In spite of an abundance of fabulous restaurants in Whitstable, I wanted a British meal on Good Friday. Since living in Whitstable I have come to realise that British food is underestimated. I remember many moons ago, when living in France, reading a detailed analysis of why British food is so boring. The conclusion was something along the lines of this; countries with hot climates have limited resources, hence the need for imagination in the cooking of repetitive ingredients. Britain, on the other hand has an abundance of natural resources, with plenty of rain and good soil, so we never bothered to make anything tasty or interesting because we didn’t have to, there was plenty to eat. Conclusion, our cuisine is pretty boring.
Samphire is situated in the heart of Whitstable and serves modern “British” food. The menu changes throughout the year depending on what is in season. It doesn’t serve mushy peas, boiled fish and overcooked mince pies. Samphire is one of those places which reassures me that ‘British’ can be classy. We still know how to serve fine kippers, to slow roast pork belly, pork sausage with light and buttery mash that no other country can master. Sorry, not even France.
When I want to indulge myself on a weekend morning, I breakfast at Samphire. I’m in love everything on the Brunch menu; the creamy ‘Eggs Benedict’ which I take with an Americano, and the morning paper; the egg fried bread with sugary cinnamon; smoked kippers and brown toast to be taken with black coffee while reading the New Yorker; ‘Lamb Fry’, pan-fried lambs liver in a thick brothy sauce, bacon and mushrooms ( I add in wilted spinach when in need of iron) and pass the time staring out the window as Whitstable life passes by.
Here we were on 29th March, when the weather should be turning, one day before our clocks sprung forward into ‘summer time’ and it remained, (and still does as I write this just over a week later) witheringly cold.
So I booked a table at the Samphire, for Good Friday, with my oldest friends, all of us hoping to consume something which would put colour back in our cheeks and dull the numbness in our fingers. I’m not sure about any of you out there reading this, but I’m fed up, so damn fed up with this persistent cold.
In the spirit of Good Friday, we opted to share a large starter platter and bottle of red wine. We chose well, chicken liver pate, salami, grated carrots, blood orange and goats cheese, smoked mackerel and marinated olives. It was brought through on a wooded board, with each ingredient presented in terracotta ramekins, slices of chunky slices of toasted bread thrown over the top.
A main course gnocchi and goats cheese on beetroot mousse with walnuts satisfied my need for carbohydrates. The gnocchi were feather light with the perfect consistency of flour, parmesan and eggs which is both rare and illusive. If anyone out there reading this thinks that gnocchi is not for them, try them home made at least once before ruling them out. I’ve never been happy with gnocchi I’ve brought. Most of the time if I’m honest, it’s rubbery, tasteless mush. While you can get away with fresh pasta bought over the counter, not gnocchi. The potato pasta has to be home made. My gnocchi were perfect.
We also ordered the fishcakes and roast chicken and liver and slowly worked our way through the meal reminiscing on old times in the sort of way you can only do with people you’ve known for more than half your life.
Samphire is a good choice for a meal out, whatever the occasion; brunch on your own, Sunday lunch with friends, a romantic meal for two in the evening. The menu will not disappoint, its quirky, rustic and original taking the best of what we have and preparing it with some imagination. Not everything is ‘hard core’ British, even if the ingredients are local. I’m almost certain that gnocchi was not invented in the UK, although who knows for sure.
Samphire is in the centre of Whitstable, on the High Street. It’s about a minute’s walk from the seafront. After a delightful meal we layered up and headed down to the beach, bought steaming coffees from a kiosk and watched cloud formations over the estuary.