We had originally booked in to come here the day we returned from holiday in Turkey, thinking the lure of a meal by the sea would deflate any of our holiday blues. But alas, a delayed flight and torrential rain upon our return scuppered any chance of this. So..... we were forced to reschedule for Saturday afternoon. Yet again the weather wasn't great, but at least it wasn't raining so we made our way down to Birchington for our table at 15.00.
The Minnis is situated at the far end of The Parade, there is ample free parking along here and also a pay and display to the rear. It strikes more as a pub than a restaurant on first inspection and was actually a beach-side cafe at one point, though we stepped into the smart bar and could see the modern styled dining room to the rear. The place was absolutely heaving when we arrived - always a good sign - with the bar area full of drinkers and me glad we had booked a table as even at 15.00 there were next to no tables left.
We were immediately shown to our table and seated and offered drinks. We started with a bottle of sparkling water, whilst we looked at the menu and wine list. The windows running the length of the restaurant offer views across the Minnis bay so I can imagine it could be very pleasant on a nice day to watch the sunset. We were able to see a number of brave souls windsurfing, the wind may have been right, but I doubt the temperature of the water was!
It was obvious at this point that there was a party, two tables split, one for the kids and one for the adults, I counted no less than 30 in all. Certainly a test for any front of house on a Saturday afternoon. I also noticed an abundance of signed pictures of celebrity chefs which appeared to have private notes to the chef; these included Gordon Ramsay, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Gary Rhodes and Anthony Carluccio.
I must admit to perusing the menu on the website at length beforehand and being immediately impressed. They are big into using local produce (think fish from Chapmans in Sevenoaks and produce from the local Quex Estate), but on top of this admirable quality, they smoke, brine and pickle all their own meat and fish. Wonderful!
With this in mind, I ordered the Minnis Cured Scottish Smoked Salmon and Home Smoked King Prawns, whilst my partner ordered the Pan Fried Scottish Scallops. There were at least 4 other dishes just on the starter menu that we would have chosen, though when our choices arrived we were certainly not disappointed.
The presentation of both dishes was excellent, it was obvious immediately that someone in the kitchen certainly knew what they were doing and having done some research, I have found that the Executive chef, Jason Freedman was mentored by the likes of Anton Mossimann of the Dorchester and Stephen Harris of the excellent Sportsman in nearby Seasalter, so he certainly comes from good stock.
Both dishes worked incredibly well and had excellent presentation. H's scallops were cooked to absolute perfection, with the home smoked pancetta complimenting them perfectly and a lovely aftertaste brought through from the tomato, basil and lemon oil in the dish. I was extremely impressed with my dish, the smoked salmon was possibly the best I have ever had, this along with the juicy prawns, all perfectly smoked went wonderfully with the lemon and horseradish aioli.
The only downside to an otherwise faultless meal was the wait between our starter and main which was around 40 minutes. I understand that they had a large table in, but it would have been nice to have been informed of the delay. That said, what did arrive after the long wait was extremely good.
Again, both dishes were presented very well. H's Pan Fried Fillet of Sea Bream was skilfully cooked and everything on the plate married extremely well. H had in fact not tried Sea Bream before and exclaimed that this was the best fish course she had ever eaten, the fish was served with puy lentils, some seasonal veg but the real winner was the shellfish infused cream. There was not a morsel left on the plate.
I had opted for the Roasted Monkshill Farm Salt Marsh Lamb, which I had asked to be cooked medium rare and indeed it was. This came with a delicious pistachio crust and what I can only describe as an addictive basil & mint gremolata with red wine pan juices. It really was superb, I can almost still taste it whilst writing this review. We ordered sauteed potatoes, which I would recommend as only one potato was served with each main, though these arrived quickly and were also top quality.
This was all washed down with a bottle of 2010 Guy Saget Sancerre from the Loire Valley. I was incredibly impressed with the wine list which included a good selection and was well priced. Our Sancerre came in at £24.95 and was crisp and very drinkable, above all it went very well with the fish dishes. I probably would have opted for a red wine to go with my lamb but was unfortunately designated driver!
To finish the meal, H ordered the Minnis platter - a selection of their desserts. This was delivered as 5 small seperate desserts a flurry of colours comprised of Jasons 7 sins of chocolate, salted white chocolate and ginger cheesecake, very berry brownie and some sorbet and ice cream. H said that the sorbet and ice cream were disappointing, but the 7 sins of chocolate was nothing short of heavenly.
Yours truly went for the cheese, which was all locally sourced, presented very well with the accompaniment of plenty of biscuits and grapes and there own home made chutney. My only disappointment was that I couldn't finish it. We finished off with some coffees and asked for the bill, which was delivered quickly. I found the total of £100.50 (without service) to be very reasonable for the quality of food on show.
I would certainly recommend the Minnis and will return again when I am next in the area. A big thumbs up. TheLa