EDDIE GILBERT'S: FINE FOOD, FIRST FLOOR, FISHMONGER, FANNIT
Whatever you think of blogs, blogging and bloggers it's a fact that once a post is put out there in the blogosphere it will be there forever, permanently etched in silicon long after the author has forgotten about it. This is constantly brought home to Dos Hermanos by the large number comments that we still get on old posts - our Masters Super Fish is still doing good biz after several years. To be honest a lot of the comments are either spam or from odd bods who fail to note the date of the post and berate us unjustly. Sometimes though they’re useful. Very useful.
Take last weekend. I had been racking my brains looking for somewhere suitable to eat lunch in London when a comment from Richard Eastcliff had popped up on our post about Age & Sons.
I’d previously thought of Ramsgate as an unlikely destination for a decent meal until I’d visited Age & Sons in June last year and had a very good time. Mr Eastcliff recommended another place that had opened in October and was just a short hop from A&S called Eddie Gilbert's. After a brief but intense period of internet activity I had a booking and a train ticket. The high speed line from St Pancras I previously talked about is now up and running and I was in Ramsgate quicker than you could say “Planet Thanet”. Making my way down to the centre of town taking care to avoid the tough-looking women with East Kent facelifts, I noted the increasing number of skips and scaffolding which indicated I wasn’t the only Londoner using the new line.
Eddie Gilbert’s (the restaurant) is above a fishmonger of the same name. It's a small, bright room with a few nautical knick-knacks and prints of fish dotted around but the interest for me lay completely within the menu. On one page there's plenty of options to satisfy your Fish & Chip needs, but the other side is an a la carte of more ambitious dishes. I fancied some Fish and Chips but it seemed a shame to have made the journey and not test out the kitchen's cooking chips, sorry, chops and anyway I liked the look of, ooh, all the dishes.
Native Oysters weren’t on the menu but fresh tasting Rocks of good quality and that had been opened properly, worked as a nice little apéritif for the rest of the meal – even better with a bottle of the Kentish Pale Ale from an interesting list of beers.
Eel Soldiers and Duck Egg is a deceptively simple dish but to get it spot-on requires technique and timing: the egg must have soft, soft yolk and a solid albumen and the fingers of Eel must be deep-fried in oil that is hot enough, then drained and served immediately. The kitchen aced it. They even managed to fashion an aesthetically pleasing crack in the eggshell. Damn they’re good, was all I could think as I crunched through crisp coating into the deeply smoky eel flesh inside.
Another starter of Brown Shrimp Croquettes brought more Panko-covered loveliness (obviously the word crispy was a siren-call to this land-lubber). This time the creamy Brown Shrimp filling was paired with a sharp tatare-as-vinaigrette and some crisp stalks of parsley. It was rich and satisfying yet still had a lightness to it that put me in mind of the Kipper Croquettes at the much feted Harwood Arms in Fulham.
You could argue that the leaves of rocket were one garnish too many but I didn’t think so and the obvious attention to detail with which the whole dish had been assembled told me that there was someone in the kitchen (Craig Mather according to the website) who actually cared about what was sent out. I had that all too rare feeling of the kitchen cooking for me, not just another cover.
I had to laugh when my main course arrived. To get a dish such as mine, which showed such generosity of spirit, such gusto was, after living for so long under the yoke of the St John School of Metropolitan Minimalism, a liberating and refreshing change. I was a bit worried to be honest. That Turbot – was it cooked ok? The sauce looked pretty rich as well – would it be de trop?
All, reasonable questions. All dispelled by my first bite of the Turbot, which was spot on: firm flesh, delicate taste. The curried sauce spoke of the old school but in a good way. It showed the lightness of touch evident in my earlier dishes. The fat Mussels were delicious and made perfect sense in the context of the dish. Underneath the generously proportioned fillet was a nest of salty samphire adding bite and greenery. Crushed - on the verge of mashed - potatoes had lapped up some of the sauce but I had to reach for the bread basket to complete the job. A great plateful of food at a ridiculously low price. I’ve seen the future and one day all dishes will be like this - more is definitely more. Sorry Fergus.
Oh, I forgot the chips. I had to try the chips. Sorry, I just had to. Cooked in Beef dripping they were predictably fantastic and made me rethink my position vis-à-vis the best cooking medium for them. Yes, they were that good.
I get a lot of online haranguing for choosing Ice Cream as my pudding of choice but the simple fact is I’m usually so stuffed by the time I get to this stage of a meal it’s all I can manage. In any case a) you can tell a lot about a place by its Ice Cream b) I like it – so there. Chocolate Ice Cream had been made with some of the bottled Stout made for Eddie Gilbert’s. To be honest I can’t remember if I detected the bitter notes from the ale but it was good and I got a brandy basket which made me very happy.
Friendly staff who went about their business with the minimum of fuss completed the package. And what a package it is. Not surprising then that that on a Saturday lunchtime the place was buzzing (with critics, bloggers and normal people) and that there were no tables to be had for the evening service. So now there’s at least two good reasons to visit Ramsgate. More please.