BY PALOMA LACY
The past decade has been an interesting one for Margate, taking it from tired seaside town to one of the coolest places on Kent’s coast.
The Turner Contemporary Gallery has given it cultural kudos, but can we really heap all the praise on the town’s most famous daughter, Tracey Emin?
Her ongoing presence and association with the gallery has no doubt helped, but Margate is much more than one person – it’s a town full of heart.
Margate remains a town of two halves. The bright lights of the amusement arcades loom large, if you let them, but have been muted by the tasteful revamp of iconic theme park, Dreamland.
A veritable oasis, not quite of calm, given the roller coaster and other fairground rides on offer, it is strangely relaxing.
Design gurus have done wonders to introduce muted colours and create a fun ambience, but not one that attacks the senses and makes you want to run away screaming. Throw in decent street food of every description and Dreamland is a hugely fun day out.
Margate’s sandy beaches are unrivalled, and although it’s starting to get a bit chilly now, it’s the perfect spot for a bracing walk that’ll blow away the cobwebs.
I’ve always loved the Old Town for its quirky nature, on-off shops, boutiques, craft beer shops and restaurants.
My absolute favourite place to start is the Old Kent Market, formerly the old Parade Cinema, which houses a complete mishmash of eating and drinking options.
Gina’s Old Kent Bakery cooks sausage rolls and other pastries from scratch daily from an open kitchen, but if that doesn’t take your fancy there’s everything from fish and chips to noodles.
If you’re looking for a more formal dining experience, the AA recommended Ambrette takes you on a tour of Anglo Indian Cuisine.
Synonymous with all that is good about Margate’s dining scene, the positives begin with its knock- out seafront location, just opposite the Turner Contemporary Gallery. Amble inside for the warmest of welcomes and prepare for a feast to remember.
The Ambrette offers formal dining without the stuffiness of the white table cloth brigade.
During my visit, the place was half full and service was carried out by just one waitress, which initially made me nervous and concerned that it would be an overly long wait for food.
A relatively new mother, she had practiced multi-tasking, turning it into a fine art, with a keen eye on all diners, quickly meeting their needs, one by one as they arose.
It’s sadly a rare thing to find waiting staff so on the ball, and this was a masterclass in restaurant floor management.
The food was outstanding and I’d have gladly waited all day for dishes this good. First up was a selection of house cured meats – smoked chicken, smoked pork loin and cured duck for a bargain £4.95.
I’m always astounded by the keener price points of restaurants outside London.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this fusion cuisine, but the Anglo influence was clear to see, with dishes such as tender poussin, on-the-bone biryani and fore shank of goat, served with paprika and fenugreek potatoes, biryani rice, crisp potato julienne and seasonal vegetables.
And there were the more traditional dishes that you might expect, including that South Indian staple, Dosa.
A visit to the Ambrette brings a completely new dimension to the typical coastal break and quite frankly is a must. At this time of year, there are some great deals to be had on hotels in Margate, and you’d go a long way to beat the comfort and general good standard of a night at the Premier Inn.
A late convert to the chain, I can honestly say the rumours about the extreme comfort of the mattresses are indeed true.
Rarely have I slept more soundly, in no small part due to the blackout blinds. Another truth is the breakfast buffet, with items cooked fresh to order at no additional cost, begging the question: what’s not to like?
At Premier Inn Hotel Margate, you’ll be ideally placed to explore all the charms of this seaside town.
Right on Margate seafront, it’s a short stroll from the town centre attractions or some retail therapy. Rooms start from £77 per night for bookings on a family room at www.premierinn.com
Rail connections between London and the Kent coast are excellent, with overnight return fares as little as £20.20 from www.southeasternrailway.co.uk