On Saturday we piled into the car and headed out to Broadstairs to try a restaurant that has been on my list since one of my scouts recommended I include it in my '31Things Everyone Must Eat In East Kent' feature for Buzzfeed: Wyatt & Jones. Boasting features in the Michelin and Good Food Guide, as well as recommendations from some of the local chefs and restauranteurs whose judgement I trust the most, I just knew we were in for a fantastic meal a little bit further along the East Kent coast than I usually venture.
Right on the road down to the harbour, the dining room boasts views out over the sandy beach of Viking Bay. Pro tip: try and find somewhere to park other than the car park just past the restaurant on the harbour wall. They charge £2 an hour, and you can only buy parking in 2 hour blocks! Try to grab an open space as you drive down the high street or in an adjacent side street, or plan ahead (we didn't!)
Impressed by the extensive wine list, those of us who were not driving decided to start with the only English Sparkling Wine they sell by the glass (and that we had not actually sampled yet): Gusbourne Estate. English Sparkling usually falls into two categories: wine made in the English style, which tends to be very aromatic and floral like the new Barnsole English Sparkling (good for an aperitif), and that made in the French style like Champagne, like Nyetimber, with a similar flavour profile, and I think better suited to pairing with food. The Gusbourne improved the more we drank of it and it went very well with our appetisers and starters. However, I’m unsure, given the choice, if I’d choose it over some other English Sparkling varieties I already love.
Before we get to the starters, Wyatt & Jones do appetisers. While I'd really have loved to try every single one on the menu, I settled for the Monkfish and Roasted Red Pepper Ceviche, and my own plate of Anchovy Toast (because I did not want to share anyone elses!) The ceviche was okay; good pepper and lovely fresh monkfish, but it lacked that zing your mind automatically jumps to whenever anyone mentions the word ceviche. The anchovy toast, however, was bloody fantastic. Thin, warm, crisp, slathered with flavourful, slightly herby butter I could have eaten stupid amounts of this. It honestly has to be the best anchovy toast I've had (sorry Beagle - though I do still adore your dippy eggs, and also sorry to my own recipe!)
Moving on to our starters, I had the oyster plate, three ways. The stand out here for me where the ones topped with gin and tonic granita (tart and frosty - the perfect pairing), and my first experience of Kilpatrick oysters taught me that while the flavourings were delicious, in my book cooking a perfectly good oyster should be a crime. The two natural oysters (served with lemon and tabasco, though I missed having pickled shallots on the table) gave me a good introduction to the Whitstable Oyster, the great British protected food name given to the oysters grown along the coast around these parts. Well? It tasted of Whitstable. Make of that what you will, but I don't think they beat out for me the obsession I think I can feel forming with Cancale oysters.
My mother, stylishly decked out here in a Crew Breton and a lavender scarf went for the torched mackerel with brown bread puree, radish and kale 'seaweed'. I can promise you that it tasted as good as it looked.
Daddy, the meat eater whenever we dine at a seafood restaurant where shellfish is not the order of the day ordered the pork rilletts served with toast and a piccalilli puree. As well as looking pretty, it had a good, rich meaty flavour and was polished off rather quickly. I still think he ought to have had seafood, though.
Before out main courses arrived, we chose a couple of wines by the glass to pair with them. My mother and I both love Chapel Down white wine (not just because it is from Kent!), and while I always order a glass of Bacchus, and she always orders a Flint Dry. While they were both available, I went for the Flint and I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, I think it pairs better with fish than Bacchus. Daddy, as he was having meat, ordered a Spanish red. A nice, standard blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo.
Returning to the fish dishes, my mother ordered the sea trout. I tasted a very lovely fish dish on a bed of slow cooked leeks and fennel. She was overly enamoured with it because she tries a lot of sea trout, and usually it tastes too much of the sea. This one was beautifully light.
Daddy had the beef loin with gravy butter, beef shin hash, spring onions and parsnip puree. The beef was perfectly cooked to just under medium rare, and he finished everything on his plate. That is something to write home about, when he is presented with kale. What he was most impressed with though was the hash; slow cooked beef shin layered between two layers of thinly sliced potato.
I had the Bouillabaisse, with baby clams, mussels, fennel, pearl barley (for a bit of a British twist) and a fillet of hake resting on top. Aside from the great favour, I loved how interactive this dish was; I needed to free the clams and mussels from their shells, and I could flake the tender fish into the broth as I ate.
Time for dessert meant time to sample something from Wyatt & Jones' classic, but with modern touches cocktail menu. I can't remember what this concoction was called or the exact details, but it had gin, basil, and I think apple juice, and was wonderfully balanced, drinkable and herbal.
Mummy came up trumps with her dessert, ordering the super glossy chocolate delice with a salted peanut mousse and peanut brittle. The chocolate was so rich and creamy, and both my parents were digging into the peanut. Peanuts are the one food I really can't stand, so I'm afraid you'll have to take their word for it!
We were all digging into my fathers: a passionfruit set custard with a crunchy base, served with crushed honeycomb. It was rich, fruity and had that more-ish quality the very best desserts have; the pastry chef at Wyatt & Jones is one of the best I have encountered locally. He polished it off, naturally.
I finished with the rhubarb parfait, served with rhubarb gel, topped with a wafer thin white chocolate tuille and sitting on one of the lightest, buttery shortbread biscuits I've tasted in a long time. Okay, so the frozen parfait was a bit hard to get through with my fork at first, but it was still a totally delicious, very English end to the meal.
We really loved Wyatt & Jones, an absolute gem, and will probably be making another trip out in the autumn once the summer crowd has left for the season. Oh, and did I mention that all of this only came to £152. For the three of us, one of us having the full four courses with three different drink pairings, I think that is rather good value.