, into pieces and using it to mop up all those amazing flavours.
Crispy slices of Paneer
We were immediately welcomed and after the photo call from the local press, we were seated in a small dining room, which afforded us the luxury of privacy. While drinks orders were being taken, we were served a platter of sliced paneer, which had been fried, thus making it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were topped with Podina Raitha, snippets of cress and disappeared very quickly!
My dining companion, Alex enjoys his Soft Shell Crab
Unbeknown to us, we were to be treated to a 'Tasting Menu,' which featured almost the entire selection! My dining companions started with 'Soft Shell Crabs (Scylla Serrata) golden fried with spices. These crabs are caught in the temperate waters of the Pacific Ocean near Vietnam. The entire crab, including its shell is deliciously edible,' and from their empty plates, I can report that they were enjoyed immensely. Not being a seafood consumer, I was served a huge and deliciously tender, lightly spiced piece of Chicken Tikka, which is described on the menu as, 'Tender breast of British chicken infused with saffron. Cucumber and Onion Raitha - fresh mint and coriander chutney.'
Dev disappeared into the kitchen between courses to check on his brigade's progress and within moments beautifully presented platters of, 'Partridge smoked with cloves and chargrilled - chargrilled pears, spiced mung lentils salad, green pea chutney £6.95,' were served. All plates were cleaned quickly, as the partridge was juicy and succulent, and the bean salad delicately light. Next, our party was served a fish (cod) course, which received rave reviews, while I throughly enjoyed the, 'Tender and Juicy Lion of Pork - aubergine mash, sauce of malt vinegar and garlic wine £12.95.' Pork should be featured more on our menus as the meat is perfect for absorbing spicy flavours.
Our party with their fish (cod) course
My 'Tender and Juicy Lion of Pork,' and the 'Breast of Gressingham Duck.'
We finished our savoury courses with a large round white plate containing a perfectly cooked, 'Breast of Gressingham duck - Pan grilled with spices and accompanied by a sauce of fresh oranges, fennel and cinnamon. The Gressingham Duck was created by crossing the Wild Mallard with the Pekin Duck (a domesticated variety bred in China). [for the famous Peking Duck dish - Ed]. The result is a duck bursting with wonderfully succulent flavoursome meat. This dish is served on a bed of garlic creamed potatoes (We cook this unique variety of duck medium rare to ensure that it retains its succulence and fantastic gamey flavour).' The duck was generously sliced, had crispy skin, was nicely pink in the middle and drizzled with the lightly aromatic and fruity sauce.
'Grenita of the Day' and 'Exotic Rose Flavoured Vanilla Creme Brulée'
Between our courses, we were served chilled shot glasses of, 'Grenita of the Day.' This dainty palate cleanser was wonderfully fruity and perfectly made, with no heavy ice crystals. We finished off our 'Tasting Menu,' with, 'Exotic Rose Flavoured Vanilla Creme Brulée,' which was served with 'Apricot Halwa.' While the rose petal brulée was very good, so much better than the brulée served at London's La Porte des Indes. The same can not be said of the Apricot Halwa, which I didn't like at all. I make Halwa myself and this is one dish that should never be tampered with. Carrot Halwa is amazingly good and can not be improved upon, as it is perfect.
Margate is extremely fortunate that Dev Biswal choose their town to open up his first restaurant and we congratulate him and his team on their achievement in winning the BEST IN SOUTH EAST AWARD. Dev has as second restaurant The Ambrette in Rye, East Sussex and the award applies to both restaurants.
The Ambrette Restaurant
44, King Street, Margate, Kent. CT9 1QE
Lunch - Tuesday to Sunday - 11.30am to last orders 2.30pm
Dinner - Tuesday to Thursday - 6.00pm to last orders 9.30pm
Dinner - Friday to Sunday - 5.30pm to last orders 10.00pm