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Eat My Words: We review the St Mildred’s Bay bar and bistro in Westgate-on-Sea

Two mouthfuls in and I’m trying to work out what that lovely taste is. Three mouthfuls in and I realise I’ve made a made a rather significant mistake.

As a vegetarian I somehow completely managed to miss the description on the menu which, when double-checking, quite clearly states chorizo - aka good old-fashioned meat. Do I stop and spit it out in disgust?

The scallops and those pesky chorizo crumbs
The scallops and those pesky chorizo crumbs

No, I don’t. In for a penny, in for a pound, I scoff the lot. Some morals I have, eh?

But, in truth, it was ruddy tasty and having not experienced the smokey taste for years, for those first few mouthfuls I was trying to put my finger on what delightful ingredient it was. I do miss meat sometimes, I can’t deny.

Am I now sat here racked with guilt? No, I’m not. It was, after all, in crumb form on the dressing on an extremely eye-catching scallop dish. And I doubt the scallop was over-enamoured with being caught and pan-fried anymore than the pig who contributed to that chorizo.

But I digress.

I am sat on the outside terrace of a modern, tastefully decorated bar and bistro right on the promenade in Westgate-on-Sea - a pretty little place just outside Margate and normally best known for its fabulous old school cinema which comes with old school prices (£4 a ticket!).

St Mildred's Bay bar and bistro sits right alongside the promenade at Westgate-on-Sea
St Mildred's Bay bar and bistro sits right alongside the promenade at Westgate-on-Sea

The weather is pleasant, the crowds are low (it’s a Wednesday afternoon), and I’m about to put The St Mildred’s Bay eatery through its paces.

It is not my first time here. I came not long after it opened back in 2022 and was left thoroughly underwhelmed by its snail-like service and so-so food.

It was disappointing, as its position - just yards from the sandy beach - makes it one of the county’s most picturesque.

Two years on, however, and it has clearly pulled its socks up.

Within seconds of walking inside its warm and welcoming main indoor restaurant - with full-length windows allowing views across the Blue Flag bay from which the restaurant takes its name - we are met by a friendly member of staff.

St Mildred's Bay - the restaurant is in a perfect spot
St Mildred's Bay - the restaurant is in a perfect spot

Given how hopeless the summer has been so far, it seems a crying shame not to sit outside on a rare occasion when the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds, so we perch on one of the chunky, bolted-down wooden tables, all of which sit under a string of giant parasols. Handy for folk like me, who don’t wish to accidentally burn their balding bonce.

When we arrive we’re the only ones there - within 30 minutes, there’s a gaggle of others, including a big bloke sat with a dog who is almost the same size as he is. My dining companion and I have a quick discussion as to what to do if the dog goes berserk and attacks. We formulate a full-proof plan. Fortunately, such evasive action is not required and the dog doesn’t make a peep.

As with all restaurants these days, prices aren’t what they used to be. And I quite understand that. So instead of a ‘large plate’ dish as they were around the £18 mark, we opt for smaller ones.

Cheaper. But not cheap.

I order pan-seared scallops with a cauliflower purée, grilled asparagus, chorizo crumb (see, couldn’t be clearer), parsley oil, apple cider vinegar and micro herbs (tiny versions of your classics). It’s £12.50.

Our spread in full
Our spread in full

My companion opts for calamari with garlic aioli and baby herbs for £9.50.

We’re not sure how ‘small’ their ‘small plates’ are, so order in a side-dish of chunky chips to share just in case. Steep at £5. And all washed down with two Diet Cokes (£2.60 each).

When the food arrives, we are thoroughly impressed by the presentation. The scallops - all three of them - sit within the herbs and grilled asparagus and look about as appetising as it is possible despite their sparsity. When looking back at the photo of the dish, I’m surprised the chorizo didn’t spring out at me. But there’s more to worry about in life isn’t there?

They taste divine as does every aspect of the dish (including that cheeky chorizo). And I try not to think each scallop is costing me about £4 each.

But this is a well-crafted dish; the scallops light and full of flavour; the herbs and asparagus melt-in-the-mouth delicious.

Sitting outside - even on a slightly blustery day - is a real treat
Sitting outside - even on a slightly blustery day - is a real treat
The beach is mere yards away
The beach is mere yards away

The calamari arrives looking grander in scale - all fluffy batter like a candy floss. Aesthetically, it’s not as eye-pleasing as the colours of the scallop dish but looks good.

They are light and tasty although the dish is, if fault must be found, a little oily. It is, of course an oil-based sauce accompanying a deep-fried dish. But still.

As for the chunky chips - fluffy inside, crisp on the outside - very nice.

The bill comes to just under £35.50 - which includes a 10% service charge. A tip well-earned as all the staff were friendly, helpful and speedy - quite unlike my previous trip here.

However, would I say it was good value? Well, the food was undoubtedly good, but the price is, in my opinion, steep. It was a very light, albeit tasty, lunch.

Your reviewer tackles one of those pricey chunky chips
Your reviewer tackles one of those pricey chunky chips

Charging a fiver for a small portion of chips - however nice they are - is, I believe, a tough sell. Mind you, they sold it to me, so what do I know? But they may equate to the most expensive chips Thanet - or Kent for that matter - has to offer.

I suspect you end up paying a premium for a premier location. But was it a pleasant experience? Yes it was. Was the food good? Yes it was. Would I come again? Probably, but I’d probably save up for one of the bigger dishes.

Now, let’s never talk of my meaty slip-up again.

Possibly the most expensive chips in Thanet
Possibly the most expensive chips in Thanet

Out of five:

Food: The menu offers plenty of choice and dish sizes. What we had was tasty and, in the case of the scallops, at least, exceptionally well done and presented ****

Drink: The Diet Coke had crisp notes and a light…no, I’m joking..you know what it tastes like ****

Decor: Very warm and welcoming inside dining area and a well-maintained outside terrace - it’s hard to beat *****

Staff: Friendly and efficient as you’d hope *****

Price: I’m going to say it was a bit steep. And £5 for a small tub of chips is taking profit margins to the extreme, even in these challenging times ***

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