Situated on the highest point in Ramsgate, Townleys is a restaurant serving locally sourced food from Kent. This concept works really well in France and Italy, and I was looking forward to see how we could learn from our continental neighbours who are truly masters of regional specialities. Townleys promises that every diner will have a view of the sea and, impressively, they delivered on this. Grey and blue paint disguised the age of the building, coating it with calming modernity. We sat at a corner table, from which we could observe the lunch service which was reasonably busy on a Saturday.
Townleys offers a three course set menu for lunch, with three options for each course. It seemed pretty standard to provide fish, meat and vegetarian options, though I would have liked greater variety and perhaps some flexibility in their food offerings. I mean, would it do the restaurant any harm to serve up a burger or steak and chips? Then again I had to remind myself this is not London, and they chose to work with local ingredients and you don’t get Aberdeen Angus ribeye in Kent just as you don’t expect Bolognese in a Neapolitan trattoria.
I have mixed feelings about Townleys. The female waiting staff were kind, discreet and friendly, the view was really nice and the prices were reasonable. Yet, the restaurant doesn’t really have anything going for it that warrants a return visit
The wine list seemed reasonably priced so we started with a bottle of 2015 Gavi. But were served the 2016 instead. When this issue was raised to the man claiming to be the sommelier, he simply made these following preposterous claims (in this order):
- The two vintages basically taste the same
- Older wine isn’t necessarily better
- I don’t really have much knowledge about wine
All of which, if mentioned singularly, could be forgiven, but not when presented as premises of an argument. Coupled with an attitude reminiscent of Hugh Laurie in the Fry & Laurie Greek Restaurant sketch, this interaction cast a dark shadow on the rest of the meal – no amount of natural light from the large panoramic windows seemed to be enough to brighten my spirits. He then realised he was being unnecessarily curt and tried awkwardly to make up for it with cheesy small talk, which only served to show he was more suitable for the mining industry for the hole he dug himself into just kept getting deeper.
Thankfully that man made himself scarce by masquerading as the bartender instead. Soon after, the first course arrived. Unfortunately it was a soup that might as well be called Soupy McSoupface, as it was as generic as a soup could be. Heck, I don’t even remember what was in that soup. Meanwhile, my colleague’s mackerel starter was very dry indeed. Skate wing was seasoned in uncharacteristically Mediterranean spices which was good, but could have been served at any other restaurant in the country. Just like the soup then, it was generic. This was followed by the dessert. Actually, the mains were followed by a full hour of friendly banter between the three of us, before the restaurant took notice (or pity) and decided to serve us our desserts. I understand if dishes take a long time to prepare, and was about to forgive Townleys if it weren’t for the immediate replacement of an erroneous dish that gave the game away. Our desserts were just sitting in a refrigerator waiting to be served, withheld from us by sheer incompetence.
Our desserts were just sitting in a refrigerator waiting to be served, withheld from us by sheer incompetence
Oddly enough, I have mixed feelings about Townleys. The female waiting staff were kind, discreet and friendly, the view was really nice and the prices were reasonable. Yet, dessert and wine aside, the restaurant doesn’t really have anything going for it that warrants a return visit. The cooking, though competent, was soulless and the ingredients however locally sourced were not spectacular. This restaurant serves up bland and lacklustre cooking and could be anywhere in the UK, which is precisely why Townleys should not be on anyone’s to do list when they go to Ramsgate.
by J Khou