AGE & SONS: OH I DO LIKE TO BE BESIDE THE SEASIDE (AGAIN)
Spending many of our formative years in Rotherham, Dos Hermanos didn’t get to see the sea very often. There was the annual holiday to the Isle of Wight and occasionally a day trip to Skeggy or Filey but for the rest of the time the nearest we got to a large boy of water was the Don, an evil smelling and massively polluted river. When we did make it to the seaside it would inevitably be overcast and raining, a scenario which remains firmly etched into my psyche. Many, many, years on, nothing much has changed and on each and every visit to the seaside the weather, without fail, has been rotten.
Which, funnily enough was the weather forecast for my first ever visit the other day to Age & Sons in Ramsgate. As HS was busy writing his second book I went with fellow gastro-fiend and Chelsea fan Scott who likes his food and his booze as much as me which promised for much merriment.
Ramsgate is a bit chav central. Ok, I didn’t see much of it beyond a brief walk down from the station but it does have the air of a seaside town which has seen better days. There were some fine looking villas overlooking the sea which unfortunately had not been cared for and were strewn with drying laundry. There was a forlorn bandstand where bizarrely the music was provided, not by a band but by what looked like a big ghetto blaster. Even stranger, there was an old couple sitting in deckchairs watching it.
Having said all that there is something about an English Seaside town gone to seed that I quite like. A kind of wistfulness. If you like those qualities too I’d advise you get down there PDQ because at the end of the year there will be a high speed train service from London and all that decaying grandeur is sure to be gentrified to within an inch of it’s crumbling mortar.
Which is where Age & Sons come in. This café cum bar cum restaurant in an old warehouse might just be the shape of things to come. It’s a one stop shop for all your middle class foodie needs. Relaxing brunch in light airy space with like-minded people with kids and state of the art pushchairs. Check. Restaurant featuring British, seasonal and local ingredients. Check. Funky bar with fab cocktails . Check. Despite (or maybe because of) the abundance of bourgeois clichés I liked it a lot.
We were in the light and airy restaurant, where a slightly older crowd (that’ll be me then) were kicking back and enjoying a Saturday lunch. The menu is well-priced – none of the individual dishes were over £15 – and has enough inventive little touches to keep it interesting whatever you order.
I was a little surprised by the Bread which was a bit doughy and uncooked at the centre. I’ll put it down to a mistake and the fact that they do at least make it in house when many places can’t be bothered means I’ll give them a couple of brownie points.
My Fennel Risotto needed a little adjustment in the seasoning department but once that was corrected was really rather lovely with lots of aniseed notes from the baby fennel and its seeds. And it was good to actually taste rice that hadn’t been cooked to a pulp.
Most people are pretty accustomed to Fish Roe but less common are Milts which are the er, male equivalent. Very tasty they are too with a very light texture, like a sort of fishy sweetbread. The cucumber did make the salad a little watery but at a fiver only the most curmudgeonly would complain.
For a restaurant so close to the sea the menu is surprisingly meaty. The fish dishes we did try had some of the freshest specimens you could hope for. My Sea Bass’s skin had wilted a bit but the flesh underneath was super-fresh. There was a little taste of Spring/Summer with a mixture of Broad Beans , Peas and Asparagus bound together with a light sauce. The only odd note was the inclusion of some small pieces of what I think were Grapefruit.
John Dory was a good fresh hunk of the fish, again very well cooked. The Puy lentils were a little mushy and there was a bit too much sauce but with the brown shrimp and braised celery made for a fine dish.
After a suitable break and another bottle of Martin Codax Albarino we decided to supersize and see what A&S could do with their meat dishes. A shared plate of Lamb Shoulder was a big portion of Larry which had been slowly cooked to a melting, fatty, unctuousness. There was some good mash underneath which had soaked up the lamby jus. Some excellent Carrots (that actually tasted of that root were placed here and there and the whole topped off with a zingy gremolata that cut through the other components.
A selection of Ice Creams (mmm…Salted Butter) and some Chocolate Cake may have been a couple of courses too many but they were great and we polished it all off, no probs.
I can’t tell you exactly when we left Age & Sons but I think we waddled out with a very contented smile on our faces. And why not ? Good cooking with exemplary ingredients at very reasonable prices is a rare bird these days. Combine that with pleasant service and surroundings and you have a gaff that makes a lot of London eateries look very silly indeed.
And guess what ? In spite of the forecast it was lovely and sunny all day. I can see a bit of brain rewiring might be in order.