Sargasso, Margate Harbor Arm, Stone Pier, Margate CT9 1AP (01843 229270). Small plates £ 7- £ 11, large plates 9- £ 19, desserts £ 6, wines from 25
It’s the simplest of dishes: half a dozen fat Calabrian anchovies, the color of well-varnished teak, sleeps in a pool of deep green olive oil, the shiny drops make lemon juice. On the face of it, it has become too short to reach our table. Powerful specimens of some seriously good anchovies, fleshy, salty, and of long depth of flavor, worn only from their resting-place, are clothed and sent on their way. But a lot is happening here; Something that goes to the very heart of the best restaurant. It is an expression of good taste. In Sargasso, Margate, the luggage is torn.
It will not be a good taste idea for everyone. Someone will look at the squat, the old red brick building that calls home, and rolls its eyes. They will dismantle this low-slung browser of the block hanked by the sea wall on the edge of the harbor when it reaches the water. If they are a really challenging demographic and are familiar with certain over-the-counter ointments, they may shout about the hard, black ointments you are invited to sit on while eating at the counter, or at high window tables. It can be expanded into simple eye-rolling monogrammed plates, with the restaurant’s name embodied in a blood-red font reminiscent of the late 60’s. Which is 90. And don’t forget the record player and a collection of Idris Mohammed and George Duke’s favorite 70s jazz funk vinyl cuts, which are played in it. The album cover is always displayed behind the bar so you know what you’re listening to while eating.
If all of this doesn’t sound like your Calabrian Encourage plate, don’t come here. You shouldn’t take the high-speed train from London’s St Pancras, like I did, for an early meal. Go elsewhere. The rest of you, get inside. Sargasso, which is Chef Ed Wilson’s second restaurant and the team behind Brown on Columbia Road in London, looks pretty simple. The menu, divided into half a dozen small plates and an equal number of large offers, manages to fully reflect its hard-scrabble coastal setting.
Some of them, like those glorious anchovies, to eat with a spring of hard-crusted sourdough, are just about the ingredients. Don’t forget to map. There are others who have asked for more ideas. Row of whipped code, a viscous fondant-fancy pink, thickened piece of oil toast is piped into the boxed worms. There is a well-dressed pepper watercress lane all over it. It is topped with a boiled egg, allowed to come to room temperature, but still with a pale yellow sunset that comes out when you cut it. This seems like both serious attention to detail and great care for £ 8.
From that laser side of the fish comes a crab salad, finely chopped wild fennel, chives and other green herbs with brown crab meat in a thick pool of dark sauce. Of course, you can only stand outside the harbor arm, and hear the wind here as the tide pulls out; Take in the gul-clad air, filled with open seaweed and the salty pong of the old boat diesel. Or you can sit here, at the top, looking at the view and eating its sweet and enjoyable expression. Pleasure, of course, by walking to Sargasso you get a combination of the two. Add a bowl of their clams with thick, soft slices of garlic and a handful of coriander. Precisely, they bring a spoon so you can finish the cooked, slightly-thumping broth it’s like a soup.
There are other great things. As it is seasoning, there is asparagus, lemonade served warm with a glass dish of melted butter. Friggitelli pepper, Padron’s long Italian cousin, is given a little heat to help them wizen and soften, then dressed with sea salt and pepper flakes. Parmesan fritters are squash-ball-shaped bacchmel croquettes, with centers of pure melted cheese, served hot from the fryer under the best parmesan micro-plan draft. This is finger food, designed by people who believe that the plate should be emptied. I get the message. I empty the plate with that shiny monogram.
Available in many wine lists, glasses and cafes with the same careful and interesting choices as in Brown. Behind the bar is a collection of spirits, including Aprol Spritz and Farnet-Branca; Some of the things you might think after a few cafes with a little alcohol are good ideas. You are an adult; Choose your own blood. There are also lots of cookbooks, headlines by Nuno Mendes, Jose Pizarro and, happily, Keith Floyd (in Italy). It’s a good taste again.
Somewhere in a review of a Margate restaurant there is a reputation for scrubs in a seaside town, now a pair of paragraphs undergoing gentrification. This is such a clear point that yes, coin arcades are still ahead, and Turner is worth making out beyond saying that it is also contemporary. There are bucket-and-spade shops, and take the bucket-and-spade culture ironically. And there’s Sargasso, which opens on Wednesday from opening Thursday in July. Perhaps in the summer they will be able to open all week. I hope so.
Sometimes, when I tell people I play the jazz piano, they tell me they hate jazz, as if it’s a sign of clever, reverse sophistication. They often look surprised when I tell them it’s okay. I don’t need to debate the issues or convert them. Those who are missing. Their loss. I think the same goes for Sargasso. I can guess reactions against it from those who regard it as their posture. This means they won’t get to eat those anchovies or that crab salad in that building with those sounds and that scene. Finally, with the ultimate smart nod to Margate’s bucket-and-spade culture, there’s soft-serve ice cream with strawberry sauce or chocolates and hazelnuts. This suggests less interest in desserts in the kitchen here, but after such a good meal, they can be forgiven.
Piece of news
Sargasso is looking for a new neighbor. Staples, an independent bakery that opened its first outpost in Broadstairs’ old village post office in 2020 before expanding the Westgate-on-border last year, will open two more next month. One is at Ramsgate and the other is at Margate’s Harbor Arm next to Sargasso. Supervised by chef and baker Stephen Gad, the menu includes a range of different sour cakes, their own croissants and desserts, as well as classic cakes.staplestores.co.uk).
Clay Kitchen, an Indian restaurant in Reading that was developed nationwide during the lockdown for home delivery, has launched a crowdfunder to raise money for its new home. Sharat and Nandana Samla have rented a former Weatherspun pub in Cavarsom and are looking to do the same again, raising, 250,000. They are offering a bunch of prizes including vouchers, cooking classes, membership club memberships and location rentals. Find out more Here.
18 years later, chef Mark Wilkinson is closing the much-acclaimed Michelin-starred fries in Oxton, Merseyside. Wilkinson, who famously cooks his own food, said all existing reservations would be respected but no more would be left out. The last service will be at the end of September. The Fraiche name will then be used for other projects (restaurantfraiche.com).