Ahoy there! Tuck in at The Coastguard
Searching for holiday vibes in Kent this year? We may have found just the answer for a sun-filled day right on the seafront - with heaps of family fun and good food - just outside Dover.
This historic sea-side pub and restaurant is in St Margaret’s Bay, overlooking a shingle-stone beach and beneath the White Cliffs of Dover. You are at the mercy of the elements here so it is a great place to grab food on its terrace on a sunny day or you can lurk inside within its cosy nautical-themed interiors and watch the waves crashing around outside during the wintrier months.
Fun fact – it is also Britain’s nearest pub to France and bear this mind when you go to avoid shrieking out loud, like I did, when my phone registered the time as a whole hour later and I thought I had missed school pick-up.
The marine theme is throughout the pub (inside and out) in a nod to the location’s maritime heritage. You will find red and white lighthouse-style fascia, boat-shaped planters and lifebuoys dotted around the front veranda as well as giant crabs attached to the walls and port holes adapted into mirrors within the interior.
It’s the perfect place for a family day out as it’s set right on the beach and they have their own ice-cream van, The Dock of the Bay, selling all kinds of ice-creams treats from local producers, Solleys.
There’s also a sand pit on-site so you can enjoy your food whilst younger ones play within your sight and there is talk of crabbing nets and buckets/spades coming as part of the Kids’ meal if you haven’t packed all the gear or have headed for an impromptu visit.
Let’s give you some more St. Margaret’s trivia so you can wow/bore your friends and family when you visit. Bond writer, Ian Fleming and the playwright Noel Coward lived in the same house, but not at the same time, with many famous faces of that day coming to stay in this white art-deco inspired house. In fact, Ian Fleming refers to the Goodwin Sands (the 10-mile sandbank running along from Deal to Dover) in Moonraker as well as making them a major plot point in his children’s story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Literary references aside, you can expect regular live music and entertainment on the terrace with BBQs and in the winter, there are quiz nights and comedy dinner nights for the locals as well as the day-trippers and staycationers so a few reasons to keep popping back.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
The emphasis is on the fun-factor here more than the foodie factor. The menu is pub fayre (anyone else in agreement that Pork Belly is the new Chilli con Carne?) rather than high-end cuisine but the food is tasty and fresh as the meat, fish and vegetables are sourced from nearby Deal.
Foodie wise, we shared olives/bread rolls and carrot & cumin hummus followed by the Special of ‘Scallops with Chorizo and Hollandaise sauce’ alongside a humongous portion of Fish and Chips with my fellow dining companion applauding the thin and non-greasy batter – essential components of a good fish and chips she tells me. The pretty plates also won dining points for me.
Puddings were the hit of the day as we delved into Praline brûlée with hazelnut shortbread served with an eye-catching raspberry and lemongrass sorbet alongside Chocolate tart with rhubarb crumble ice cream and chocolate crumb.
The service was a bit hit-and-miss, but we know that the hospitality industry has struggled to find good staff post Covid-19, and we were happy enough basking in the sunshine on the terrace, so it wasn’t a huge bother.
On a quaff note, the soft drinks list is endless with local brands such Kingsdown Cloudy Lemonade and Elderflower on offer and since I was the designated driver, my friend explored the wine list for the Muddy reader and no surprises here, it has a good mix of local and international options as well as a well-stocked Gin bar which seems to be a pre-requisite in most places these days.
OUT & ABOUT
You won’t run out of places to visit in this part of Kent with iconic destinations such as Dover Castle, Walmer Castle and of course The White Cliffs of Dover within easy driving reach. Within walking distance, you also have more off the beaten track places such as Pines Garden and St. Margaret’s Museum which houses a programme of changing displays on St Margaret’s during WW2. At the moment, it is Dover at War where you can try on a wartime costume and experience life under a Morrison shelter so worth seeking out if you get caught in a sudden downpour.
Samphire Hoe should also be on your radar if you are in that part of the world as it was created by Eurotunnel during the construction of the Channel Tunnel, more than 25 years ago, and now a space for discovering fascinating wildlife, rare plants, spectacular landscapes of the White Cliffs and stunning views over the English Channel plus a ‘hidden’ beach’ if you put in the extra effort to find it.
Make sure you pack your swimmers to avoid doing a mad dash (well as much as you can dash on slippery stones) to the sea in your underwear. Well worth the effort though for a wet soggy t-shirt look to pick up the kids at the school gates.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR? You should have got the message by now – it’s just the ticket for a fun family day out. Mid-week, it also worked as a novel location for a lunch with girl mates especially with a cheeky underwear dip in the sea to work off pudding.
NOT FOR? If you are after a swanky coastal spot, this is maybe not the one for you.
A very generous portion of fish and chips will set you back £13.95 with other main dishes ranging from £12 to £18 so it does err on the pricier side BUT portions are big plus you must think about the poor old van coming down that steep descent into the bar with the groceries.
The Bay, St Margarets Bay, Dover, CT15 6DY, Phone: 01304 853051, email@example.com, thecoastguard.co.uk