81 Beach Street, as the name suggests, is set right on Deal’s sea front, allowing you to have a stroll on the pier and a punt on the amusements before or after your meal, and to enjoy a view of the sea during it should you get bored with the contemporary art splodging the walls. There were hints of a seafaring theme, but they hadn’t taken it too far, contrasting it with a colourful and playful sense of elegance in a way that shouldn’t intrude on anyone’s sensibilities.
The setting inside is casual, and you are greeted as old friends by the owner and staff. A convivial atmosphere is therefore encouraged – as was perhaps indicated by the closeness of the tables to each other – and it soon became clear that the restaurant was popular for couples and large groups alike. We were there on a Wednesday night in the summer holidays and the place was FULL. People were repeatedly walking through the door without reservations and being turned away.
And if the reason for that is not the decor, location or ambience then it is almost certain that it is for the food. We skipped starters and went straight to mains, enjoying a slow-cooked lamb shank with tomato gravy and pesto mash, and pork belly with celeriac and mustard cream. These classic-with-a-twist dishes looked great on the plate, and smelled and tasted divine, thanks to the perfect harmony of textures, colours and tastes. The portion sizes were good too: even though side dishes were on offer (even if in albeit limited range: a choice of two salads, new potatoes, or chips) at an extra cost of £2.80 each, we did not feel we required them and ultimately went away satisfied.
We were also glad to have skipped side dishes and starters in order to make room for the innovative desserts: mine a sublime confection involving lavender ice cream (a taste still lingering on my tongue two weeks later), and his a praline crème brulée. Just taking established British ideas and throwing your own spin on them can really go a long way.
The only weakness was arguably the wine: not so much the list (although it wasn’t really original), but more in that the waiting staff need a little more instruction in how to serve it (red wine was served too warm) – so even if you do go for a more expensive wine, it may actually be ruined by how it is served.
In the end, too, we had a more than satisfying meal by the sea for our first evening of our roadtrip through the UK, and it did a great deal to counteract the blustery feeling of our pre-dinner walk along the pier. Would undoubtedly return.
Phone: 01304 368136
81 Beach Street, Deal, Kent CT14 6JB