The Ambrette

Restaurant in Kent

Indian Restaurant

What passes for Indian food in Britain is, in truth, mostly Bangladeshi cuisine while the nowadays ubiquitous chicken tikka massala – officially recognised by the British Tourist Authority as the nation’s most popular dish – is not of eastern origin at all, as most people believe, but was invented by an Asian chef working in Glasgow.

‘Fusion’ is the in-vogue culinary buzzword of the moment and a new wave of bravely creative young chefs from the sub-continent is standing convention on its head by creating new dishes that add an aromatic edge to eye-pleasing Michelin-styled presentation for an exquisite East meets West melange that delights all the senses.

Think Margate and it’s fish and chips, pie and mash, jellied eels, whelks and cockles that most readily spring to mind but the food offered by super-talented Dev Biswal at The Ambrette at Margate ­– he has another eponymously named restaurant at Rye, in neighbouring Sussex – dips into a far more interesting mainly local larder.

Crabs and sardines caught in the English Channel, wild rabbit, pheasant and pigeon from the bountiful Kentish fields, and cob nuts from local woods figure in Dev’s recipes, along with sea purslane, gathered from Thames Estuary salt marshes and sand dunes, and Alexander, a taste-laden rarity brought here by the Romans and exuding a flavour mid-way between celery and parsley.

This isn’t your standard takeaway fodder but fine dining at its best: "Dev Biswal’s modern Indian cooking trumpets sound regional ingredients” was how the citation for a 2013 ‘Taste of Kent Awards’ put it.

“The Ambrette in Margate is championing the new curry-free Indian menu,” opined the Sunday Times Top 130 Restaurants listing, adding, “Innovative, delightful, are unstinting features at the Ambrette – a good reason to visit Margate at least once.”

Accolades have been pouring in for more than just the food: service and presentation have been equally lauded, a raft of awards including one for ‘Best Front of House Service’ at the prestigious Earl’s Court Restaurant Awards.

Dev Biswal is passionate about his sourcing, From farm to fork, he sees every step along the way as being critical: “While our range of exotic meats is a great experience to enjoy, it is important to assure our customers that these are offered with an understanding of their environmental and animal welfare implications,” says Dev, “We have therefore researched our sources in depth to make sure that each meat is only used if it is part of a production system which is in keeping with the welfare and conservation policies of the European Union.

“Our foraged ingredients come from Quex Park while our poultry is superior British Red Tractor approved.”

“We use fresh Claresse and Nile perch on the menu as well as local sardines and crabs, which are both plentiful. This stops our local stocks of brill, bass and other non-plentiful species from disappearing.”

Added to the pleasures of Dev’s culinary art is the environment in which it is presented. There’s no flock wallpaper nor paintings of the Taj Mahal here. Instead, you get a bright, airy, uncluttered modern environment with pleasant muted pastel colours and slick table settings.

Service is attentive but never intrusive and rest assured that the waiter who takes your order knows his menu inside out and can make recommendations that work. Oh, and the prices are affordable, thus attracting visiting celebrities and local foodies alike.

So what about that location, tucked away in the back streets of Margate’s old town?

Well, the Kentish resort is enjoying a major revival at present, as evidenced by fast-rising property prices, while the newly opened Turner Contemporary, an  offshoot of the world-renowned London institution, is bringing hordes of art lovers and sophisticates into town and the local art community is growing fast.

The once renowned pier has long since collapsed into the sea but streets are now clean and tidy, flower beds are well stocked, the Winter Garden has been refurbished, rumours are that the renowned Benbon Brothers Dreamland fun park is to re-open, and across town gallons of fresh paint have helped bring countless properties back from a state of near dilapidation to pristine Georgian and Victorian glory.

Roger St Pierre is a seasoned professional travel writer and editor with over 40 years in the industry

Reviewer's Rating
Cuisine Indian
Need to book Advisable
Restaurant good for Families with children, Small groups, Meeting up with friends
Cost per head Medium
Dress Code Smart Casual
Dining Options Lunch, Dinner

Additional Price Comments

À la carte starters from £4.95, Mains from £10.95. One course lunch menu from £8.95, 2 courses £14.95 and 3 courses from £19.95. 8 Course Tasting Menu from £44.95 per person.

Last updated on 15-02-2014

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