Some of the best contemporary tapas this side of Barcelona are to be found in a suburban shopping parade on the Kent coast. Believe it. The kitchen and dining room are one and the same, it’s unlicensed and, with space to squeeze in just 18 people, booking is essential.
Nikki Billington honed her skills at the Whitstable Oyster Fishery, but has spent the last few years travelling and working in the Mediterranean, particularly Greece. Keen on her return to open her own restaurant she has converted the ground floor of her blue-painted Victorian house.
Billington’s partner Paul Watson handles front of house, and the couple do everything just right. Billington delivers a deceptively simple menu of Mediterranean classics that wows with impeccable sourcing and expert craftsmanship. Begin with cold plates of fantastic Tuscan salami, or wafer-thin slices of lonzino (pork), progress to irresistible calamari frito – skilled timing transforming an often pedestrian dish into something extraordinary.
Then move on to tender slices of cannon of lamb that zing with fresh mint and tsatziki, delicate haddock goujons, grilled sardines, Greek goats’ cheese with candied pear, dolmades, hoummos, patatas bravas, and so it goes on.
Corkage of just £1 a bottle adds to the feel-good factor.
Published: 2005. © www.squaremeal.co.uk