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A Day at the Seaside – Mad about Margate:
It may not have been entirely wise to take myself off to Margate on a press trip with Visit England the day I got back from cruising the Mediterranean. Apart from the fact that I didn’t get home till the wee small hours of the morning, there was a fair risk that I’d end up on a freezing English beach – a stark contrast to the warm sun in Greece and Turkey. Fate must have been smiling on me – not only was the weather perfect but the trip was remarkably easy. I hadn’t realised just how quick it was to get to Margate from London – just 90 minutes from St Pancras station which in turn is half an hour from home. And, once you reach Margate, the train station is pretty much in the town centre.
We started with a brisk walk along the sea front to investigate Haeckels, a perfumerie specialising in producing upmarket fragrances from locally foraged seaweeds and plants and inspired by the scents of the coastline. It was a good introduction to the town, not just because the room fragrances are covetable but because it is an excellent example of what at times really did feel like Shoreditch-on-Sea.
Founded in 2012 by ex advertising Art Director Dom Bridges, the ethos is to create simple products to showcase the natural ingredients found around Margate. Apart from producing Sailors Beard Oil, rated one of Esquire magazine’s best male grooming products of 2014, opening a shop in Shoreditch and getting distribution through Selfridges, Haeckels have also crowdfunded the world’s first Victorian seabathing sauna which will sit on the beach in Margate and offer spa facilities to visitors.
A little closer to the old town, you can find Morgans, a vintage dance hall, cafe and cocktail bar. For anyone staying in Margate I suspect this would be a great place to find things to do – there seems to be an endless programme of dance classes and workshops. Walking into the splendid renovated rooms, with chandeliers, mahogany panelling and original silverbacked mirrors it’s easy to take a step back in time to the Margate of the 1920s and 30s. I only had time to take a quick look before I was due next door for pizza.
Of course, GB Pizza is famous – rave reviews and keen pricing ensure the place is always busy. Founded by two food lovers, Chef Rachel Seed and food writer Lisa Richards, the place quickly found a place in the hearts and stomachs of the food press. The interior is quirky, with plenty of contemporary art on show. And, who would complain about prosecco on tap.
They offer a whole range of pizza toppings and in addition to the standard pizza base, have a gluten free option. I tasted a mouthful – unlike many gluten free bread bases, it was properly crisp bottomed and not overly chewy. My own choice of a classic chorizo and chilli was delicious with that perfect balance of topping to base that makes a pizza worth eating.
I rather liked the look of the unusual pear and cheese pizza too.
And side orders of rocket with parmesan and of garlic bread were delicious.
The clue as to what makes GB pizza stand out for me though, is in this shot of the oils on the table.
There’s a real effort here to source from the UK. Even down to 00 flour and buffalo mozzarella from the south of England. And of course these Kentish rapeseed oils instead of olive oil. With pizza like this, perhaps it might become the Great British Menu favourite and knock chicken tikka masala off the top spot.
If that was all there was in Margate it would be enough to tempt me down from London. But, there’s a whole load more. A sandy beach for a start.
And then there’s the Turner Gallery – a stunning building in it’s own right which houses International quality exhibitions in addition to providing a home for community art groups.
Finally, where else can you go to the fair and ride on a Grade II* listed roller coaster? Yes I know, the listing really doesn’t matter – but it’s indicative for me of what makes Dreamland work.
The first time I went to the fair I must have been about seven years old. We were living in Nottingham, where once a year there was a large, traditional fair called Goose Fair. Then, we moved to the sea-side and the Fairground became something of an extended playground for us, especially as my dad was the local doctor; we seemed to win every shove-ha’penny, every pick a duck and even scored bulls-eyes on the rifle range.
At Dreamland every ride and game I remembered from my childhood was there…and more. It was as if someone had carefully picked the rides and games every generation would have enjoyed, then put them all together in a working fairground. That makes it somewhere that all the family should enjoy. I’m watching now and planning my return visit.
There is, genuinely, so much more in Margate.
‘For more information about what’s on in Kent and Margate head to VisitEngland . I’ll be back to find out more. If you’d like to travel there yourself standard off-peak return fares to Margate cost from £24.40, to save money on your travel buy your ticket online at southeasternrailway.co.uk