It was a special time of the year and I reckoned it was a perfect opportunity to show Mrs SD a little love - but who’d have thought I’d find it in Margate?
Festive spirit was mixed with sea spray and after a stroll along the iconic seafront we were walking up Marine Gardens and suddenly discovered LOVE, lit up large in fluorescent green.
Stepping into the Love Café the entrance was dark from the outside but we were soon sitting at a bright bar faced by a trio of even brighter waitresses with wide smiles and plenty of piercings.
We joined another very trendy fellow already sitting at the bar and one of us was smitten immediately, particularly when he found her jokes funny.
Not only that, when the cork proved tricky to dislodge Mrs SD’s new favourite guy with the infectious laugh stepped behind the bar to release the reluctant stopper. And, Mrs SD has always been impressed by a hands-on boss.
It might have been Christmas but I wasn’t swayed by a mulled wine with mince pie for a fiver and opted instead for a pint of 4.6% Tidal Pool from the very local Northdown Brewery.
This proved to be equally as lively as the place and sadly it was impossible to pour a pint that was any less than 90% froth. Though the barmaid did gradually combine the small amounts of liquid created and I was eventually presented with a complimentary half pint to sample.
By this time though I was already tucking into a pint of Neck Oil, Beavertown’s 4.3% session IPA – regular readers will know I favour this tipple so it really was no great hardship, though it will set you back a cool £6.
I’m not sure what a pint of Tidal Pool costs but I assume it might be a little less and for my money it was even better than the Neck Oil.
Having enjoyed the hospitality in the bar it was time to head for the gents. The first revelation was discovering there isn’t a gents as the facilities are unisex. But nothing could have readied me for the second surprise – the colour of the toilets will knock your socks off.
The first cubicle was engaged but an arrow directed me to more at the back of the bar and after walking past a curtained-off kitchen area I discovered two more toilets.
Impeccably clean and fresh, they were nothing short of spectacular and the highlight of a year reviewing pubs’ facilities. Where else will you find individually wrapped loo rolls, humorous messages in the floor tiles and such an explosion of colour?
Back in the bar, just after 7pm, an appropriately trendy DJ started playing a number of tracks, none of which, I’m pleased to say, I’ve ever heard before.
Shazam revealed This is Tough by Last Try, Happy House by The Juan MacLean and Brian Protheroe’s Pinball. The reason I say I was pleased is not because I didn’t enjoy the music, the opposite is true, I’m pleased because, like several other things in Love, I was introduced to new experiences.
Incredibly trendy looking folk had us feeling younger already, if a little under-dressed, as a good number of people in the bar were wearing very classy 1950s-style outfits.
Having only opened a couple of months ago having been co-launched by Libertines front man Carl Barât, the Love Cafe has made a fantastic start but is understandably still finding its feet. On the food front I was mightily impressed by the quality of the breakfast and lunch menus which, like everything else, offer something a bit different and more than a little classy.
However, I wasn’t persuaded enough by the post 5pm Christmas menu to splash £12 on a baked Camembert or £6 on a scotch egg. Though I can report someone else ordered the cheese and sneaking a peak it did look absolutely incredible – the presentation was spectacular.
Of course, we all know pubs are only brick deep (even if they are beautifully exposed), it’s the manager and staff who turn visitors into regulars by developing the sort of environment which makes first timers, tourists, DFLs and other strangers share the buzz.
From the sparky red-headed Irish manageress to the barman and chef (both bedecked in trendy beanie hats), to the beret-wearing waitress, all the staff were keen to please, full of fun and efficient. Although they still found plenty of time to hug each other regularly and make themselves plenty of drinks too.
It all added to the atmosphere and reminded me each time I visit this seaside town I’m always pleasantly surprised by the experience.
For some reason Margate gets a bad rap but I reckon this is unfair. Of course, like everywhere, it’s got rough spots and bad apples but whether I've been dancing to a band at the Winter Gardens, enjoying an ice cream on the beach or discovering Love, I’ve always had a great time in this vibrant, iconic hip and trendy town.
Love Cafe, 3-4 Marine Gardens, Margate CT9 1UH
Decor: Classy, trendy, bright and brilliant. The look of Love has been carefully crafted to create a welcoming, alternative venue. Must be the most colourful place I’ve reviewed. *****
Drink: It wasn’t the Dune Buggy, but my free half of Northdown Brewery’s 4.6 per cent Tidal Pool was a hazy, zesty delight. And I’ve always rated Neck Oil from Beavertown. The Sauvignon Blanc was declared a good drop but Mrs SD wasn’t quite as keen on the Spiced Apple with Amaretto. ****
Food: I was partial to the smoky nuts but we didn’t try anything from the menu this time. Maybe if we return for a little more Love in the New Year we’ll grab a British banger.
Price: Very much a case of getting what you pay for and I reckon it’s worth it, but the wine was £9, a pint of Neck Oil was £6 and if you went the Moretti route instead it will cost you £5.40. ***
Staff: I loved their hospitality plus sense of style and fun. Everyone was immediately made to feel incredibly welcome and at ease. I’m definitely wearing a beanie next time and hugging everyone I can find. *****
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