What with it being just over an hour from Stratford, home to at least one or all of The Libertines on any given day, and a new favourite destination for restaurant-goers and restaurateurs alike - it’s no surprise that Margate is becoming London’s new favourite seaside destination. That said, it can be hard to know what you should absolutely do in the hours you’re there, 2p machines and Dance Dance Revolution aside. That’s where we come in. Because Margate has a lot of options but if you don’t want to run around like a headless seagull checking out what’s best, then just go to these ones.
THE OBLIGATORY SEAFOOD SHACK
Every trip to the seaside should be marked by a visit to the local, often sole, (and therefore the best) seafood shack. You know the ones, white hatches with a spread of just-caught oysters, prawns, cockles, whelks, out front, plus the inevitable crab sandwich. Manning’s is the one to head to in Margate. It parks up just next to the Turner Contemporary, where you’ll see a polite queue of people trying not to be blown away by gale force winds. You want to order confidently. Owners of local seaside seafood huts are a particular type: jovial on the outside but with the piercing eyes of an unsatisfied seagull when it comes to bumbling out-of-towners. A crab sandwich (lemon, tiny squeeze of mayo, no leaves) is essential. As are a few oysters. We can never resist a little tub of prawns and some marie rose sauce either. Pop a squat on the sea-facing wall and you’ve got the perfect seaside snack.
FOR A WONDERFUL WALK-IN LUNCH
Contrary to that picture of Pete Doherty and an obscenely large plate, sorry, metal tray, of beans and eggs and stuff, Margate is actually a prime location for some locally caught, daintily-plated, small plates. If you’re into the popular photo sharing and boast-enabling app Instagram, you may well have seen it around. The seafood bar is on the High Street, a little further down from the 2p and claw machines, and it’s somewhere you need to check out. The menu changes depending on the daily catch, but it’s bound to be pretty exquisite. Crab on green beans, cumin-rubbed raw trout, and melt-in-your-mouth stewed squid with sweet tomatoes gives you a general gist of deliciousness. They also specialise in English-made wine and the changing BTG list is great. Best of all is that unlike Angela’s, its equally excellent sibling restaurant, Dory’s remains walk-in only. Which suits the er, less organised day-tripper.
A SORT OF PIRATE-LEANING PUB
You’ll more than likely be told to check out a few pubs in Margate. One of them, The Little Prince, is said to be the smallest pub in the UK. Which is cute and novelty and all, but it also means that their Guinness comes out of a can. After you enjoy a quick and cramped one there, it’s worth checking out The Lifeboat. It probably leans more Sauvage than Jack Sparrow in reality but the nautical themed ale and cider house has that dark and sawdusty aesthetic that makes you long for the days of viral sea shanties. Of their numerous independent ales, check out their milk stout. It’s maybe even better than a pint of the black stuff.
THE EVEN MORE OBLIGATORY FISH & CHIPS
Peter's Fish Factory
There is an inevitability to many things in life, but nothing is more inevitable than crunching batter on the seaside as you wave away a flying demon from your bag of chips. As per any coastal favourite, Margate has its most-visited chippy and also one that’s a little off the beaten track. You’ll more than likely opt for Peter’s as it’s right there opposite the sea and the fish and chips is pretty good. Decent batter, flaky fish, good chips. The curry sauce is a little too fragrant for our liking but, hey, we’re pedants. Otherwise, if you’re looking to skip the queue and don’t mind walking inwards, there’s Alfie’s. Some locals say that’s where you should be getting your cod (or haddock) and chips.
DINNER & DRINKS FROM LONDON WITH LOVE
As much as you love London, and love getting away from London, you can’t help manifesting a bit of London where you are. Because, ultimately, we are self-obsessed urbanites who look at a small seaside town and say things like “isn’t this lovely” before declaring the need for a local Pret and somewhere with a £50 bottle of orange wine that tastes like Copella mixed with petrol. This is not to say you shouldn’t be going to Sargasso, the seaside sibling to Brawn in Hackney, because you absolutely should. Margate’s newest hotspot is the place to be and certainly a place you want to keep eating and drinking in. The menu is basically simple, seductive seafood. An oyster with ’nduja. Smoked eel with bacon and watercress. An enormous, beautifully cooked hunk of brill alongside seasonal favourite monk’s beard and sweet datterini tomatoes. Combined with the dulcet tones of Gil Scott-Heron, a serious wine list and a seat at the bar, it’s clear to see why it’s already a locals and not-so-local favourite.