Lesley from The Ambrette, monthly column in The Kent Foodie
Updated: Feb 25, 2020
So, when Matt asked me to come on board write about my passion, food; eating, buying, making, reading, talking about, watching, you get the idea, I wondered what I could add……. pages later, quite a lot it seems.
A little background, my current role is Marketing Manager for the Ambrette chain of restaurants. For those of you who are unfamiliar with us, we have 3 restaurants, Canterbury, Margate and our sister restaurant, The Devil In Rye. Our offer is high end, Indian inspired dishes devised by Dev Biswal, joint owner with his wife Emma. Among many accolades, this year Dev added 2019 Asian chef of the year. Prior to working here, I have been in various roles, all linked to bars and restaurants, I have gone from managing Soho nightclubs to organising and managing an enviable list of glamorous parties from Led Zeppelin to Barbara Streisand, numerous weddings in stunning venues and long list of corporate events and away days. I have also been Business Development Manager for various London based restaurant chains. I moved down from London in 2010 and stopped the commute and my role at Ping Pong Dim Sum in 2013, now based in my beloved Canterbury.
Canterbury is blessed with a long list of amazing independent businesses and restaurants dotted around the historic, cobbled backstreets all overshadowed by the magnificent Cathedral and grounds. Having just moved back from 4 years in Whitstable, which for me is either too sleepy or too full of DFL’s. However, mention must go out for Wheelers Oyster Bar, the oldest, family run restaurant in town. You can dine in the Oyster parlour or my favourite spot is on the stools plotted in front of the takeaway seafood bar. Their menu offers a large selection of oysters, my favourite are cooked in Guinness batter, an a la carte menu or small plates, their fish tarts are so moreish, light pastry full of fish and creamy sauces, these, other tarts and other delights are also takeaway.
Further down and pass the Duke of Cumberland, large pub with great live music, is VC Jones, simply the best Fish and Chips! there is a small restaurant at the back, but, get to the back of the queue and takeaway; head to the beach and maybe grab a bottle of vino from the Offy and enjoy.
Back to Canterbury, I have so many favourite ‘go to’s’, so here are a few: Breakfast must be Boho, and the Big Boho, all in big breakfast (I’m yet to finish) my sister comes down all the way from London to enjoy, there is a great veggie option too or opt for a large stack of freshly made pancakes American style pancakes, smothered in maple syrup. Boho has new owners and one being Brazilian means you can now enjoy a Brazilian menu, including a traditional Feijoada, all day Friday and Saturdays and live music every Friday evening.
Light lunch head to Kitch where you can enjoy a great range of healthy dishes including the Goddess Bowl, garlic, chilli roasted sweet potato, turmeric roasted cauliflower, pea & mint marinated kale, local, free range poached eggs & avocado topped topped with nuts!, if you are not having a Goddess day, enjoy a fab local free-range bacon and sausage sandwich.
Afternoon tea, you could head to Tiny Tim’s Tearoom, very glamorous, very English and apparently very haunted! You can enjoy homemade scones and handmade cakes that you can also takeaway, I did not get to try the Strawberry and Prosecco cake but looked amazing.
Dinner, back to The Ambrette. I will be biased as prior to me working here was my absolute go to!! our a la carte menu includes such dishes such as Lancashire Quail marinated in tumeric and cumin for starters, followed by main courses including a traditional South Indian Dosai, black tiger prawn served a lightly spiced Kerala coconut sauce, and flavorsome veg option of smoked aubergine with Kentish goats cheese. Dessert has to be the Ambrette Chocolate Platter, white chocolate silk, chocolate tart, dark chocolate and nectarine ice-cream.
Food shopping!! we have many independent butchers, bakers and cheese makers, however, The Goods Shed located adjacent to Canterbury West Station has it all under one roof. As you enter there is the Fishmongers, fantastic, huge selection of fresh fish and knowledgeable, friendly fishmongers. Next along is the Butchery, who buy only from Kentish Farmers and have an extensive range of meats, super helpful butchers, full of suggestions for a great meal. Opposite you have Cheese Makers of Canterbury bringing the finest British Artisian cheeses and an amazing Chilli Jam made in Bridge on the outskirts of Canterbury. Next door is the legend that is Jonny Sandwich, he offers not only amazing sandwiches but homemade sausage rolls, including black pudding, that can only be described as heaven on a plate. The Veg Stall collects their produce daily from 20 growers located within 12 miles of Canterbury, I must recommend their organic eggs found amongst all the fabulous veg, and not a plastic tray or plastic packaging in sight ! yay ! you can also find wine, Italian baker and deli, amazing selection of ales, beers and ciders. ‘The Restaurant’, has a great seasonal menu, open for breakfast, lunch and a more formal dinner.
Quick mention of my trip to Wye and The Kings Head, run by an adorable couple, Scott and Mark who have an envious wine list and menu. Thinking ‘out the box' they created the ‘Kings Shed Pizza co.’ an amazing ‘micro pizzeria’ located in a neon lite hut in the garden with the best tag line: Our pizzas sing with happiness and love. I’ve tried and I agree!
Lastly, I have to mention my trip back to my old stomping ground of Highbury and the now, not so new home of Arsenal, The Emirates. Having spent many weekend when my son was a cute, little curly haired youngster in the original Highbury, North Bank covering his ears from the expletives of the over excited fans, I headed back, courtesy of my not so little son (still with a fine head of hair), to the Avendell Club. Thankfully back in the North Bank but this time little bit posher! greeted by lovely ladies in Virgin air hostess-like uniforms, escorted up the escalators to the entrance and to obtain my Avendell badge, to be worn with pride. Into the bar/lounge, OMG, plates of beautifully presented food surrounding the bars…. and more bars….. I ordered a glass of Champagne that was never half empty, topped up by the super attentive staff. As if there were not enough food options from cheese boards, ham hock, Thai fish cakes before the match, during half time and post match they changed the offers, finishing off with a large sausage roll, beans and HP sauce! Corporate hospitality at its finest, to which I have mixed feelings, football should really be about the game, but who would say no to an afternoon here.
All for now, I look forward to my next update in 2020……. where has 20 years gone?????????
Wheelers Oyster Bar
Address: 8 High St, Whitstable CT5 1BQ
Phone: 01227 273311
V C Jones
Address: 25 Harbour St, Whitstable CT5 1AH
Phone: 01227 272703
Address: 27 High St, Canterbury CT1 2AZ
Phone: 01227 458931
Address: 4 St Peter's St, Canterbury CT1 2AT
Tiny Tim’s Tea Room
Address: 34 St Margaret's St, Canterbury CT1 2TG
Phone: 01227 450793
The Goods Shed
Address: Station Rd W, Canterbury CT2 8AN
Phone: 01227 459153
The Kings Head
Address: Church St, Wye, Ashford TN25 5BN
Phone: 01233 812418
The Halfway House
Halfway House, Canterbury Rd, Challock TN25 4BB
Phone: 01233 740258
The Turner Contemporary
Address: Rendezvous, Margate CT9 1HG