Saturday 25 December 2010

Botany Bay and Kingsgate looking stunning on film with John Hurt

Settled down to watch John Hurt in the BBC adaptation of M R James’ Edwardian ghost story shot in Kingsgate and Botany Bay. We who live here know how stunning this stretch of coastline is, and it seems still to be one of our best kept secrets. Clean swept wild beaches of golden sand, dunes, rockpools and chalk cliffs with the remains of smugglers tunnels. It looks fantastic on film. Great photography and it brings home why I love living here.

Preview of the programme here:

Programme page here

One of the nicest things to do in our area is to walk from Margate to Broadstairs along the beach, taking in the series of Bays. Just check the tide is out and and it is possible to make it round without having to come back up to the cliff top. Tide table here.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Finalists for "This is Margate" Photography competition

So, what do you think?

The finalists for the Margate photograph competition have been released on the This Is Margate website. The idea is that you choose your favourite for ach section. I'm not sure I like being forced to choose a picture from each section before moving on to the next. I would have preferred to have been able to see each group selection before having to make a choice for the next one.

But I'm sure there is a reason for this?

Here's the official blurb and instructions:

"Please vote for your favourite Margate photograph shortlisted in the This is Margate photography competition by visiting The voting closes on wed 15 December at Midday.

We had nearly 400 competition entries from people of all ages (youngest was 7!) and the shortlist of 30 photos will also be displayed in the Tudor house, Margate this weekend (11 & 12 Dec) as part of their Christmas event.

We are also delighted to welcome Martin Parr to Margate on Monday 20 December to decide the overall winner and present the prizes.

All the votes will be counted and revealed at a special VIP judging event on Monday 20 December. We are delighted to be welcoming, international photographer Martin Parr, as our guest judge to announce the final winners and the overall winner of the competition as well as present them with their prizes, at this event.

If you would like to attend the judging event, please contact Lucy on 01843 577168 as a guest list is being run for the event."

Turner Contemporary is beautiful

The handover for the Turner Contemporary took place yesterday. What an amazing addition to the town this gallery will be. The views are stunning, the light, the finish. I'd like to wish a hearty congratulations to everyone who has made this building happen. Applause very well deserved. Can't wait for the opening. April 16th 2011! Sorry not to write more tonight. Am very tired!

Wednesday 24 November 2010

12-15 Cliff Terrace - to be sold ay auction

What a journey it has been for 12-15 Cliff Terrace. Heralded a resounding success in May 2008 as a flagship project for KCC No Use Empty Scheme, the building stood empty until January 2010. The developer, Wards Renovation and Construction Limited (Company Registration No. 5166962), owned by Ramsgate FC's Jim Ward, has gone into receivership.

The whole site has is being sold at auction on December 15th with a guide price of £350k-£360k. The series of buildings remains under one title and has not been divided into separate leases, no matter how many banners were displayed advertising the sale of 'luxury flats'. The details of the sale at the auctioneers state there are 10 flats with rents as low as £60 per week. So just how much of a success is this site? The grave risk is now that with annual rental income of £54k that this stacks up for bottom of the market rental investors.

Is this really the best outcome for a grade II listed building that was hailed as a major success of regeneration?

One would hope that a building control completion certificate has been issued, given the fact that young families are tenants in the building.

And for the future? Well, the interior renovation being far from luxury, then perhaps someone will come along to return the building to it's rightful glory as a restaurant with letting rooms for tourism.

Here are photographs we have taken of the building in the last few years.

Search this blog for 'cliff terrace' to find the story on how this has happened.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Is this Margate? You're invited to discuss Monday 29th November

Invitations have been sent out from Creative Margate to an event to discuss the Countdown to Margate 2011. Details:

"Join the conversation...

Please join us:

Monday 29 November 2010

6-8pm | Harbour Cafe | The Parade | Margate
6pm | Welcome
6.30pm | Conversation begins
8pm | Conversation closes

This is a free event, light refreshments will be available.
Anyone is welcome to attend but please RSVP by 5pm on Wednesday 24 November as places will be
booked on a first come first served basis.

Call 01843 609336
or email

Many Thanks
Sharon Sebastian
Creative Margate"
At first glance I had thought, given the absence of logos or other information, that Creative Margate was Margate Creatives (the collective of Margate based creatives that has been meeting monthly since the summer). But it isn't. Here's the info from the horse's mouth so to speak:
"Creative Margate was set up in 2008 to steer the work of the The Cultural Vision and once the work was complete, continued to meet to steer the Delivery Plan. Those documents are below and can be found on the Margate Renewal website.

Creative Margate sits within MRP, but is a partnership that includes local authorities, ACE, English Heritage and cultural organisation representation. It has been variously chaired by TDC, Turner
Contemporary and currently by KCC."

Leslie Fuller's Margate Ped'lers at the Clifton Concert Hall 1932

My lovely friend Matthew builds wonderfully useful websites. His Theatricalia site helps build an archive for theatre. And look what turned up! A 1930 production of Leslie Fuller's Ped'lers at The Clifton Concert Hall. Brilliant!

Monday 22 November 2010

Arlington House residents meeting with Freshwater December 2nd

We've been reliably informed that a letter was sent to "occupiers" of Arlington House over the weekend, from PPS media relations consultants for Freshwater.

They are going to hold meetings at 4pm and 6pm on Thursday 2nd December at the Nayland
Rock hotel.

They state, "We intend to explain how the scheme has been revised since the last time we saw you and to run through what progress has been made on the various issues that were raised back in March".

A concerned resident states, "TDC have pretty much said that whatever Tesco wants Freshwater/Tesco will get, as it's a question of "if we don't take Tesco, then nothing will happen to the Arlington site for the next ten years." The latest
gossip on the Tesco store is that it will be a 70,000 sq ft monster superstore. ( not 60,000 sq ft. as originally proposed.)"

Onwards and upwards!

Interesting report from CABE on the effect of supermarkets on towns in the long run.

Sunday 21 November 2010

CABE Urban Panel - Observations on an Urban Panel visit to Margate, December 2009

Sometime ago we contacted CABE to ask for a copy of their observations on their further visits to Margate. Here are the comments from the December 2009 visit.

Observations on an Urban Panel visit to Margate
December 2009

We agreed that this was a time of special opportunity for Margate. The completion of the Turner Contemporary in 2011 will hopefully be paralleled by the realisation of the Dreamlands project in the same year. In addition there is now the distinct possibility that the Tesco/Arlington House proposals will add to the regeneration of the key beachfront between the station and the Turner. Lastly there are significant sea defences planned for the same place and with careful integration this work could make a further contribution to the creation of a real sense that Margate has turned a corner. Thus we emphasised that there was a vital need to “Seize the Moment”.

It was encouraging that several of the issues that we highlighted in March have seen real progress. Dreamlands has received a major grant from the Sea Change programme. Margate has its first boutique B&B in Hawley Square which exemplifies what we had in mind when urging that Margate needed to raise its offer in the hospitality stakes. In addition, the severe problems caused by excessive out-borough placement of vulnerable single people and children, is beginning to receive appropriate attention from senior civil servants.

However Margate remains a place with many serious challenges, and the tantalising signs of success around the corner should not be allowed to deflect attention away from the need to nail down real progress. Maintaining the attention of the wider public sector on Margate will be crucial, achieved perhaps by constant reminders that the quality of the underlying fabric of the town and its significant place in the early development of the seaside resort, provide a strong skeleton on which renewal can be built. The willingness of the many agencies involved to meet on a regular basis to coordinate activity is encouraging, but concern was expressed at apparent “Partnership proliferation” and the danger that coordination is mistaken for action.

Housing Margate enjoys some most attractive suburbs with a wide range of sizes and styles of home. Built on spacious plots with plenty of space for in-curtilage parking, the result is streets fairly free of parked cars, with mature trees and hedges. The many bungalows must be popular with older residents, but what might be a rather bland environment is enlivened by the visual interest provided by the odd modernist villa and occasional glazed pantile roof.

However away from the suburbs Margate desperately needs to make better use of the large and fine terraced housing in the central area, because their visual prominence at the heart of Margate and along the sea front sets the tone for the whole place. To the private sector they have proved ideal for multi-let low investment renting. The problems this creates for the wider community are well understood, and in particular the resulting highly transient population is a major financial and social burden on the wider community.
It seems improbable that owner occupation will become established in these properties without major public sector leadership and direct financial investment. But without the establishment of a majority owner-occupied community it will be exceptionally difficult to create social stability and regenerate the heart of Margate.

This challenge is clearly understood by the council, and they have sensibly identified Dalby Square as a place to start. In particular as a town planning set piece it has the visibility to stimulate reinforcing activity elsewhere.

The key question that faces Thanet and Kent is what housing strategy should guide the public sector intervention. In our discussion we observed that in many ways the challenge that faces Margate is not dissimilar to that which faced inner London Boroughs forty years ago. Large properties in multiple occupation, absentee landlords, disrepair, poverty. The solutions applied then were either, slum clearance and redevelopment, or municipalisation coupled with improvements and conversion. In both cases the end result was an increase in social renting, but in the latter case the stigmatisation now associated with large estates has been avoided, and those areas where the pre-existing terraces were retained are amongst
the most desirable places to live, with the majority finding a natural and comfortable balance of tenures. This success was achieved by public sector intervention following the declaration of General Improvement Areas, and Housing Action Areas. Both allowed investment into privately owned property as well as that acquired by the Local Authority – but on a planned area basis allowing the impact of the investment to be maximised.

We were given to understand that there were some 800 empty homes in the two central wards – Margate Central and Cliftonville West. This is both a major opportunity and a stark illustration of the scale of challenge facing the town. Given wider regional housing targets this would seem a major opportunity to meet housing growth targets without releasing previously undeveloped land. However reference to lessons to be learned from the Housing Market Renewal programme undertaken in the midlands and north should be regarded with caution. It is too soon to tell whether those programmes have achieved lasting regeneration, and early feedback suggests that the volume house builders engaged in these programmes have only been able to build their cheapest products in such low value areas. Surely the last thing that Margate needs. A focus on improving existing properties rather than redevelopment would surely be better, combining respect for Margate’s heritage with a responsible recognition of the need to prioritise environmental sustainability via refurbishment rather than new build..

In undertaking a multi-agency survey of residents in Dolby square the council has made an excellent start in establishing an objective base from which to plan their programme. We understood that they were well advanced in visiting every property and with achieving their target of meeting every resident. By using a home improvement agency they had assessed that about a third of the properties warranted the serving of a repair notice, and eleven houses had been singled out for specific action. It was particularly encouraging that the Leader was able to give categoric assurances that the serving of notices will be energetically
implemented. This is a key step, as it is unlikely that the council will achieve it’s goals without resort to compulsory purchase, and building up a case by the use of repairs notices is an important part of such a strategy.

When visiting Dalby Square we discussed plans for the cleared site at the southern end which has been temporarily landscaped and for the burned out hotel which abuts it. It was easy to understand and sympathise with the keenness of officers to bring forward a redevelopment scheme for the site as it is the focal point of what is a most impressive urban space. However we were unconvinced that the development proposals that were immerging from the current local and wider economic environment would do justice to such an exceptional site. Perhaps it would be better to demolish the adjacent and derelict hotel and invest in some reasonably good quality temporary landscaping, in order to give time for
the designation of a Conservation Area, coupled with intervention to repair and improve the existing buildings, to raise housing values in the square sufficiently for a genuinely high quality scheme to come forward.

The Margate Renewal Partnership is preparing a Housing Strategy for central Margate in partnership with the HCA and others. The key elements outlined in the briefing we received make a lot of sense. It is important that it places the emphasis for action on the local authority, supported at least initially by one or more Housing Association. Following on from the survey work referred to above, a programme of Housing Notices is to be implemented, coupled with the Landlord accreditation scheme now established and the proposed discretionary licensing scheme for rented accommodation, landlords should be in no doubt that the council means business. It must be hoped that a substantial capital budget will be established (Perhaps with the HCA using investment funding rather than traditional grant) which can support CPO acquisitions. Once property has been acquired I would recommend that it should be converted by Housing Association partners predominantly for sale. (To
ensure that purchasers actually reside in their homes consideration could be given to selling on shared ownership leases but with only minimal unsold equity but a five year bar on staircaseing out.) Proceeds from sales can be recycled into the acquisition programme thus utilising the investment as a revolving fund. Given the weakness of the local housing market this process may result in some losses in the early years but this should be reversed in due course as the market recovers, and should be accepted on the basis that the real return on the investment is a reduction on other local authority budgets as the social make up of the area is modified.

Out-placement of vulnerable single people and children. This was one of the key issues we highlighted when we made our first visit to Margate last year. The town is currently trying to support a far higher proportion of vulnerable single people and children in care than similar sized towns elsewhere. Both the wider community
and those individuals placed there are suffering unnecessary stress as a result. There is therefore an urgent need to reduce the number of such placements and to allow a more normal social balance to reassert itself. This means that the tap needs to be turned off as soon as possible. A clear directive from central government to those local authorities currently referring cases to Margate would seem likely to be the most effective strategy. In the meantime it is important for Thanet to analyse how these placements have impacted on the wider economy of Margate, and to consider how the very significant income that they bring with them will be replaced, so that those who have depended on this trade for their livelihood are not disadvantaged. This is an economic issue as well as a social one, and will need careful handling. It would seem to me to be bound up with on the one hand improving the hospitality offer (as in Hawley Square) and on the other promoting residential development via improvement and conversion to allow owner occupiers to take the place of the transient. The latter process will allow landlords to extract their equity if they wish,
while the former could provide an alternative source of income. However to stimulate sufficient demand for boutique accommodation the town will have to rebrand itself as a quality holiday destination. As pioneered in other struggling resorts, the arts, heritage entertainment venues and food have the potential to be at the core of the new brand.

Arts led Regeneration
A number of seaside resorts have turned to the arts and the cultural sector to lead their regeneration strategy. The Turner Contemporary is a brave investment in the future of Margate. The commitment shown by Kent CC and it’s partners is impressive. Crucial to success will be the role of local champions, and the expansion of the existing artistic community. Outreach events, such as we saw in the High Street on our previous visit, are an excellent way of building local support and interest. However sustained success will need to draw new players into Margate and in that regard there are lessons to be learned from the work of the Arts Trust in Folkestone.

Public Realm
We had too little time to reflect on the public realm. Previously we had drawn attention to the need to establish a programme of improvements. There is a sense that other towns are making real progress in improving their image by sustained intervention in improving key parts of their public realm. Margate needs to emulate what others are doing. In particular the key route from the station to the Turner Contemporary, and beyond along the seafront, needs to be given a higher priority. This space has great potential but is threatened by the impact of new sea defences, and by inappropriately over designed highway changes generated by the proposal for a Tesco supermarket as part of the Arlington House project. Margate has shown what it can do on a small scale in the old town, and now needs to build on this achievement.

It was gratifying to be invited back to Margate, and to experience once again the
considerable efforts which are being made by members of Margate Renewal Partnership to transform their town. Progress is being made, and all involved seem to be clearer about the actions which need to be taken. The potential of Turner Contemporary and Dreamlands to send out a powerful signal that Margate is on the way back is understood, and is clearly highly motivating. Notwithstanding the success in attracting the Sea Change funding, the fragility of the match funding is a cause for concern. With the shape of a wider strategy emerging it must be hoped that the symbolic importance of Dreamlands will enable all concerned to hold the ring so that real regenerative momentum can be established.

The new Cupcake Cafe

Cupcake Cafe, originally uploaded by margatearchitecture.

The all new, bigger, roomier Cupcake Cafe at 4-5 Market Place in Margate's Old Town is proving to be really popular. Really tasty daily hot dishes of the day that won't break your lunchtime pocket. Of course there are cakes and more cakes. But personally I do love their chunkt cheese on toast. Moving from much smaller premises next door was a great move and really excellent for The Old Town.

For Sale: Old Town Gallery

Old Town Gallery, originally uploaded by margatearchitecture.

We were really sad to see that Margate's Old Town Gallery closed down a few months ago. Stephen Roper was one of the first traders to stick it out and open a business in the Old Town. It's such a shame that things didn't work out, so close to things seemingly starting to really work in The Old Town.

The building is now for sale.

Friday 19 November 2010

Tudor House opening for Christmas

Very happy to report that Margate's oldest building, The Tudor House, will be open over the Christmas period. This 500+ year old building is one of Margate's treasures. When it is opened on the odd occasion, it is miraculously full. So one can only imagine the success for a restored and regularly opened Tudor House. So if you can help and would like to volunteer support of any kind, contact Sophie Jeffrey (MACH) who is working to co-ordinate future events at The Tudor House.


Dear All,

I am pleased to confirm that we are going to open the museum on 3 dates in December and are therefore seeking volunteers for the following:
Friday 3rd December, 4.30pm - 7pm
Saturday 4th December, 11.30am - 4pm
Saturday 11th December, 11.30am - 4pm

If you are able to participate, please complete the attached form and I will draw up a timetable for everyone.

Many thanks,


Please note, this event aims to complement the activities at Tudor House which are being organised by the Arts Development Officer at TDC ( as well as the Christmas light switch-on which is being organised by Margate Charter Trustees (01843 221704).

Sophie Jeffrey
Project Manager
Margate Arts, Creativity, Heritage
The Media Centre
11-13 King Street
Kent CT9 1DA
Direct Line: 01843 609342

Monday 15 November 2010

We're back! And lots happening!

I know, I've been a really bad blogger. I've neglected to update Margate Architecture for ages. And what makes it worse is that loads of exciting stuff is going on in town. There is a perceptible buzz in the town for many reasons. A few of which I will endeavour to mention in the coming days. But for today, the big news on the Margate horizon (that has of course been covered very well elsewhere), is that Turner announced their actual opening date and details of their first exhibition.

It's the 16th of April, people! Spring will be well and truly sprung and a sunny summer season will lie ahead. Allow this thought to warm your cockles during the winter. Imagine next winter when you're being rained upon in November. You'll be able to take shelter, take in some art and if that isn't your thing, there is also the amazing view of our amazing sea scape through the huge plate glass windows. Can't wait.

I couldn't as a self respecting Margate blogger miss this turning point. So here's the statement from Victoria Pomery herself:

Turner Contemporary Opens on Saturday 16 April 2011

Today we are delighted to announce the opening date for the new Turner Contemporary gallery.

The doors will open to the public on 16 April 2011 and we will be celebrating with a series of activities and events around the gallery over the opening weekend, details of which will be released nearer the time.

The opening exhibition, Revealed: Turner Contemporary Opens Saturday 16 April - Sunday 4 September 2011 explores the themes of imagination, discovery, wonder and the creative spirit.

Centred on JMW Turner-s extraordinary but little-known painting The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains, in the Island of St Vincent, at Midnight, on the 30th of April, 1812, from a Sketch Taken at the Time by Hugh P. Keane, Esqre, 1815 depicting a dramatic volcanic eruption that Turner himself never witnessed, the exhibition will feature new commissions by Daniel Buren, Russell Crotty, Ellen Harvey and Conrad Shawcross, alongside selected works by Teresita Fernandez and Douglas Gordon.

The opening show will be followed by:

Nothing in the World but Youth
17 September 2011 - 8 January 2012

An exhibition exploring how youth experience has been reflected in art, culture and the media from the late nineteenth century to the present day.

Hamish Fulton
14 January - 13 May 2012

His first one-person show in the UK since 2002, will include new work made as the result of group walks in Kent commissioned by Turner Contemporary.

Turner and the Elements
28 January - 13 May 2012

Our first major show of works by JMW Turner explores the important role that the depiction of the elements played in Turner's landscapes, watercolours and late paintings.

For more information about our opening programme, please visit

( ) .

We look forward with anticipation to welcoming you on Saturday 16 April when the doors of Turner Contemporary open.

Best wishes

Victoria Pomery, Director and John Kampfner, Chair of Turner Contemporary Trust

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Thanet Local Board Meeting Fiasco

I had the pleasure of sitting through Monday's Thanet Local Board meeting in Ramsgate. There's enough turning up on Twitter, Facebook and the blogs that show that there were many people in the hall who were not too pleased at how the meeting was chaired and how the panel members responded. I have to agree. It really is a pretty poor practice to cut people up 2 seconds into framing a question to tell them to hurry up and ask a question. And further to bemoan that only questions were being asked about the airport. Er, the meeting was in Ramsgate. The airport is a really important issue for many people. And as usual being handled dreadfully! I'll leave more detailed discussion of Manston to the lovely folks who are doing a sterling job of keeping on top of the debate.


Tuesday 28 September 2010

Margate featured in BA Highlife Magazine

Feature in BA's Highlife inflight magazine guest edited by Tracey Emin. Text by Harland Miller, photos by Johnnie Shand Kidd.
Nice to see The Shell Grotto and the Powell Cotton Museum featured as the cream of Margate attractions. Beautiful photography. Also great to see a discussion with a taxi driver about the ridiculous idea of painting the stone lighthouse!
PDF of the article for download here.

All in all a very grown up, personal and honest visit to Margate.

The Coast Awards 2011

Vote for your favourite coastal hotel, B&B, cafe, pier, beach and more in the 2011 Coast Awards:

Saturday 18 September 2010

Georgian Grade II Listed House for Sale

26 Hawley Square is the one on the left of the picture

As usual, the Thanet estate agents have excelled in advertising a Grade II Listed Georgian house by failing to mention that it is Georgian or Grade II Listed. Really there is much work to be done here in Thanet.

How crazy is it that the only sales pitch they have for selling a grade II listed building is to describe that it has plug points, stairs up and down and a dado rail!? They really have no clue. Does anyone put into Google dado rail or stairs up and down?

But I digress. Here are the details of the house which forms part of a pair, situated on the historic Hawley Square with over 30 listed properties surrounding a central green tree lined square.

Details of the listing of 26 Hawley Square:

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Mick Twyman

It's with great sadness that I write that Mick Twyman, the founder of Margate Historical Society died suddenly yesterday morning. Mick was a tower of knowledge about Margate. My first meeting with him was typical Mick. He presented me with an original photograph of my house, taken in the Victorian era. A picture no one else had seen! It's something I will always treasure along with all the help he gave me in researching the Zion Chapel Burial Ground. It's a great loss and my thoughts are with Mick's friends and family at this sad time.

Sunday 29 August 2010


Official TDC press blurb:

"Some of Margate’s many historic buildings and sites will be throwing
open their doors next month (September), as part of Heritage Open

A total of 12 different venues will be taking part in the initiative,
which runs from Thursday 9 September until Sunday 12 September. It’s
been organised under the banner of Margate Arts, Creativity, Heritage
(MACH), an innovative partnership between English Heritage, the Arts
Council and Thanet District Council.

The four days will include free tours, talks, live music and arts
events, all inspired by Margate’s history and its culture-led
regeneration. Dreamland will be offering a tour of the world famous
former amusement park site and a presentation about its future as the
world’s first heritage amusement park. Margate Museum, the town’s
former police station, will be hosting a performance with a
difference, in the former prison cells, which date from 1858. A live
band will play music from the 60s to commemorate the detention of 51
Mods there following the Whitsun Riots of 1964.

Guided tours will also be available of The Reading Rooms, a luxury
boutique bed and breakfast; St. John’s Parish Church; the Theatre
Royal, which is home to the country’s second oldest working stage; and
the Tom Thumb Theatre, one of the world’s smallest working theatres.

Visitors to the town can also take a look inside the Tudor House;
explore the archives of Margate Baptist Church; take a walking tour of
three squares (Cecil, Hawley and Addington); and can explore Margate
Old Town. Turner Contemporary will be putting on an exhibition in a
pop-up shop, as part of Generate, a project they are working on with
Thanet College, while the Harbour Arm will be showcasing an exhibition
and auction of postcard-sized art, with all proceeds going to the

MACH Project Manager, Sophie Jeffrey, said: “Margate has a special
place in the history books and in many people’s hearts, so we hope
this event, which increases access to historic sites and helps bring
them to life through the arts, will be a big hit. It’s also a great
way to open up a conversation with local people about how we can
secure the long-term future of Margate’s cultural assets.”

The event is being run with help from a group of volunteers, including
the Margate Civic Society. It is hoped that this pilot may lead to
more regular opening of Margate’s historic buildings and, for those in
public ownership, generate sustainable plans for their long-term

For more information on the venues taking part and what they will be
offering, visit"

In the media: The Ambrette in The Independent

Margate's Michelin rated The Ambrette is reviewed in The Independent.

The Ambrette 44 King Street, Margate, Kent

The Ambrette's take on modern Mumbai dining is just the latest sign of life returning to Margate's seaside strip

Reviewed by Richard Johnson

Margate is changing. And these days – if you plan your route carefully – you can avoid anything that looks boarded up or burnt out. You can drive past the Turner Contemporary arts centre, and the smart bars overlooking the Margate sands, and park up in the old town for a bite to eat. It's not a long drive, admittedly. But you get the point. Just remember to park somewhere well-lit – change doesn't happen overnight...

The Ambrette is symbolic of the new Margate – it used to be known as The Indian Princess, but chef Dev Biswal decided that the name sounded too old-fashioned. So he changed it. The food is still resolutely Indian – Biswal still comes from Mumbai – but it doesn't serve curry. And there's pork on the menu. Biswal wants the Ambrette to be known as a modern Indian restaurant with a difference.

It sits on the premises of the old George Hotel, which dates back to the mid-18th century. But, like the rest of Margate, it still needs loving. And a coat of masonry paint. There are only two designated parking spaces and – according to a large sign on the wall – the council is pursing an aggressive clamping policy. I'm glad of a table by the window. Not for the view, you understand – more so I can keep an eye on the car.

My six-year-old daughter doesn't like anything spicy. And, in her short life, Indian has always been about the spicy. So I want the Ambrette's "Gourmet Set Lunch" (three courses for £19.95) to put an end to all that – to put to rest her delusion that Indian food is all about fat and gravy. I got her to Margate by promising her she can have her own choice of dessert. But when the food starts to arrive, there's no need for any more talk of bribes.

Biswal's signature dish of freshwater Nile perch is off the menu. So instead we try the claresse. We are happy to be told that claresse is a freshwater fish from the European catfish family. We are even more happy when we taste it. It is pan-grilled, but soft and sweet inside its crust of sesame seeds, black pepper and coriander seeds. We don't give the perch a second thought.

The brochettes of lamb have been marinated in pineapple, and roasted – over charcoal. They arrive at the table, as soft as paté, on a mildly spiced bed of sweet potatoes. It's the right time for the waiter to bring my daughter's lassi to the table. With a straw – one of those with a joint towards the top. "You can drink round corners," he says. "Cool," she says. And promptly forgets all about the mildly spiced bed of sweet potatoes.

I've always wanted to rid the world of reheated bread rolls, pre-grated Parmesan, and overfilled wine glasses. The list used to include inter-course sorbets, but when my daughter and I taste the Ambrette's granita with space dust, well, I change my mind. As the waiter arrives with tiny tasters of mushroom soup (with a dab of ginger) and vegetable spring rolls with a smear of chutney, we're having a ball.

The sea-bream kedgeree is the best dish of the day. It is creamy, like a good risotto, and sweet with coconut. My daughter has discovered that her naan bread, still shiny with ghee, is big enough for her hand, and she turns it into a glove puppet while we wait for a dense, wet carrot cake – sweet with condensed milk. It is enough to make my daughter put down her naan bread.

The pastry around my chocolate samosas is, all at once, crisp and soft, giving way to a rich, dark chocolate ganache inside. The dish pairs well with the cardamom sauce, but not the sun-dried rose-petal jam. Biswal does have a tendency to crowd his plates, but once he gets the recognition he deserves, maybe he will find the confidence to step back a bit.

These days, the residents of Margate know that they've got more to boast about than their combined bingo and tanning centre. They had donkey rides and deckchairs before anyone else, and their town earnt a unique position in British seaside history. Now they've got the Turner Contemporary – and the Ambrette. Wish you were here? Not just yet. But it won't be long.


Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

The Ambrette 44 King Street, Margate, Kent, tel: 01843 231 504 Lunch and dinner, Tuesday-Sunday. £47 for two, including drinks and service

Richard Johnson is founder of the British Street Food Awards (

Thursday 26 August 2010

Depressing minor amends on Dalby Square proposal

The following press release from TDC is just depressing. With all the work that is going on for a new future for Margate and Cliftonville. The best the developers can come up with is some mediocre designs for the strip of green space at the top of Dalby Square.


Minor amendments have been made to a planning application for the former Warren Court Hotel and the adjacent land in Dalby Square.

The application is for 12 three-bed houses and 8 two-bed flats, including the retention of the façades of 21-23 Arthur Road. The original application was submitted in late July by Town and Country Housing Group.

The amendments will see the roof shape changing on the proposed houses that front Dalby Road, while the balconies have also been removed from the houses fronting both Dalby and Arthur Road.

The revised drawings can be viewed on the council's website using UK Planning under reference number F/TH/10/0581. The plans can also be viewed by visiting Thanet's Gateway Plus in Cecil Street, Margate from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, with extended opening until 8pm on Thursdays. Thanet's Gateway Plus is also open from 9am to 5pm on Saturdays.

As a result of the submission of the amended plans, the deadline for comments on the application has now been extended to Saturday 4 September 2010.

The application is likely to be considered by the council's planning committee in September 2010.


Please someone with a vision propose something decent.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Margate seafront and empty properties to be 'tarted up'

The news that Margate's key seafront area and empty properties are to be tarted up has been hotly PR'd recently. Of course it's no news to those of living here that something really should be done with the seafront. But then Margate is much more than the seafront area and it's no surprise that many improvements to the area were supposed to be ready in time for Turner opening.

Margate tackles 'eyesores' for Turner gallery opening

Artist's impression of the Turner ContemporaryGallery director Victoria Pomeroy said the town needed to give visitors a "great experience"

Empty shops will be brought into use and "eyesore" buildings will be tackled for the opening of Margate's Turner gallery, Thanet council has said.

Councillors who were told the event next year was a "unique opportunity" for the Kent seaside town have agreed on a plan to spruce up the area.

The town's signage, lighting, seafront shelters, railway station forecourt, and Arcadian Hotel are to be improved.

Gallery director Victoria Pomeroy said it was vital Margate was prepared.

Start Quote

The first few months, when those new visitors are coming into the area, will be critical”

Councillor Roger Latchford

Thanet councillor Roger Latchford, cabinet spokesman for regeneration, said the opening of Turner Contemporary was a chance not only to attract new visitors but also to change people's perceptions of Margate.

He said: "The first few months, when those new visitors are coming into the area, will be critical. That's why we need to focus our attention on preparing Margate for that.

"A huge amount of regeneration work has already taken place in the town in recent years, but we know there are still some key sites that need tackling.

"The last thing we want is for those to have an impact on people's views of the town when they come to visit Turner Contemporary."

Word-of-mouth 'important'

A statement from the council said the plan would "identify the top 10 priority projects to work on for the next 12 months, which will focus on improving the area from the railway station up to Turner Contemporary".

It said the projects included "tackling eyesore buildings, such as the Arcadian and Fort Road Hotel, working with the owners of empty shops to develop innovative solutions to bring them back into use, along with tackling priority areas, such as the railway station forecourt".

Ms Pomeroy said the opening would bring thousands of people to the town.

She said: "Word-of-mouth is so important and we need these visitors to be leaving having had a great experience of the town and telling friends, family and colleagues about what is happening here."

Building work on the £17.4m art gallery started in November 2008.

Margate in the press

Today's Guardian has a weekend feature celebrating the great British seaside. Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate get a mention as having some of the country's best beaches:

"This is a rural bay in comparison with the nearby resorts of Margate and Broadstairs. By day, there's plenty to keep you occupied, with kite-boarding and windsurfing lessons, seal-watching boat trips and coastal walks. But at dusk, this blue flag beach comes into its own: the sun dips into the sea as, in the distance, 30 wind turbines shimmer in the briny haze."

"There are seven sandy bays to choose from in Broadstairs and, while most visitors head for the hustle and bustle of Viking Bay, those in the know sneak off to the blue flag beach at Stone Bay. A peaceful arc of sand cradled by chalky cliffs, this is a great place for kids to go rockpooling. Access is via one of two steep flights of steps (the beach is the setting for John Buchan's novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps), or along the promenade from Viking Bay."

A bustling blue flag bearer, Ramsgate is a good old-fashioned beach resort with lifeguards on patrol, a bay inspector and a ban on dogs in the summer months, which keeps families flocking here. The swanky Royal Harbour (a title bestowed on it by George IV in 1821) and marina (where you can get your fish and chips and ice-creams) is right next door and there are children's rides on the beach itself. Every Tuesday afternoon in August, the Ramsgate Society offers costumed walks of the nearby cliffs and harbour.

With a very nice piece bigging up the upcoming Burlesque on the Beach festival taking place at the wonderfully vintage Walpole Bay Hotel, Dippers and Dunkers and the vintage seaside film nights organised by Friends of The Shell Grotto:

"Margate is a riot of kitsch and somewhat saucy seaside shenanigans. From 16 to 21 August, the Walpole Bay hotel hosts Burlesque on the Beach – a series of vintage-inspired workshops and performances, with the emphasis on cream teas and tassels. The following week (20-27 August), there'll be 1950s-style keep fit classes on the beach (8am, Mon-Fri) as part of the Dippers and Dunkers Festival of New Variety. There will be burlesque workshops for adults, the Magnificent Insect Circus Museum and five performances of Sideshow Illusions featuring a headless lady. For something a little more sedate, the Walpole Bay is hosting two seaside-themed vintage film nights (16 September and 14 October) arranged by the Friends of the Shell Grotto, including Magical Margate (circa 1919) and The Belle of Kent (1958). Expect immaculate RP narration, usherettes and lashings of gin fizz and popcorn.;; "

Which leads me on to report my disappointment to hear from shop keepers in Margate Old Town that they were asked if they would like to fork out £75 to be included in a 'news feature' in The Thanet Gazette. Is there really no understanding of how real news works? Why should these hardworking shops that have stuck it out in a difficult market and are really the news story, why should they pay for an advertorial in a local rag? Please. Such a sad approach to media coverage. And lets face it, probably wouldn't do the shops much good anyway. The shops in the old town are something that we in Margate should be proud of and one hopes that what is left of a PR budget within the authority is spent on promoting these gems in our town.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Last minute call to object to the development of houses over Margate Caves

Thanet District Council - who own Margate Caves - has applied for planning permission to build houses on the site. The application says that the houses will not prevent the Caves re-opening, but my opinion is that if this development goes ahead it's almost impossible to see a viable future for the tourist attraction.

It takes only a minute or two to object to the planning application. If you can spare the time, and of course if you agree, we’d be grateful for your support.
The deadline for Comments is Tuesday, the 27th.

You can view the application by going here

And searching for Application No: F/TH/10/0546 (Can’t provide a direct link as it changes daily!)

If you haven't time, and would like to object, you can add your name and address and send the note below to and a send a copy to and .

Dear Thandi

I am fully in support of Claire Blackwell’s statement below. These houses should not be built here.

Best wishes

[name and address]

I believe that this proposal does nothing to safeguard the Margate Caves and almost completely extinguishes any prospect of them re-opening as a tourist attraction.

In addition, the houses proposed are of poor design, and would represent a discordant and derivative addition to the built environment immediately adjacent to a conservation area.

Many millions of pounds of public money have been invested in Margate’s future as a tourist resort, both at Turner Contemporary and Dreamland. We stand on the brink of a bright new future for the town, but tourism experts speak of the need for a ‘broad offer’ ie a range of attractions for the visitor to enjoy.

This proposal removes all of the Caves’ roadside presence, thus rendering them invisible from the highway. More importantly it takes any land that might be utilised for ancillary uses, such as a gift shop and café. It is generally accepted that secondary spend is vital to a tourist attraction’s viability, often accounting for at least 50% of turnover. The removal of land for this purpose effectively renders the Caves unviable as a business proposition. (The damp conditions in the Caves themselves preclude the creation of an underground shop/café.)

The proposal sees the loss of the original access tunnel (created in 1914 by tunnelling from the cellars of the Vicarage for incumbents to gain safety during air raids). Indeed it suggests that this tunnel is infilled. There is a suggestion that Forsters Entrance could be brought back into use, but details as to how this might be achieved are completely lacking.

Forsters Tunnel was filled with rubble and sealed off after the bombing of Holy Trinity Church and Northumberland House. Research suggests that it was last used in 1941, so we cannot know – without extensive surveying – whether it represents a suitable alternative entrance.

Crucially, there is no assurance that Forsters Entrance will be opened before the existing entrance is closed.

There is no provision for testing the ground under the proposed development for any unknown caves/voids. There are known caves across Northdown Road under Flint House so it is not inconceivable that there may be something south of the Vortigern Caves, under the proposed development site. Also it is known that there was at least one WW1 'dug-out' dug somewhere near the Caves – however, the exact location is unknown.

Adam Single, the Archaelogical Officer at Kent County Council, has reported that there is potential for iron age and Romano-British remains on the site. This is, therefore, a potentially important historical site even without considering the Vortigern Caves.

Lastly, this proposal flies in the face of the results of TDC’s own Margate Caves Consultation (2009). Over 90% of respondents opposed the sale and development of the site. Specific concerns voiced included infilling of any part of the Caves and the potential loss of a tourist attraction for the town. Representations included one from Margate Civic Society and a petition of 2,592 signatures.

The Margate Caves are an important and fascinating part of the town’s tourism offer. Their potential worth is far greater than that of seven poorly-designed houses.

Claire Blackwell
Trustee, Friends of the Shell Grotto