Review: Cinque Ports gastropub, Margate

PUBLISHED: 11:30 20 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:30 20 November 2017

Food at Cinque Ports

Food at Cinque Ports

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

This new gastro-pub on Margate seafront with roots dating back to the Mods & Rockers is an exciting addition to the local dining scene

Food at Cinque PortsFood at Cinque Ports

There’s something very special about the Kent coast in winter. Its skies and seas seem bigger and wilder than ever, not quite so many tourists crowd the highways and beaches – it settles into its unique local character.

My journey west to east takes in many of the finest contrasts this great county of ours has to offer and much as I love my home area, my heart always gives a lift when I – finally – get to Margate and see that sweep of bay and the Turner perched like a toy on the horizon.

On this journey I had an even greater incentive as I was having lunch at the newly opened Cinque Ports pub, right on Marine Parade and next to Dreamland, so the best of all worlds really. And the Best of British, as I was to discover.

Closed for a few years, this large pub operated as the ticket and main office for Dreamland Fun Park in 2015; a year later the ground floor bar reopened as a pop-up alehouse for the summer season.

This year the whole site has had a complete makeover and at the same time reverted to its original name following the refurbishment, which was part of a larger £25m overhaul of the amusement park and connected buildings.

A Vespa scooter greets you at the entrance to the quirky, spacious ground-floor bar with its open brickwork walls, eclectic mix of sofas and armchairs, potted plants and framed paintings. Bar staff are friendly and knowledgeable and you can enjoy Ramsgate Brewery (Gadds) beers on three handpumps and a great selection of Gins (15), Vodkas (10) and Rums (10).

Stairs go down to the cellar bar and sweep up to the main restaurant, where an open kitchen lets you see the young chefs at work.

It’s an inviting dining space with its big cream lampshades, panelling, mix of round and square tables and mismatched wooden chairs, with comfy banquettes covered in rich velvet the colour of autumn leaves.

The ground-floor bar, with stairs to the main dining area at the far endThe ground-floor bar, with stairs to the main dining area at the far end

Team leader Daniel Wakeford is a smiling, helpful guide throughout our menu choices and I’m personally glad to see all the dishes contained on a single side of the menu, which helps talented young chef Ross Summers maintain his high standards and love of local, seasonal produce.

This was a meal that got better and better. I was a little underwhelmed by my double-baked cheese soufflé starter, which wasn’t as wobbly-light or hot as I’d have liked, but came with a tasty chive-flavoured cheese sauce.

My Dining Chum fared better with her local catch fishcake, which had a real home-cooked authenticity enhanced by the thinnest slices of charred lemon, a brilliant and unusual touch that brought out all the sea-fresh flavours.

When it came to our mains we immediately felt a Christmassy glow even before we’d eaten a mouthful; the rich smells and beautiful presentation promised a real treat. We weren’t disappointed.

MDC opted for chef’s favourite combination of pork loin and pressed shoulder, which came with a tiny whole roasted Zonga apple and a rich cider sauce. My pan-roasted guinea fowl with confit leg, shredded cabbage and game sauce made me immediately re-write my Christmas menu in my head, as this was just the perfect plateful in both taste sensation and size.

The menu advises you to pick one or two sides with each main and we practically fought over the root vegetable crumble studded with long, bendy carrots, it was that good.

“We’re home to unloved veg here!” chef later told us, as he deliberately goes for the twisty, stunted sort of veggies rather than supermarket-straight. A big cheer for him, that’s the only sort of veg I know how to grow …

In a thoroughly good mood by now (we’d both started out tense, headache-y – and late), helped by a large glass of Picpoul de Pinet, I threw caution to the wind and ordered a tonka bean panna cotta, not having a clue what said bean was.

Cinque Ports is idyllically located on Margate's seafrontCinque Ports is idyllically located on Margate's seafront

Anyway, it’s part of the vanilla family apparently and transformed what can be bland and over-creamy into a complex taste sensation of nutmeg, cinnamon, almond, cherry, liquorice and, yes, vanilla. Topped with a black cherry sorbet, it was a fun, pretty pud.

Across the table a Cinque Ports favourite, poached pear and almond frangipane served warm with vanilla ice cream, was going down a treat and boasted impeccable crisp pastry.

When you consider that this is a pub rather than a standalone restaurant and that chef had been there just three weeks on our visit, I can only predict a great future for this welcome new addition to Margate’s vibrant dining scene. I can’t wait to go back.

Meet the chef

Ross Summers, head chef

Tell us a bit about you

Ross SummersRoss Summers

I started out as a self- taught chef and in 2008 trained under Michael Keen at the Brewery Tap in Ipswich. Two years later, I opened my first restaurant called The Blackbird. I moved to Margate in 2012, working at places including The Greedy Cow, Mullins Brasserie, Buoy and Oyster and Cheesy Tiger before making the move to Cinque Ports this year.

And Cinque Ports

The best thing about working at Cinque Ports is being able to use local produce for our menu, supporting other local businesses as well as our own. The plan is to work with as many local suppliers as possible.

It’s great working with a new team here that has the same drive as me and to be able to have the opportunity to create food that is different to what else is around the area is very exciting.

Key suppliers?

We’re proud to use lots of local suppliers when creating our dishes here. Foodari supplies our fruit and vegetables, we work with Fruit de Mer in Broadstairs for our fish, and our meat comes from Morgan’s butchers at The Goods Shed. We bake our own bread and Urchin Wines in Margate curated our wine list.

A signature dish?

My favourite dish at Cinque Ports currently is the pork loin. It’s perfect for the slightly colder weather after summer. It has great autumnal ingredients and colours. With the new menu, we’re bringing the food back to basics while using new techniques, such has cooking food sous vide. What I like about the menu is that the customer can order the meat and condiments and build their meal with any sides that they like. Plus it’s lovely to have an open kitchen from which we can see the customers’ reactions.

Top cookery tip?

Buy good salt! We use Maldon Sea Salt. You can have the best ingredients in a dish but decent seasoning is so important.

The essentials

What: Stylish seafront gastro-pub

Where: Cinque Ports, 50 Marine Terrace, Margate CT9 1XJ, or 01843 269431

When: Mon-Sat 12pm-3pm and 6pm-10pm, Sun roast 1pm-8pm

How much: starters £6-£7, burgers and salads all £10, ribeye £20, butternut squash risotto £11, sides all £3, desserts all £6

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