Sargasso, Margate Harbour Arm, Stone Pier, Margate CT9 1AP (01843 229270). Small plates £7-£11, massive plates £9-£19, desserts £6, wines from £25
It’s the easiest of dishes: half a dozen fats Cantabrian anchovies, the color of well-varnished teak, lie in a pool of deep inexperienced olive oil, dotted with glowing droplets of what seems to be lemon juice. On the face of it, little or no has occurred to get this to our desk. Some severely good anchovies, meaty, salty and highly effective specimens with a lingering depth of flavour, have merely been taken from their resting place, dressed and despatched on their manner. However there’s a lot extra happening right here; one thing that goes to the very coronary heart of the perfect eating places. It’s an expression of exquisitely good style. Sargasso, in Margate, is sodden with the stuff.
It won’t be all people’s concept of excellent style. Some will have a look at the squat, previous redbrick constructing it calls residence, and roll their eyes. They’ll dismiss as ugly this low-slung bruiser of a block hunkered by the ocean wall alongside the harbour arm because it reaches out into the water. If they’re of a rectally challenged demographic and conversant in sure over-the-counter ointments, they might whine concerning the arduous, spindly stools that you’re invited to sit down upon when you eat on the counter, or on the excessive window tables. This basic eye-rolling might be prolonged to the monogrammed plates, the restaurant’s title realised in a blood-red font that recollects the late 60s futurism of Joe 90. And let’s not neglect the document participant and the gathering of 70s jazz funk vinyl cuts by the likes of Idris Mohammed and George Duke, which play upon it. The album cowl is all the time displayed behind the bar so you recognize precisely what you’re listening to when you eat.
If all of this doesn’t sound like your plate of Cantabrian anchovies, don’t come right here. You shouldn’t take the high-speed prepare from London’s St Pancras, as I did, for an early supper. Go elsewhere. The remainder of you, get in. Sargasso, which is the second restaurant from chef Ed Wilson and the crew behind Brawn on London’s Columbia Highway, makes the easiest issues look quite simple. The menu, divided between half a dozen small plates and the same variety of bigger choices, manages to mirror completely its hard-scrabble coastal setting.
A few of it, like these wonderful anchovies, to be eaten with the springiest of hard-crusted sourdoughs, is merely concerning the components. Don’t neglect to mop. There are others which have demanded extra thought. Whipped cod’s roe, a wistful fondant-fancy pink, has been piped in buxom whorls throughout a thick piece of oily toast. Throughout that may be a garden of well-dressed peppery watercress. It’s topped with a boiled egg, allowed to return to room temperature, however nonetheless with a sundown of runny yolk that pours out throughout it while you minimize in. It seems like each critical consideration to element and big look after £8.
From that fishy aspect of the ledger comes a salad of crab, with finely shredded wild fennel, chives and different inexperienced herbs on a thick pond of sauce thickened with brown crab meat. You could possibly, after all, merely stand exterior on the harbour arm, and sniff the air right here because the tide pulls out; take within the gull-clawed wind, wealthy with the saline pong of uncovered seaweed and previous boat diesel. Or you would sit in right here, at a excessive prime, staring out on the view and eat a candy and funky expression of it. The enjoyment, after all, is that by taking the stroll to Sargasso you get a mix of the 2. Add a bowl of their clams, with thick, mushy slices of garlic and handfuls of coriander. Accurately, they create a spoon so you possibly can end the ripe, snout-thumping broth prefer it’s a soup.
There are different nice issues. As a result of it’s the season, there’s asparagus, served heat with a glass dish of lemony melted butter. Friggitelli peppers, Padrón’s longer Italian cousins, are given slightly warmth to assist them wizen and soften, then dressed with flakes of sea salt and chilli. Parmesan fritters are squash-ball-sized béchamel croquettes, with centres of pure molten cheesiness, served sizzling from the fryer underneath a micro-planed drift of the perfect parmesan. It’s finger meals, designed by somebody who believes a plate needs to be cleared. I get the message. I clear the plate right down to that shiny monogram.
A lot of the wine checklist, which is as cautious and intriguing a variety as at Brawn, is offered by the glass and carafe. Behind the bar is a group of spirits, together with Aperol Spritz and Fernet-Branca; issues that you just may assume are a good suggestion after a couple of carafes of the gentler wines. You’re an grownup; make your personal bloody decisions. There are additionally piles of cookbooks, titles by Nuno Mendes, José Pizarro and, most pleasingly of all, Keith Floyd (on Italy). It’s that good style factor once more.
Someplace in a assessment of a restaurant in Margate there are supposed to be a few paragraphs musing on a seaside city with a fame for scruffiness, now present process gentrification. It’s such an apparent level it’s barely price making past saying that sure, the coin arcades are nonetheless right here on the entrance, and so is the Turner Up to date. There are bucket-and-spade outlets, and ironic takes on the bucket-and-spade tradition. And there’s Sargasso, which in July shifts from opening on a Thursday to opening on a Wednesday. Maybe throughout the summer time they’ll be capable to open all through the week. I do hope so.
Generally, after I inform individuals I play jazz piano, they inform me they hate jazz, as if it’s a mark of some type of intelligent, reverse sophistication. They usually appear stunned after I inform them that’s effective. I really feel completely no have to argue the case or convert them. They’re those who’re lacking out. Their loss. I actually do really feel the identical manner about Sargasso. I can predict the reactions in opposition to it from those that flare their nostrils at what they regard as posturing. All which means is that they gained’t get to eat these anchovies or that crab salad, in that constructing with these sounds and that view. On the finish, with a ultimate good nod to the bucket-and-spade tradition of Margate, there’s soft-serve ice-cream, both with strawberry sauce or chocolate and hazelnuts. It suggests a lower than vigorous curiosity in desserts by the kitchen right here, however after such an important meal, they are often forgiven.
Sargasso is about to get a brand new neighbour. Staple, an impartial bakery which launched its first outpost on the former village put up workplace in Broadstairs in 2020 earlier than increasing into Westgate-on-Sea final yr, is to open two extra subsequent month. One is in Ramsgate and the opposite is within the constructing proper subsequent to Sargasso on Margate’s Harbour Arm. The menu, overseen by chef and baker Stephen Gadd, consists of numerous sourdough loaves, their very own croissant and Danish in addition to a spread of traditional muffins (staplestores.co.uk).
Clay’s Kitchen, the Indian restaurant in Studying which developed a nationwide following throughout lockdown for its residence deliveries, has launched a crowdfunder to boost cash for its new residence. Sharat and Nandana Syamala have taken on the lease of a former Wetherspoon’s pub in Caversham and, having raised £250,000 themselves, are searching for the identical once more to complete the job. They’re providing a bunch of rewards together with vouchers, cooking lessons, membership membership subscriptions and venue rent. Discover out extra right here.
After 18 years, chef Marc Wilkinson is closing the much-admired Michelin-starred Fraiche in Oxton on Merseyside. Wilkinson, who famously cooks by himself, has mentioned that each one present reservations will likely be honoured however no extra will likely be launched. The final service will likely be on the finish of September. The Fraiche title will then be used for different initiatives (restaurantfraiche.com).
This text was amended on 26 June 2022. An earlier model referred to “Calabrian”, quite than Cantabrian, anchovies.
E-mail Jay at email@example.com or comply with him on Twitter @jayrayner1