You know the drill, you've checked the weather app on your phone and the forecast is good which means one thing... day trip! We've gathered together details on some of the best seaside spots near London, how to get there and - crucially - where to eat.
Margate & Broadstairs
Margate’s food scene is humming and, if Broadstairs is a little behind that, it still has Sunday Times critic, and local, Marina O’Loughlin to boost its credentials. Come for the culture - the game-changing Turner gallery is nearly a decade old now - and stay for the natural wine bars. To get to both, take the fast train from St Pancras.
Where: 21 The Parade, Margate CT9 1EX
At Angela’s it’s all about sustainably sourced seafood with delights like ray knobs and aioli on the regularly changing menu. Around the corner, sibling business Dory’s is a deli/seafood bar serving up dishes like crab tart and raw gurnard with blood orange with a super view over the beach. Book ahead for Angela’s but Dory’s is walk-in only.
Follow them on Instagram: @angelas_of_margate
Where: 49-51, Marine Terrace, Margate CT9 1XJ
Margate favourite Barletta has taken over the rooftop space at Dreamland for the summer. Barletta on the Roof. Snack on peas in the pod and enjoy dishes like panzanella and Mussels with nduja and hispi cabbage. They’ll be moving indoors to the Rose in June pub from the end of August.
Follow them on Instagram: @barlettamargate
Where: 16, 18 King St, Margate CT9 1DA
These intertwined businesses see chef/owner Kate de Syllas in charge of the wine list at the former and a predominantly seafood menu at the latter Due to current constrictions they’re offering take away sushi at H&F on Thursday and Friday. On Saturdays Big Naturals is open for wine and crab sandwiches and more which you can have in the garden or to take away. Walk-ins only.
Where: 2-4 Broad St, Margate CT9 1EW
“Heroically wondrous” declared critic Grace Dent of this indie Italian restaurant. They have some tables outside and they’re doing two sittings for lunch and dinner (check website for times as everything’s a bit fluid at the moment). Expect to enjoy superlative pasta and Italian peasant fare that’s deeply rooted in the co-owner’s Neapolitan background.
Follow them on Instagram: @bottegacaruso.
Where: Harbour Arm, Margate CT9 1AP
As with Folkestone, the harbour here has been taken over with all manner of interesting food and drink ventures. Get a pizza from GB Pizza, enjoy a drink at the Lighthouse Bar and try out the new taco shop Dive (chef Ben used to be at Big Naturals). Sargasso does a beach tiffin box you can pre-order the day before.
Where: 30 Reading St, Broadstairs CT10 3AZ
A brand new bakery/cafe (it opens 7 August). Chef Stephen is ex-Odettes and Hibiscus. It's all takeaway for now, but expect to find organic sourdough, pastries, sausage rolls , sandwiches, cakes and great coffee.
Follow them on Instagram: @staple_stores.
Where: 1 Oscar Road, Broadstairs, Kent CT10 1QJ
This teeny Michelin-starred restaurant keeps it simple - with tasting course dinners only (Booking for tables of two from 5 August). A summer dish might be Confit duck leg, liver parfait, pickled cherry, hazelnut - whatever you get will be wonderful.
Follow them on Instagram: @starkbroadstairs.
Where: 23-27 Harbour St, Broadstairs CT10 1EU
For the summer, this seafood restaurant and bar has simplified things and will be serving seafood, frites and drinks to take away instead for their popup Flotsam & Jetsam. The menu sounds ace with cones of fritto misto, mussel and cockle popcorn and carabinero prawn skewers.
Follow them on Instagram: @flotsamandjetsamofbroadstairs
Also: Look out for Staple Stores - a brand new bakery/cafe opening up on Reading Street in Broadstairs (should be opening 7 August). Chef Stephen is ex-Odettes and Hibiscus.
Whitstable & Seasalter
This Kent seaside town’s such a popular spot with Londoners you’re bound to bump into someone you know between the beach and the oyster bar. It’s only a short distance along the north Kent coast to the foodie place of pilgrimage at Seasalter. Trains take about an hour and half to Whitstable from Victoria.
Where: Wed-Sat at the Old Coal Yard, Belmont Road, Whitstable CT5 1QP
Recently given a rave review by Marina in The Sunday Times, David Brown’s van is the place for the best fish finger sandwiches in Whitstable, along with treats like crab linguine or burrata and roasted tomato salad.
Follow them on Instagram: @brownseventsvan
Where: 48 Harbour St, Whitstable CT5 1AQ
This popular tapas spot has just reopened and is bookings-only at present, doing 90 minute dining slots. They're serving up heavenly croquetas, impeccable tortilla and more.
Follow them on Instagram: @harbourstreettapas
Where: The East Quay, Whitstable Harbour, Whitstable CT5 1AB
Fresh local oysters and lobsters are the order of the day - you couldn’t be closer to the sea if you tried. They’re also the folk behind The Oyster Shed on the South Quay.
Follow them on Instagram: @thelobstershackwhitstable.
Where: Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent CT5 4BP
This ‘gastropub’ of legendary repute could be in the dullest of spots and would still be worth the trek from London, but its position by the seafront in Seasalter elevates it to most favoured seaside spot status. Your only problem will be getting a table.
Follow them on Instagram: @sportsmankent.
Where: 8 High St, Whitstable, Kent CT5 1BH
Covid restrictions at what’s billed as ‘the oldest restaurant in town’ means they can’t currently open the restaurant to dine in, but they are doing beach picnics which is just the ticket. That includes dressed crab, smoked salmon, milk and dill buns and more. Check for ordering ahead details.
Follow them on Instagram: @wheelersob.
Where: The Royal Native Oyster Stores, Horsebridge, Whitstable, Kent CT5 1BUQ
This atmospheric Dickensian oyster store is now one of the town’s most popular restaurants. On the ground floor it’s a slightly more formal affair with platters of oysters alongside pan fried Thornback Ray and grilled lemon sole. Upstairs there’s more of a laid back cafe vibe - with chowder and half pints of prawns on offer
Follow them on Instagram: @whitstableoystercompany.
This outlying Essex island has been a popular holiday destination since Roman times. Now it’s a perfect spot if you want a quick seaside jaunt out of London, but want to avoid the crowded beaches of nearby Southend. It’s easiest by car, although you can take a train to Colchester where it’s a half-hour bus journey out to the island. Make sure you’re aware of tide times, as the island’s cut off twice a day.
Where: 129 Coast Road, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8PA
Certainly Mersea’s best well known foodie destination - this no frills space is an old oyster shed which serves up local seafood. It’s currently closed for eating in, due to Covid, but if you’re organised you can order ready to eat crab platters to pick up (with 24 hours notice).
Follow them on Instagram: @the_company_shed.
Where: East Rd, East Mersea, Colchester CO5 8TQ
This shop and cafe opened in 2019 and, luckily for them, they have a huge outside space with loads of alfresco tables. It’s a good place to pick up local food to take back home with you. Coffee comes via local roasters in Chelmsford and the homemade cakes are great.
Follow them on Instagram: @merseabarns.
Where: 37 High St, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8QA
This fish and chip arm of the West Mersea Oyster Bar is still open and doing business. We enjoyed some gorgeous scampi and chips on a recent visit and they also do seafood platters to take down to the beach too.
Follow them on Instagram: @Merseaislandfishbar
Take the fast train from St Pancras and you can be wandering along the seafront in Folkestone in less than an hour. Head to the Folkestone Harbour Arm, where lots of the interesting food traders are, and, on a clear day, you might even be able to spot France across the Channel.
Where: Harbour Approach Rd, Folkestone CT20 1QQ
You can’t go wrong if you try here for food and drink, whether you fancy a glass of fizz at the Lighthouse Champagne Bar, cider ice-lollies to go from the Bathtub & Gun or loaded fries with seitan and vegan cheese from Dr Legumes.
Follow them on Instagram: @fstonehbourarm
Where: 2-4 South Street, Folkestone CT20 1RW
Does what it says on the tin - pick up some Basque-inspired pinxtos to enjoy on the seafront - with triangles of oozy tortilla, piquilo peppers with anchovies or courgette ribbons with almonds and olives. Chef Gianni Modena trained at Arzak for a year.
Follow them on Instagram: @pickuppintxos
Where: 4-5 Fish Market, Folkestone CT19 6AA
Mark Sargeant worked with Gordon Ramsay for years - but now has his own mini-empire of restaurants. Rocksalt was his first solo venture and its position is practically in the sea - a perfect spot to enjoy dishes like Folkestone crab and rice cakes or a seafood mixed grill. Mark also runs The Smokehouse fish & chip shop on Back Street.
Follow them on Instagram: @rocksaltfolkestone
Camber & Rye
The Cinque Port town of Rye used to be on the sea, but now it’s two miles inland. That doesn’t stop it being a charming spot to spend a day out of London. It’s about an hour by train from St Pancras and there are regular buses from Rye to the gloriously wide beach at Camber Sands which should take around 20 minutes if the roads aren’t jammed with visitors.
Where: New Lydd Rd, Camber, Rye TN31 7RB
A regular inclusion on Best UK Hotels lists, this seaside hotel is just across the road from Camber Sands. To enable social distancing, the dining room’s only open for guests, so you’ll need to make an overnight stay here. Jay Rayner gave it the food here a great review just before lockdown. They also do a cracking line in packed lunches for the beach, with Folkestone whelk fritters and Dungeness lobster sarnies to go.
Follow them on Instagram: @thegallivant
Where: 10 Military Rd, Rye TN31 7NX
The kind of country inn that’s catnip for Instagrammers, this pub serves up a great selection of small and larger plates - think fish platters and steaks using local Sussex beef.
Follow them on Instagram: @globeinnmarsh
Where: 5-6 Landgate, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7LH
You’ll definitely need to book ahead to secure a table at this popular restaurant. Expect to find plenty of local produce on the menu, from salt marsh lamb to foraged alexanders in the cod fritters.
Follow them on Instagram: @landgatebistro
Where: 37 The Mint, Rye TN31 7EN
There’s something about a seaside fish and chips that’s just light years better than anything you’ll find in London, and this Rye chippy gets the thumbs up from its legions of fans.
Where: Gungarden, Rye TN31 7HH
While social distancing rules remain in place, this pub - better known as The Wipers - is now a beer garden only, but what a lovely beer garden it is. Enjoy local wines, beers and ciders with a small, but perfectly formed sandwich list.
Follow them on Instagram: @yprescastleinn
Hastings & St Leonards
A seaside town of two parts, St Leonards and Hastings are parvenus when it comes to seaside cachet, but as a result they’ve got more of a quirky vibe than their neighbours Eastbourne and Brighton. You can get the train journey there down to under 90 minutes if you go via St Pancras and change at Ashford.
Where: 52 Kings Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, Hastings TN37 6DY
This restaurant and wine bar was opened in 2019 by former Evening Standard food writer Ben and his wife Kate. Sustainability is at the heart of what they do, so expect a very locavore menu with lesser-used cuts of meat. The wine list specialises in natural, biodynamic and low-intervention wines. The duo are also behind Boat Yard - the cafe and bar at Hastings Contemporary Art Gallery (which reopens on 14 August, where they'll be doing Saturday night sunset dinners for the first time).
Follow them on Instagram: @farmyardwine
Where: 1 St Johns Road, St Leonards-on-sea, East Sussex TN37 6HP
This 18th-century pub has recently had a new lease of life, opening this summer with James Hickson and Sam Coxhead, who previously worked together at Great Queen Street, The Canton Arms, and St John. They’ll do takeaway lunchtime picnics for the beach, while dinners could see you sipping cremant whilst enjoying mackerel escabeche.
Follow them on Instagram: @the_royal_st_leonards
Where: 3 Mercatoria, Saint Leonards-on-sea TN38 0EB
The menu at this lovely local spot changes incredibly regularly, so expect to find dishes made from whatever was good at the fishmonger or grocer that morning. So there might be grilled slip sole with tomatoes and garlic or roast Guinea Fowl with local Eves cider in the sauce.
Follow them on Instagram: @stclementsstleonards
Where: 28 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex TN38 0EJ
This pop-up turned permanent restaurant does a nice line in Neapolitan sourdough pizzas given a local twist with ingredients like pepperoni from Kent charcuterie Moons Green. All pizzas can be made vegan and there’s a short but interesting wine list too.
Follow them on Instagram: @tommyspizzeria1.
Where: White Rock, Hastings, Saint Leonards-on-sea TN34 1JY
Newly open on Hastings Pier this South East bakery's kiosk sells the best pastries (we've tried their delivery service and it's ace). Look out for their afternoon tea box and special picnic packs - perfect for the beach.
Follow them on Instagram: @frankoniahastings.
Coming on Thursday: Mersea, Whitstable, Margate and Broadstairs
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