Sometimes we forget to appreciate the things that are right in front of us. This summer I have decided to not take on full time work and continue with my part time job so that I can pursue my own thing and visit home to help my parents who have a lot on their plate caring for my elderly grandmother. This weekend I'm down in Kent again for my father's birthday on Friday and Father's day on Sunday - double whammy of presents! Last night we went of for a meal to celebrate in Hythe. In the car on the way there I was suddenly struck by the beauty of the country lanes that we were driving down, the rumpled charm of frothy cowslips and the bright green foliage interspersed with sleepy villages with colourful cottage gardens. I've lived in this area my whole life until I moved to London and although I have liked it I often felt dissatisfaction, knowing how lovely it was (it is known as 'The Garden of England') but wanting to get away to somewhere more alive, so it was good to see my surroundings with new eyes for a change at the time of year when this area is probably at its best.
We headed to the Hythe Bay Fish Restaurant, situated in a coastal town just off the beach it would be a lovely place to relax on a summer's evening if the weather were better. It is owned by Turrloo Parrett who is apparently also the owner of Eastwell Manor, a fairly well known and overpriced Country House Hotel and Spa. The website says his motto is 'Quality not compramise' which I feel is poorly worded at best and the restaurant seems designed to become a franchise - the website tells me there is now a branch in Dover.
This said we have eaten there several times and have always found the food to be quite good although this particular visit was perhaps not the best. Whenever I eat in this area I have to remind myself to not judge as harshly as I would in London as the standards aren't the same - this is no excuse for sloppiness but it means that I would still recommend it if you're in the area although I wouldn't be too bothered about it in London.
The restaurant building seems to be modelled after the black painted fisherman's huts you find in the area and the space inside is very large. Downstairs is devoted to the kitchen which you see as you come in, all shiny chrome and the restaurant upstairs has a light and airy feel with lots of natural light and one wall lined by a bar however there is something about the furnishings - perhaps the dated split levels? That makes you feel as if it should be attached to a hotel. Service is polite and efficient, not lacking other than being a little keen, jumping to take your order when you have barely sat down, but nothing very special.
The menu is predominately unthreatening, simple fish and seafood dishes with a few not-fish options for good measure with prices for mains hovering around or below the £15 mark. While we perused the menu we were brought some warm rolls (a nice touch though they tasted suspiciously baked from frozen) with a nice pot of mackerel pate.To start I got the seafood bisque, this was warm, satisfying and enjoyable enough; the first mouthful had a lovely fishiness to it but as it went on this went to the background, masked by a strong flavour of tomato and a creaminess that suggested some dairy had been added rather than having come from careful pureeing.
As a main I chose one of my favourites: 'moules marinier', the portion was large but this was not necessarily a good thing as it became a bit of a moules marathon. The mussels were quite varied in size and quality but many seemed to have an unappealing mushiness as if they weren't the freshest or best cooked and the sauce was to insipid to be worth soaking up with bread as I usually do being more cream than wine or onion. The accompanying chips were good, hearty from a floury potato and they tasted as if they had been double cooked in fat although I would have preferred them a bit lighter and crispier. My mother and grandmother both had the fish and chips which they always choose and always say is excellent. My grandmother, normally a slow eater who has to be coaxed into eating her main by the promise of desert, devoured hers. From part experience I can say it is rather good, less of the satisfying grease of the chip shop but a lovely light batter and milky white cod which is, well, good for cod I guess - I always find it to be a slightly dull fish that is just a convenient vehicle for batter!
Our meal came to around £80 for two starters, four mains and a bottle of wine. Not outstanding value, or outstanding food but pleasant enough for what's available in this area with some nice touches, particularly if you want fish and chips in somewhere nicer than the chippie or at home wrapped in newspaper.
Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant & Bar
Kent CT21 6AW
Kent CT21 6AW
Telephone: 01303 233844