With a mass of high pressure sitting over the east of the country the forecast for today was to be fair, clouds filled the sky but by mid morning the sun broke through on this first day of Advent.
A recent visit to the North Kent Coastal resort of Whitstable was to prove to be all too brief, for this seaside town holds much history. Whitstable sits on the southern side of the Thames Estuary, a gatekeeper to the River Thames and was highly regarded by the Romans as an area where fine oyster were to be found, they liked them so much the Romans shipped oysters back to Rome.
It was only on my recent visit did I realise there was a castle in Whitstable, previous visits had focused around the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company restaurant and the many interesting shops and galleries.
My dear friend John Stoddart famed for his photography of celebrities and now a resident of Whitstable pointed out recently that the diving helmet and suit was invented here, a blue plaque on a cottage in one of the back lanes recognises this. Clearly there is so much more to this town. Over the years it has seen the regeneration of the fishing huts to an eclectic mix retailers of vintage clothing, home-wares, artists and now places to stay. Properties have been renovated and urbanites frequent at weekends as those in the know realist this town is a real gem. With such strong seafaring history I felt I needed to return and share my recent visit.
Along with the family and a close friend we headed east in order to visit a couple of restaurants I introduced my gin to in order to get them to stock it, Sloane’s Gin, named after Sir Hans Sloane, a dry style gin that won the accolade of ‘Worlds Best Gin 2011’, it’s distilled in a different way to most other gins. Each of the nine botanicals is carefully distilled then blended together, this give greater control over the balance of the gin. It is then rested before bottling. Fresh oranges and lemons are used in the distillation process instead of the normally used citrus peel by other gin makers, for us it gives a fresh citrus note. These are still early days in getting Sloane’s Gin to market and for those of you that follow trends there has been an explosion of gins in the market, in fact one bar in London’s West End boasts listing over 246!
Our first stop was the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company, owned by Richard Green & Angharad Renshaw-Green. Over the years this has been a favourite haunt of mine. I introduced both my sons to the delight of this restaurant where you will enjoy some of the finest fish and oysters. On our visit today they were keen to show Young Tales a wonderful gingerbread house, an eye-catching display in the restaurant. A shared platter of a dozen oysters washed down with some Whitstable Oyster Stout was a great start to the day before our Sunday roast across the pebble courtyard at the Pearson’s Arms run by Richard Phillips, if you find yourself in Whitstable you will be spoilt for choice but you can’t go wrong with either of these fine venues, neither are pretentious but offer great food along with great service and one can’t ask for more.
Young Tales wanted to play on the beach, its pebble foreshore leads to a sand and shell encrusted vista that throws light out on the low tide across the estuary towards Southend. The oyster beds visible and marked out with marker buoys. Avocets, Sandpipers, Oyster Catchers and Terns strut their stuff as they turnover Crustacea.
As the first December day drew to a close the sunset was like a neon orange bar held in purple glove like clouds. Silhouetted on the shore were bait diggers and wadding birds flocked nearby, the wooden groynes reached out to the sea like gnarled fingers.