Sunday, 10 February 2013

Howard's Kitchen

A few years ago a colleague mentioned this tea room called Howard’s Kitchen where she liked to catch up with friends. I had never noticed it before, and decided to try it for a breakfast.
The website describes Howard’s Kitchen as a chef owned cafe focusing on unpretentious and delicious home cooked food. Since I first tried it I’ve been back many times. This morning I arrived with three friends who stayed over. We were slightly hung over from merriment of the previous evening, and desperately in need of something to eat. It was bitingly cold with the threat of snow.  Howard’s Kitchen, as always, was steamy, warm, with the smell of cooked bacon.
The entrance opens into a kitchen and seated area. There’s more seating space upstairs including a leather couch to curl up on with the paper. Round the back there’s an outside courtyard which is popular in the summer. Of the many good things to say about Howard’s Kitchen, there’s always a table free when you come in. Whitstable has hundreds of places to eat, but finding somewhere to sit is a struggle. There are restaurants in this town taking bookings for May and its only February. Some are crowded,  booming with people spilling over onto each other, and to be honest, I can’t cope with it all in the morning. I was told that in certain towns in the world, they keep a few tables back for the locals, but I’m afraid that Whitstable doesn’t seem to be one of them. Our top restaurants sell out to visitors time and time again. Howard’s Kitchen is a local place filled up with local people. I’m not sure whether its though intention or a fortunate accident, perhaps it’s the general lack of pretentiousness. You don’t need to book and there will be some space.
 It doesn’t promise any frills and there are none. But you will get a good meal. The Chef cooks up simple meals with locally sourced, fresh produce. Every now and again he’ll throw in an unexpected surprise. A couple of weeks back I was persuaded to try the special, Game Pie, which left me barely able to walk. The waitress was so enthusiastic about it I couldn’t refuse. She came over with the pie and told me that I was very lucky to have ordered it, and I was in for a treat.  That’s another thing I love about this place, the staff are genuinely helpful. They’re interested in what’s on the menu and proud of their food.
Today, for a slight change from the Americano I ordered a Swedish Tea and Elderflower juice to help rehydrate. The Swedish Tea is a gentle infusion, lightly scented with rose. Our waitress tells us me I am going to love it. She serves it up with a glass of hot water and the tea leaves compressed in a spoon. I’m less adventurous with my breakfast sticking to scrambled egg, fried mushroom, sausage and bacon. We try out the Chef’s special ‘Tarragon and Chicken Pie’ with vegetables.

The breakfast has left me feeling more settled but still needed sugar. I ask if anyone else wants a dessert or coffee, but they decline.  I ask the waitress to run through their specials anyway;  lemon drizzle, chocolate and hazelnut cheesecake; and rhubarb tart. Everyone orders something and its surprisingly good. Homemade dessert on a cold Sunday morning in February. It wasn’t a bad start to the day.  


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