For the second year running I've decided to focus on a small, independent and totally delicious cafe in East Kent for my first restaurant review of the year. Since I started working nearby last Summer, my favourite place to grab lunch to eat at my desk has quickly become the Pop Up Cafe on Deal High Street. I love taking way steaming pots of their delicious homemade soups, hunks of homemade sourdough, imaginative salads and their incredibly more-ish cakes back to the office with me, but last week I decided to meet my parents for lunch in town for a proper sit down meal in their light and airy upstairs seating area.
Pop Up Cafe is open Thursday to Sunday, and if they're open you can guarantee their window is full of baked goods to choose from, and during the cooler months 2-3 different soups and stews of the day will be listed in the window. Their sausage rolls are important; not only are they beautiful and glossy, but they're packed with beautifully flavoured sausage meat and caramelized onions. Grab one to go, or with a green salad on the side. Also, while we're here, their brownies if they're on are the best brownies I've ever had.
It was the first time I'd actually been upstairs as I do usually grab something to go, but seeing their cookbook collection really explained for me why I always described the cafe as somewhere I can go and buy something I would have cooked for myself, but without all of the effort. Our collections have so much in common, from the Ottolenghi books to Niki Segnit's Flavour Thesaurus and Leiths brilliant techniques bible.
Everything is wonderfully seasonal and local at the Pop Up Cafe. I've had this dish a couple of times, but it is always subtly different depending on what is good that day. I'm slightly in love with the sourdough they bake there, and here thick toasted pieces are topped with creamy homemade labneh (here is how you make your own, by the way), roasted sweet potatoes (I had squash last time) and fiery homemade harissa. A green salad with seasonal accoutrements and lots of sumac is simply wonderful on the side.
Usually I have the soups, with plenty of toppings. They do a wonderful Malaysian stew, and such a comforting spiced tomato and lentil number. Mummy had a steaming bowl of Roast Cauliflower Soup with Roasted Garlic, topped off with a bit of cream, paprika and fresh coriander. She really, really enjoyed it, especially with great hunks of that glorious bread. If you're not sure what to order, the soup is always a brilliant bet.
So, I may have gone back the next day for the Hoisin Pork Belly Sandwich my Dad ordered, because I could not stop thinking about it. More gloriously thick sourdough, with generous strips of impossibly tender pork belly, bathed in Hoisin sauce with a good squidge of Sriracha, given a bit of freshness and crunch with fresh cucumber, spring onions and fresh coriander. A bit of a messy eat, but oh so worth it.
Pop Up Cafe also run Supper Clubs, one of which I really want to visit sometime soon if I can find someone to come with me. Deal is a lovely place to drive down to for a weekend by the seaside (it has an award winning high street, and is also only half an hour pretty much straight drive to Canterbury), and Pop Up Cafe is where you need to go either for a lazy brunch or for a filling lunch after a walk along the pier. Later in the year, Deal is also a great spot for a day trip with the HS1 high speed train bringing you down in just over an hour from St. Pancras - just don't plan a train trip just now as the line is out due to the small matter of a collapsed sea wall along the line!