As part of our continuing mini culinary tour of East Kent the next stop was the Isle of Thanet, and a trip to Eddie Gilbert's for 'Gourmet Fish and Chips'.
Walking past a well stocked fish counter and a couple of industrial sized fryers we made our way up the staircase at the back of the shop into the surprisingly light dining area. The vaulted ceiling and walls are decorated with just enough fishing nets and nautical memorabilia to set the scene and, even on a dreary Wednesday lunchtime, there was already a cosy buzz.
We started with a hoppy and refreshing aperitif, in the form of the locally brewed Gadd's Number 3 Pale Ale, to drink while we chose our food. Looking at the a la carte menu I got a feeling of rising panic; what to chose when everything looked so delicious. With phrases including 'home smoked cod', 'warm whelk vinaigrette' and 'spiced mackerel with shallot bhaji' it was clear this wasn't any old chippie fare. Before I could become overwhelmed with indecision I went back to basics and picked two of my fishy favourites.
The menu also offers a selection of fish and seafood that can be served battered or grilled and are offered up with all the usual chip shop accompaniments. For those not persuaded by the deep sea delights a handmade range of Kentish pies are available, served with mash and veg, and on weekdays you can also choose a bargain two or three course set menu.
The Ewing started with their famous duck egg with crispy smoked eel 'soldiers' served in a newspaper cone. The egg was nicely cooked with a soft and gooey centre perfect for dunking. The soldiers were very good too; hot, crispy and greaseless with a lovely smoky fish note to cut through the richness of the egg . I barely had time to swipe a soldier before she was happily mopping up the last of the sticky yolk.
I chose brown shrimps from the nibbles section served simply with lemon, warm bread and butter. As a child we often used to visit Belgium on holiday and one of the biggest treats was buying a big bag of tiny brown shrimps to eat on the journey home. At first me and my sister would attempt to daintily peel them but we would always end up copying my Dad and munching them shell and all.
What can I say about these other than there are few things in life as perfect as eating a bowl of shrimps that you don't have to peel yourself. They were gorgeously plump and sweet and my only problem, despite the generous portion, was that I could have easily eaten twice as many.
All the mains looked fabulous but we both plumped for the Fritto Misto with beef dripping chips (lightweights are given an option of vegetable oil) and a side of beautifully cooked, slightly salty samphire. The selection of seafood included two huge juicy prawns, meltingly soft squid, delicate strips of sea bass and lovely flaky cod all encased in a feather light batter. The deft hand at the fryer extended to the glorious, crispy yet fluffy chips which I used to help mop up the jug of accompanying spicy tomato 'ragu' and moreish aioli.
After all that glorious fried food I could barely manage another morsel. Luckily it wasn't hard to persuade the chocoholic Ewing to order the Black Pearl Stout and Chocolate Ice Cream so I could sample it with a glass of Black Pearl Stout. This beer has been brewed by Gadd's, specially for Eddie Gilbert's, and the waiter suggested that for the best effect we should take a mouthful of ice cream and wash it down with the stout.
It was, unsurprisingly, lovely. The rich coffee and slightly bitter flavour of the stout was tempered by the smooth, chocolatey ice cream and the accompanying ginger snap baskets were crisp on the outside and marvellously syrupy and chewy underneath.
Friendly service with tasty, reasonably priced, food all dished up in nice surroundings show that Eddie Gilbert's is worthy of the hype. What really impressed me though was how it manages to appeal to everyone. On our visit I observed ladies who lunch, nibbling on mussels and smoked salmon from the 'light bites' section; couples choosing the good value set menu; A large table celebrating with several bottles of wine; pensioners tucking into to cod and chips and young children enjoying scampi and ice cream. There's even the obligatory steak for the non-fish eaters, which, showing the quality in the kitchen, manages to be an aged rib eye with blue cheese butter.
The small dining area fills up quickly so make sure to book, especially on weekends. If you do find yourself in the vicinity without a reservation make sure you stop for takeaway cod and beef dripping chips to eat down on the beach. But be careful, this is one fish supper you won't want to be sharing with the seagulls.