20 coolest, cutest cafés
Whether quirky, cute or cool, all these Kent cafés offer relaxed charm, quality home-made food and a friendly smile
Juliets, Tunbridge Wells
There’s a real charm about this place, and a certain buzz, two of the key ingredients required to make a really outstanding café. Add in a loyalty with the locals (it’s very much the place to meet and greet in the lower end of the High Street) – it is, as all good cafés should be, at the heart of the local community. Then there’s the super tasty food – from Smashed Avocado to Juliets Pancakes and artisan breads, pastries, cakes to die for – this place has it all. It’s no wonder you voted it this year’s Best Café in Kent Muddy Stiletto Award.
The Swan, West Malling
Cool, cosy café in an ideal spot on West Malling’s Swan Street. Friendly young staff and a great menu. I’ve tried everything from the Detox Smoothie to the Stack of Buttermilk American Pancakes (well, I had to counter-act that healthy smoothie, obvs) and it’s all delicious. Great ‘Picky Plate’ for toddlers offering a selection of ham, cucumber, bread, cheese etc for that age when they prefer to use their hands and you never know what they will/won’t eat on any particular day.
The Greedy Cow, Margate
For a seriously good sourdough toastie make a beeline to The Greedy Cow. Available from noon onwards (only breakfasts are served in the mornings), we like the chorizo version, laced with fresh orange. Or go for a Gents Burger, made with black pudding, sausage, bacon, cheddar, chutney and beetroot and served with fennel coleslaw. Eat in the upstairs café or ask for your order to go. If you prefer pizza, head around the corner instead, to GB PIzza, for out-standing wood-fired pizzas.
Vinery Café, Hawkhurst
Nestled in the beautiful plant nursery known as The Walled Garden, this cute little tea room/café hasn’t even been opened for a year, yet has fostered a decent following thanks to its selection of simple, seasonal dishes (breakfast, lunch and afternoon teas) and a menu that changes weekly. Open Tuesday to Sunday – and don’t miss the opportunity to pop into visit resident florist, Sophie Hill of Astilbe & Sorrel, who is one of my all-time faves for creating stunningly natural bouquets.
Steep Street Coffee House, Folkestone
Right in the heart of Folkestone’s Creative Quarter you’ll find this lovely little literary café, a place that feels distinctly Parisian. Relaxed and welcoming, interesting, arty books line the walls – poetry and local literature, classics and coffee table hardbacks. In the tradition of the first European coffee houses, the team at Steep Street hope their space will become a hub for lively conversation, meetings, reading, writing and entertaining. All of this is to be fuelled, of course, by their speciality coffee, sandwiches, salads, paninis, patisserie and a good deal of their famous home-made cake.
Hamerton & Jones, Goudhurst
Decent coffee, fresh and wholesome food and a warm welcome… If you like the sound of that then let me introduce you to this fab new rural café. Visit with friends or family or make it a pit stop on your cycling/walking tip. It’s even perfect for grabbing last minute gorgeous birthday gifts because it has a little gift shop attached. Somewhere to go for a relaxed girlie lunch or when you can’t face feeding yourself/your other half/the kids. A lovely little modern curiosity shop.
The Black Douglas Coffee House, Deal
With a laid-back vibe, this is very much a Bohemian place, it’s also brilliant for breakfast and overlooks the sea. As the name suggests, they are proud of the quality coffee. But it also offers good, simple food, sourced locally and has garnered quite a local loyal customer base. There’s a new outdoor courtyard – perfect for big groups and anyone who wants to enjoy the summer sunshine.
Alice and the Hatter, Herne Bay
Oh like things quirky, do you? Come join the madness at this new, themed café complete with chequered floors, throne chairs, teacup stools, grassy nooks. Even the menus are bonkers – there’s How Long is Forever (yoghurt, granola and mixed berries) or The Great Cheshire Cat (buttered croissant with ham/cheese…) Centre-stage at the William Street tearoom is a large communal table, known as the Queen of Hearts table, bringing together large groups visiting for special occasions. It’s child-friendly but as much aimed at adults who have a taste for the fun and unusual.
Where Memories Meet, Wateringbury
Whizzing around the county I often pass Wateringbury, not far outside Maidstone, and every time this funky little tea room catches my eye. I mean, it’s pink for a start, so hard to miss. Downstairs, they buy and sell antiques and vintage delights too, making it extra worth the visit. Describing themselves as a speciality tea shop, you’ll find fine loose-leaf and speciality teas from around the world here (no tea bags in sight) and you can buy everything from the hand-made cakes to the pictures on the wall to the chairs you sit on.
The Deaf Cat, Rochester
Another one that’s all about the coffee. A quirky old-school venue in a perfect position on Rochester’s High Street with a view directly across to the cathedral. And in case you’re wondering about the name (yes, I heard you mumbling at the back) it’s named after Charles Dickens’ favoured pet (the author lived at Gad’s Hill Place, near Rochester, fact fans) and the sense of history suits the listing building setting.
Lilliepie Cafe, Chart Sutton nr Maidstone
A quirky, vintage-inspired cafe where you’ll find a little bit extra, including craft courses. Try out anything from cake decorating, candle and soap making to jewellery design. They also specialise in Frenchic paint and run workshops demonstrating paint techniques like distressing, decoupage and crackle (you’ll want to paint everything in the house once you’ve had a go). Upstairs is the Restoring Health wellbeing centre for all your osteopathy, yoga and massage needs. A fun little find – near Leeds Castle if you happen to be over that way and in need of refreshments.
Basil, Tunbridge Wells
Basil arrived with the ‘simple philosophy of providing deliciously wholesome, home-cooked food, scrumptious cakes & really great coffee’ – and having enjoyed their food on more than one occasion I think it’s fair to say it’s achieved exactly that. The place to eat if you’re in the St. Johns Road bit of Tunny Wells. Don’t leave without trying their award-winning chocolate brownies.
As the 2016 winners of Muddy Stillettos Best Café in Kent (as voted by you) this place already has a brilliant stamp of approval. With friendly staff, stylish, relaxing interiors made-to-order milkshakes (my mudlets like the Oreo one) you can opt for super healthy salads just as easily and indecently indulgent treats. I know that they can even make great cakes for special occasions to order to if you ask. Definitely worth a visit.
The Velo House, Tunbridge Wells
Every cyclist’s paradise, this is where anyone that loves two wheels can go to get all their needs met under one (pretty cool) roof. There’s a shop (buy your kit), workshop (get your bike serviced) and café (refuel). The good news is that while the food has the health conscious in mind the brains behind the menu also realised that a lot of their customers would be hungry people with a decent appetite so they do proper, scrummy food rather than just salads for pushing round your plate. Mr Muddy (the cyclist in our house) recommends The Velo Burger or Spicy Quesadillas. Having said all that, you’re also likely to see groups of girl-friends or Mums with kids eating here too (no Lycra required).
Weathered and Worn, Hadlow, Nr Tonbridge
A lovely mother and daughter run business that mixes their passion for finding vintage furniture and home ware with a talent for making seriously good cakes. Browse amongst the characterful home wares in the ever-changing shop display then enjoy a light lunch (there’s home made soup on offer daily along with a selection of sandwiches) or simply relax with a tea or coffee and a slice of something sweet. On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays the shop has seating for around sixteen people and on Saturdays they have the use of an extra coffee shop room, with seating for at least twenty more. There’s a garden for warmer months and free parking nearby.
Eat ‘n’ Mess, Sevenoaks
In a prime position on London Road, opposite Blighs car park, this is a boutique little cakery selling scrummy handmade offerings which are all free of either gluten, dairy or refined sugar. It’s popular with people who don’t have any dietary restrictions because the baked goodies on offer taste just as good (trust me, I’ve tried them all…) but for those that are gluten or dairy intolerant this place is a little slice of heaven, drawing in cake lovers from all over the county.
Finch House, Tonbridge
In the middle of town, this is a large, airy café selling everything from fresh pies and paninis to pancakes. It’s the perfect antidote for anyone that prefers large pine tables and crisp white interiors to gingham and vintage. Despite the size it’s kept its cosiness and personal touch and is always packed. Thanks to the success of this store the owners have since opened up new coffee shops in Orpington and, literally just this week, in Maidstone. The space makes it an ideal place to manoeuvre a buggy and it’s a popular meeting spot for Mums.
Café 1809, Hildenborough
Famously owned by Dame Kelly Holmes, this place (named after the number she wore for the whole six races at Athens Olympics) has gone from strength to strength. Popular with sports-fans refuelling and yummy mummies alike there’s plenty to keep everyone happy. Out back are racks with locks to park your bike safely and the menu is full of healthy options like the Yoghurt Mug (yogurt layered with granola and daily fruits) but also for the hungry at heart there’s plenty to choose from, like the Breakfast Stack (sausage, pancetta, egg…) A new Café 1809 recently opened at Cyclopark, Gravesend.
The Chocolate Cafe, Canterbury
Wonder why I slipped this one in? Do you think they’ll offer me a life-time’s supply? As the name suggests, this place specialises in the sticky, sweet stuff, with things like chocolate cakes, Belgian chocolate truffles and rich hot chocolates as well as other chocolatey favourites. For those that don’t have such a sweet tooth, there’s also coffee, savoury snacks and wines (it turns into a bar atmosphere at night with jazz evenings and the like). The decor is rich and dark like chocolate with a certain Bohemian flair and attracts a fair few tourists. A second branch has just opened its doors this summer in Folkestone’s Rendezvous Street.
Secret Garden Cafe at Joanne Harmer Gallery, Deal
The Secret Garden Café is this super-cute little courtyard, discovered by walking through the arched doorways of Joanne Harmer Gallery. Serving freshly ground coffee, teapigs teas, cream teas and freshly baked cakes. Furnished with rocking chairs, a double swing seat, beautiful music and fairy lights this café has a relaxed, magical and peaceful atmosphere. Shhh, it’s our little secret, right?
And if that hasn’t got you salivating (what is WRONG with you?) feast your eyes on this lovely lot…