KATIE BOND finds there’s a whole lot more to the Kent seaside town of Whitstable than Peter Cushing and oysters...
HAVING never even set foot in Kent, I had no idea what to expect from a weekend break in Whitstable.
A quick Google search of the town told me several things about the seaside town – firstly, that it’s perhaps most popular for its oysters and secondly, that it was the home of actor Peter Cushing for most of his adult life.
The Marine Hotel was our choice of accommodation for the weekend, and the beautiful sea view that greeted us from our room made the three-hour drive seem more than worthwhile.
The Shepherd Neame hotel, Britain’s oldest brewer, has recently been refurbished, and reopened in spring 2013 following a £1.6m redevelopment.
Situated opposite Tankerton Slopes, it is ideally placed to explore Whitstable, with its famous fish market, independent galleries and boutiques. Also close by are the beaches of Herne Bay, Ramsgate and Broadstairs and the historic city of Canterbury.
The bedrooms, many of which have sea views and large balconies, are tastefully decorated in neutral, fresh tones, with a nautical theme throughout.
But with the sun making its first appearance in what felt like forever, we decided to make the most of the weather and headed out to enjoy everything the charming little town had to offer.
The hotel itself is located just a 15 minute stroll from Whitstable harbour and the quirky Harbour Street, a popular street bursting with independent shops full of character, perfect for ambling along.
But those 15 minutes can easily turn into hours of just dawdling along the beachfront admiring the many little beach huts, each decorated in its own unique way, before stopping off in one of the pubs looking out to sea. We found that these drinking holes are at their busiest early evening and it’s easy to see why. They provide an ideal location to watch the sunset on the beach while enjoying an ice cold cider.
For lunch, we really were spoilt for choice with an abundance of little restaurants and cafes to choose from. We plumped for Birdies, one of Whitstable’s longest-standing establishments. Much of the menu is made up of fish from the local water, but there’s something for everyone including those who aren’t big seafood fans, like us.
As we were booked in for an evening meal in our hotel restaurant, we walked off our big lunch with a bit of window shopping and exploring the beaches, and worked up an appetite just in time.
We were shown to our table, which was nestled away in a bay window, which the waitress told us they affectionately call the Love Room. Not only was it cosy and private, it also offered up views across the sea.
For starters, we chose the goat’s cheese croquettes with a tomato and pickled red onion salad, basil oil and pea shoots, plus the sauteed mushrooms in cream, garlic and thyme on roasted sour dough with roasted peppers and olive tapenade. Both were delicious and the perfect portion size.
For mains, we both went for the Kentish fillet steak on a truffled celeriac puree, dauphinoise potatoes, roasted beetroot, wilted spinach and horseradish and thyme jus. I’d go as far as to say it was the best steak I’ve ever had – cooked to perfection and so succulent.
Although the portions didn’t look huge, we were completely stuffed, and with no room for dessert, we moved on for drinks in the bar, which we were surprised to find had emptied out a lot since earlier on in the afternoon, when it was buzzing with both guests and locals mingling over glasses of wine.
Despite having a strong dislike of seagulls, nothing beats waking up to the sound of their squawking, the fresh sea air and clear blue skies on a Sunday morning. It’s enough to instantly put anyone in a good mood, even me, and I’m definitely not a morning person.
A full English was our choice for breakfast, and a good choice it was too. The food at the restaurant was faultless, in fact. For those who would rather start their morning slightly more healthily, though, there was plenty of other options, including egg florentine bagels, locally smoked kippers, or French toast.
And if you fancy a bit of a lie-in during your break, there is even the option of a later breakfast in the hotel’s Orangery restaurant.
To finish off our trip, we took a walk along Tankerton Slopes, which I’ve since found out was given its name because of the way the grass slopes towards the beach. The area was awash with dog walkers, bike riders and roller skaters during our stroll, and at low tide, a long stretch of pebbles and land known as The Street leads out to sea, providing a temporary natural promenade.
I’ve always thought a weekend break in the UK could never really feel like a proper getaway or a chance to relax and escape the stresses of work and everyday life. Whitstable proved me wrong.
Feeling completely refreshed and rejuvenated, we packed up the car and headed home, concluding that the only downside to our mini-break was the gridlocked M25 that greeted us on our return.