Not far from Canterbury High Street, in what was formerly a sticky floored boozer, is The Ambrette. Miles of dark wood meet the eye as you enter, punctuated by colorful floor tiles and the glow of candlelight. The cavernous room has been cleverly designed to feel cozy while still allowing enough space between the tables for comfortable conversation.
Chef Dev Biswal has been winning awards since he opened the doors to The Ambrette’s first restaurant in Margate in 2010. Mixing his Indian heritage with adventures in Southeast Asian and French culinary styles, his fusion food has beguiled food critics and diners alike. There is a huge, and very impressive, focus on local ingredients, including foraged sea plants and local game.
Chef Biswal frequently holds taster evenings, where he tries out some of his culinary experiments on willing diners (often for a very reasonable price per head), and cookery courses, where amateurs can come along and learn some tricks of the trade.
Left: Lentil kofte. Right: Dosai with gently spiced potatoes, mustard and onions with coconut, pineapple and green pea chutney. Wine pairing: Sentina Soave, Italy.
In addition to the a la carte menu, diners can also choose from keenly priced set lunch menus and luxurious tasting menus, to which you can also add matching wines. Without doubt, the tasting menu offers the best opportunity to fully appreciate Chef Biswal’s skill and creativity.
Soft Shell crab and foraged rock samphire with purslane salad, crab raita and crab and beetroot cake. Wine pairing: Los Pastosa Sauvignon Blanc, Chile.
Fusion food brings with it an exciting mixture of the familiar and the unexpected, the rare and the everyday. For example, soft-shell crab with sea purslane, a bold brown crab raita and a sweet and earthy beetroot and crab cake. Or delicately spiced potato dosai with a fresh pea puree, sweet coconut and tart pineapple. The combinations are at once unusual and recognizable and every element is executed with finesse.
Trio of Kentish venison: Loin, carpaccio and shoulder with hickory smoked fennel potatoes, poached beetroot, pickled pear and apricot and ginger sauce. Wine pairing: Para Dos Malbec, Argentina.
The standout dish was by far the venison with chilli-pickled pears, beetroot, fennel potatoes and a sweet and sour apricot sauce. The meat was perfectly pink and was paired so beautifully with the sweet, sour and smoky flavors on the plate. The spicing is expertly done. Each flavor comes through without overwhelming any other, just mixing harmoniously on the palate and leaving you with a smile on your face.
Breast of wood pigeon smoked with cloves and marjoram, rosemary and cinnamon poached peach, game pate, pigeon roulade and garlic and tomato chutney. Wine pairing: Cape 312 Pinotage, South Africa.
The plating might be a little dated – a few too many smears and oddly shaped plates, but somehow it all adds to the charm of the place. The staff are friendly and the service is top notch, which is important if you’re going to spend three hours enjoying a tasting menu. By the time we got to the popping candy granita, we were on Cloud 9 and giggling like school kids (and only partially because of the wine).
Chocolate platter: White chocolate silk, chocolate tart and dark chocolate and nectarine ice cream. Wine pairing: Monbazillac, France.
With all the dining options in Canterbury, The Ambrette is offering up something different. It’s a fusion of the best of Kentish ingredients with the aromatic flavors of India, a fusion of fine dining on the plate in a casual, relaxed environment. This is good food, done well and made for everyone to enjoy.
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A Crust Eaten dined as a guest of The Ambrette.