Love Letter to Broadstairs
Last week I wrote about the successes that are finally happening in Margate and thought that this week I should give a little of my love to Broadstairs which is now my home town (I grew up in the suburbs of Margate, before moving away to seek my fame and fortune among the bright lights of big cities).
Broadstairs doesn’t really do the gimmicks that Margate does. We don’t have a Turner centre or an old town full of creative types lending it some cool. There’s no Portas grant to invest in tidying up the shabby bits or prime TV airtime to promote the town. The High Street is fast becoming a hair and beauty salon and estate agent ghetto, and the once beautiful jetty is more car park and greasy caff these days.
But Broadstairs has something the other local towns don’t have, and that’s its charm. It has a wonderful horseshoe shaped bay that is perfectly family-friendly and dotted with sailboats. There are quieter bays either side that can be reached by pleasant clifftop or beachside promenade walks. In the winter, high tides fizz against the promenade walls, spraying those fearless enough with salty water. In the summer, a gentle sea breeze makes the walk pleasant rather than sweaty.
Broadstairs has the world-famous Morelli’s ice cream parlour, also to be found in Harrods and worth the visit alone. However, it also boasts some wonderful restaurants and a burgeoning trend of independent alehouses offering a drink that is far-removed from the pub-by-numbers that can be found in chains across the country. The live music scene is year round and really comes into its own during the annual Folk Week festival in August, but newer festivals are also taking advantage of the intimate venues and appreciative crowds to promote local bands and artists.
In celebration of all things foodie and in keeping with the varied restaurant scene there is now a bi-annual food festival bringing together local suppliers and local people (as well as those from further afield) on a clifftop location that is serenaded by live music from the nearby bandstand. In the close by Joss Bay, pro surfers hit the waves all year and the new surf shop offers the chance to own a bit of surfer-chic for those looking for the cool without the wipeouts.
In short, Broadstairs doesn’t have the accessibility of its neighbours Margate and Ramsgate being just under 10 minutes further in from the roads that lead into Thanet or last on the line for trains. It doesn’t have the big year round events or glitzy, chart-topping bands, old and new that Margate can boast, but the select few spread evenly across the diary attract a loyal following and bring renewed viveur to its otherwise sleepy facade.
On a sunny day, summer or winter, there is nowhere better to enjoy a cold pint (or warm coffee) than the clifftop terrace at the Albion Hotel gazing out to sea. Sitting among the shelves groaning under the weight of second-hand books in The Chapel has to be the best place to listen to live music while drinking a rare ale. Watching dusk fall from the portrait windows that overlook Viking Bay while eating locally sourced wild bass in shrimp butter at newly opened Wyatt & Jones restaurant, or sitting in the all weather balcony eating classic Neapolitan cuisine at Osteria Posillipo are just a sample of the gastronomic delights that this little town can boast. And there is no better place to end an evening than in the secret bijou lounge bar that is quite literally a front room, carefully hidden from those that are not in the know by its lack of external promotion.
Things are getting better here. When I was a child, Broadstairs was (affectionately) known as God’s waiting room. Nowadays, the many restaurants and bars that dot the High Street and roads that lead from it have ensured a new wave of resident and visitor. Holiday homes are common as the rental is guaranteed for much of the year. The big attractions may be elsewhere, but there is everything anyone could ask for within easy reach of most Broadstairs streets.
I hope that the successes of its neighbours continue to rub off on this charming seaside town. I hope that those that live here will continue to support the many independent businesses that make this place their home and the varied events that take place across the year. I hope that the local council has the wisdom to put pride before profit and not blight its High Street with any more large chains or increasing parking charges.
And if you’ve not been, do come and see this lovely part of England. It doesn’t have the fame of some of its West-country siblings, but the waters are warmer, the beaches are award-winning and it doesn’t rain anywhere near as much!