Restaurant review: Flavours by Kumar, Ramsgate
PUBLISHED: 15:00 31 October 2016 | UPDATED: 15:28 21 November 2016
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Looks can be deceptive; this modest Indian restaurant is home to an award-winning chef-patron. No wonder it's packed. Words by: Sarah Sturt. Pictures by: Manu Palomeque
Tucked away down a quiet side street, away from the more obvious charms of Ramsgate’s Royal harbour, is a modest-looking Indian restaurant with a surprise within.
Flavours by Kumar is the creation of Anil Kumar, former head chef of award-winning The Ambrette in Margate, who launched his own restaurant in nearby Ramsgate in 2013.
Two years later, Anil was picking up his own awards when he scooped the prestigious annual Tiffin Cup award after cooking for judges who included Ainsley Harriot at the House of Commons in the grand final.
The annual competition to find the best South Asian restaurant in the UK starts with nominations from the constituency, who are then put forward by their local MP. Flavours by Kumar had already won the south east competition after being nominated for the cup by South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay and Anil went on to beat the 13 best shortlisted chefs after cooking the winning dish. This was a spectacular-sounding assorted crab platter which included a crispy crab pakora, crab and beetroot cake, stir-fried crab with south Indian spices and a smoked crab raita.
Flavours are here in plenty throughout a menu that showcases the traditional cuisine of the Indian sub-continent, and preparing those dishes is Anil himself, a calm central presence among a team of highly visible chefs in the open kitchen.
That calm, quiet confidence is essential because, even taking our comfy high-back seats at 6pm on a mid-week autumn evening, the simply appointed two dining rooms were rapidly filling up and by the time we leave, there’s not a table to be had.
My dining chum and I soon find out why as we tuck into our sharing platter of four starters, recommended by Anil as the best introduction to his menu.
We’ve plucked crispy soft shell crab from the blackboard menu of specials, and for me it’s one of the stars of the show – which is not surprising when you look at the crab feast that won Anil his Tiffin Club trophy.
Fish and shellfish are particularly well done here, and a close runner up for us is the King prawns marinated with ginger, coriander and lemon and then crisply fried, with a tempting teaspoonful of lumpfish caviar on the side.
We also thoroughly enjoy the paneer tikka – chargrilled cubes of yoghurt-coated Indian cheese with mint chutney and cucumber raita as a refreshing accompaniment – and Masala dosa, a tasty South Indian crêpe stuffed with spiced mashed potato (much lighter than it sounds) served with coconut chutney.
Coconut becomes a bit of theme for me as my main choice is another blackboard special and Anil recommendation: delicious sea bass served in a creamy coconut sauce with pilau rice to accompany.
It’s a skilfully executed, delicious feast, the flavours are richly layered without being overpowering and a glass of Pinot Grigio Rosé is the perfect light accompaniment.
Across the table my dining chum is enjoying her prawn kadai – King prawns cooked with onion, peppers, tomato and kadai spices (ginger, cumin, chilli and turmeric). Despite the number of spices involved, it’s not at all fiery but again beautifully balanced and subtle, best with a simple side of pilau rice
To close the show I find myself gravitating to yet more coconut, this time in the form of ice cream served in a half shell.
It looks far too much and I am by this stage very full, but it’s so delicious and not at all as sweet as I’d feared, that I’m soon scraping the shell clean. I’m afraid it eclipsed my chum’s rather daintier rose-flavoured coconut crème brûlée, which was gorgeous but seemed to vanish in two mouthfuls.
Good coffee, a wave to Anil in the kitchen – still smiling and unruffled by what is now standing-room only in his restaurant – and we head out into the night, happy and replete. Fish and coconut, ridiculously reasonable prices: what could be nicer?
Where: Flavours by Kumar, 2 Effingham Street, Ramsgate CT11 9AT. 01843 852631
What: Award-winning Indian restaurant
When: 12pm - 2.30pm (lunch), 5.30pm-10pm (dinner)
How much: Sharing platter of four starters: £14 for two, £26 for four people; prawn kadai £13.95; Kasmir lamb rogan gosh £10.95; coconut ice cream £3.99