The Little Ships Restaurant & Cafe, Ramsgate

The Little Ships opened its doors earlier this summer, and is already a popular addition to Ramsgate’s restaurant arena. It’s owned and run by the Royal Harbour Hotel, where we stayed during our visit and is their second restaurant after The Empire Room.

Offering all day dining, customers can order from a dedicated brunch menu until noon, and then the main menu for lunch and dinner. Its enviable position looking out over the marina of Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour is a handy location for locals and visitors alike.

We like the interior – casual, attractive and comfortable. Wooden tables echo the wooden flooring, and the walls are clad in reclaimed planks, giving an understated nautical feel.

In a frame on the wall hangs owner James’ grandfather’s military uniform, complete with the medals James discovered in a pocket when getting the jacket dry-cleaned to put on display. While Little Ships isn’t as history-themed as The Empire Room, there are some small historical elements including an informative panel on the back of the menu detailing the region’s role in the Dunkirk evacuation.

At the helm of Little Ships is Chef Craig Mather – we had the opportunity to chat to Craig about the menu and more during our visit...{click to read more}

He told us how he was approached almost three years ago by James Thomas, who owns the Royal Harbour Hotel, its onsite restaurant The Empire Room, and now Little Ships, with an invitation to take the position of head chef at The Empire Room.

With Craig’s background as an experienced Michelin level chef, not to mention as the chef behind successful Ramsgate fish restaurant Eddie Gilbert’s (now closed), he was a great choice to elevate The Empire Room’s cooking to a higher level, and the offer tempted him away from the position of lecturer at the local college, where he’d been teaching the next generation of chefs for the last five years.

Recounting the timeline for this year’s launch of The Little Ships, Craig told us how James purchased the property at the end of the June and opened in early July, giving them scant time to refurbish the whole space. A lot of Craig’s time was spent on sorting out the kitchen; indeed even on their opening day, new gas pipes were still being fitted! Given the scorcher of a summer we’ve had, they were packed from the day they opened, and Craig was cooking for 1000 covers a week all on his own, 7 days a week for the first few weeks until they were able to get a kitchen team established.

In terms of the menu, James wanted the Little Ships to be an all-day restaurant, with a casual and familiar menu that would appeal to both day time and evening diners. The brunch menu covers the morning through to noon, and then there’s one main menu through lunch and dinner. Fresh fish was an essential, given the harbour location and excellent quality fish available in the area. Indeed, it’s pride in their local ingredients (bread, fish, meat from local butchers, vegetables from a local vegetable seller and local allotments, eggs from a local farm and so on) that is the reasoning behind the open pantry display just in front of the kitchen, showcasing their produce to customers. But Craig also wanted to offer familiar classics to those who may not want fish, hence the inclusion of dishes like chicken Kiev, pork chop and a burger on the menu.

Particularly popular are the flatbread kebabs, with chicken, steak, merguez sausage and mackerel to choose from served with a salad and flat bread, customers can either roll them up and eat with their hands, or use their cutlery if they prefer to be a little more formal.

Another key detail is the use of a Harrison charcoal oven, used for 80-90% of the cooking, and installed during the kitchen refit. It’s made in Ramsgate by a husband and wife team who moved to the area from London a few years ago and started the business from scratch. Given the popularity of Josper Grills and Big Green Eggs in professional kitchens, the use of a charcoal oven is definitely on trend!

From the daily specials menu, Pete started with the Homemade Scotch egg with bacon jam (£5.50) and it was exactly what you want from a scotch egg. Juicy, well-flavoured sausage meat around a perfectly cooked egg, a lovely crisp crumb and the most fabulous bacon jam, deeply savoury with a lovely sweetness too.

I went for 6 Rock oysters (£10), three with shallot vinegar and three with pickled ginger, wasabi and lime – you can have all six the same way if you prefer. The oysters were beautifully fresh, and I loved them both ways, though the wasabi was super strong and made my eyes water a little, neither it nor the ginger overrode the fresh flavour of the oysters.


Most main courses on the menu come are priced from £11 for roasted vegetable and halloumi flatbread kebabs, to £17.50 for a whole roasted sea bream with salsa verde, potatoes and salad.

But if you want to push the boat out, order the Charcoal roasted aged rib of beef cooked on the bone for 2 people (£55) listed under the Little Ships Specials section of the menu. Served with Café de Paris butter, chunky chips, roasted garlic and side salad, the beef is cooked in the restaurant’s locally commissioned Harrison charcoal-fired oven, with a menu note advising a 45 minute cooking time.

The beef was so perfectly cooked, beautifully juicy and tender without being pappy, and with such great flavour. The taste was boosted further by the delicious Café de Paris butter and the sweet, sticky roasted garlic. It was a generous serving too – we could easily have shared it between three, rather than two.

The chunky fries were good ones, large, crisp and fluffy, though a thumbs down for the clichéd faux-fryer-basket they were served in. The salad, I think, must be the same as comes with the flatbread kebab dishes – I’m not sure the pickled cabbage worked with the beef, but everything was super fresh and crisp, with a refreshingly light touch dressing.

I also ordered a side of Buttered green means and smoked almonds (£4) which were delicious, but over-cooked for my preferences, I like hint of firmness left in them.

 

Yes, you’re right that we really, really didn’t need dessert after the immense rib of beef but we soldiered on regardless.

The Rich Belgian chocolate pot with creme fraiche and chocolate cookie (£5) was excellent, with a smooth, thick texture and great chocolate flavour. The crumbles of cookie were a nice garnish.

Creamy lemon posset with rosemary shortbread (£5) was also good – lemon posset is one of the easiest dessert recipes I make but I still love to order it when eating out. We liked the flavour of the rosemary shortbread against the lemon posset very much, if only it weren’t the size of a door-stopper – small, thin biscuits would balance far better.

Because of our extravagant choice of mains, our bill came to £97, plus service. We felt that was reasonable, especially given that we’ve recently paid not far off that for some distinctly average meals in London lately. That said, you could easily enjoy three courses and a glass of wine for £30-35 per person, if you don’t choose the rib of beef!

Kavey Eats reviewed Little Ships as a guest of the Royal Harbour Hotel.

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
24 Comments to "The Little Ships Restaurant & Cafe, Ramsgate"

  1. Emily

    Looks a fab place. Food sounds amazing. I’m in the area in the New Year and will be sure to call.

    Reply
  2. amanda

    I am totally drooling right now. That Scotch egg looks like the perfect start of brunch with the bacon jam, YUM! I appreciate the fact that they have reasonable prices as well as more “up-scale” options. Also, that lemon posset looks totally scrumptious, so I hope to be able to try it some day!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, I think the pricing was very reasonable, easy to eat a good meal for less, or splash out on the rib of beef if you fancy!

    Reply
  3. Soraya

    Wow I am totally left hungry looking at this post! The homemade Scotch egg with bacon jam sounds delicious and the egg is perfectly cooked. But you totally had me Charcoal roasted aged rib of beef cooked on the bone – not sure if I would share it between two people…it’s looks so delicious I’d want it all to myself. It does sound pricey, but from what you have shared it looks worth the price tag.

    Reply
  4. Daniel

    Another amazing review of another amazing restaurant! The food looks absolutely amazing, just like in a lot of your previous posts. That Charcoal roasted aged rib of beef cooked on the bone sounds (and looks) dreamy. I have to check out this place someday!

    Reply
  5. Yukti

    You have beautifully described all the dishes and it looks that you had a nice extravagant meal at The Little Ships restaurants. The decor of this place perfectly goes with its name – ship as walls, floors, and tables are wooden and really looks like a wooden ship. I loved your dessert choice as Belgian chocolate is my favorite and there I would surely order it. Thanks for sharing your honest reviews on this.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Thanks, we enjoyed our visit, and the decor was really lovely, themed but only gently so.

    Reply
  6. Annick

    What a great selection of food! I’m so glad you sacrificed yourselves to try the rib of beef so that we would all know it was worth it. I’ve recently become a fan of Scotch eggs but I’ve never seen them with a runny yolk before. And there is ALWAYS room for dessert. The lemon posset must have balanced the rosemary biscuit perfectly. Thank you for sharing this wonderful restaurant.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Here, the scotch eggs that are popular in gastropubs always have a runny yolk, that to me is the advantage of having them hot and fresh from the fryer! I adore them! And yes, I’m with you on dessert, we did manage even though we were so full already!

    Reply
  7. Amar Singh

    Thanks for sharing this place and one I will look to visit in the summer hopefully. The food selection is great and not badly priced fir and average under £15 for mains. Woukd love to see the memorabilia that say a story about this place. I have a sweeet tooth so the desert would be a winner I must say.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, much of the menu is very reasonably priced, and the gently themed interior is really welcoming.

    Reply
  8. Martha

    This looks like the perfect date night spot! I particularly think that the oysters would be the perfect meal. I especially love the desserts that you sampled; they look so drool worthy! I’m definitely hungry now!

    Reply
  9. Priya

    Wow, the restaurant looks incredible! I love the look of the place, so very welcoming!
    Looks like you had a good time with the food too. 🙂

    Reply
  10. Louise

    Everything looks super delicious and I like the decor! I still haven’t had the pleasure of eating a really good Scottish Egg. They always seem so dry to me – so I think, I have been unlucky so for
    Merry Christmas, Kavita 🙂
    Louise X

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    This one was moist, the sausage meat was light and delicious, the egg perfectly cooked! 🙂 Merry Christmas to you too!

    Reply
  11. emman damian

    You should teach me how to take good food photos! I’m enticed to eat vegetables now! Wowwwwww! I woukd really love to try this place soon. Their offerings look so good and yummy! I’m drooling now!

    Reply
  12. Fiona Maclean

    That charcoal roasted aged rib of beef looks amazing. It looks like such an unpretentious place – yet with great food. Perfect for a day out!

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Emily Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *