Monday, 19 September 2011

The Wonders of Wheelers of Whitstable

I love finding places like this.
Of course I wasn’t the one to actually find it. My mate KT took me there this weekend, having discovered it herself as she puts it ‘over a million years ago’. I’ve come to learn that in KT lingo that means about 20 years before.
It is the renowned Wheelers Oyster Bar in the lovely coastal town of Whitstable in Kent. People from all over the area and from other parts of the UK flock to it, hoping to secure themselves a table.
I had never heard of it. I must admit I had never even heard of Whitstable.
This of course puts rather a dent in my usual know-it-all smugness.  But anyway.

I love, nay ADORE this place. Wheelers both appeals to my taste buds and my love of all things quirky. And let me tell you, restaurants don't come much quirkier than this.

The facade is painted in a bright, candy-floss kind of pink. In Holland we would refer to this particular hue as 'Tooth Ache'. No seriously. Inside it is tiny. TINY. The main dining area can only seat about 14 people and a full house means it's SNUG. Then there are a few seats in the front area by the counter. A few stools in front of a shelf, nothing more. That's where we were seated. And we considered ourselves lucky to be able to squeeze in.

Oh and did I already mention that Wheelers doesn't have a drinks license? It's strictly bring-your-own-booze. Not to worry though: there's a handy store just opposite the restaurant. I have to say it feels deliciously bohemian to walk in with your own bottle under your arm! In case you're wondering: a lovely chilled Prosecco. Yum.

The quirkiness doesn't end here. Oh no. Because guests who feel the need for a short stop in the smallest room are also in for a surprise. You can't reach the toilet via the restaurant itself. You have to walk around the block to a dingy little alley way and so approach the restaurant's back plot. A proper outhouse therefore except it does have running water. Phew. I'm very particular about where I go potty.

And then of course there's the menu: nothing more than a few grubby pages with grease stains, stapled together. But on it you find such a fantastic array of dishes!

We had the best squid I ever tasted. And the best crab cakes. The best pan fried John Dory. And the best, juiciest, most succulent and plump mussels. To DIE for. My only regret is we didn't have enough room anymore for the oysters in guinness tempura. The roasted scallops. The hake roasted with parma ham and red pepper and chorizo puree. Sigh. Did I mention they do gorgeous pudding too?

Needless to say Wheelers already won many an award in its 155 years of existence. And it deserves it. Did I manage to get the message across that the food is truly outstanding?

And the atmosphere can't be beaten. We had the best live entertainment sitting at the counter chatting to the lovely staff and to the locals who came in for take-away. We didn't quite know however what to make of the guy who sat down with us munching his way through dish after dish, talking incoherently to no-one in particular and walking out for a few moments after every new order. It wasn't till after he had done that a couple of times that we discovered he went out to 'talk to the wife' who was 'sitting in the truck too shy to come in'. Someone needs to explain the concept of take-away to him. And good husbandly behaviour.  

I guess you can tell I fell of the diet wagon in a SPECTACULAR way this weekend. But I'm sure you'll agree that if you're going to break the rules, you'd best do it right.



  1. It's like I've been there with ya - great traveling like this :) xoxo

  2. I thought you as a staunch vegetarian would find a story on a sea food restaurant pretty nauseating! ;-D ;-D

  3. Enjoying your knack for story telling, not the food :-D xox

  4. Never heard of Whitstable!!! Actually kinda understandable, its one the premier places for seafood in the UK but seeing as though most of the population over here haven't a clue what to do with seafood unless it comes out of a box covered in bright orange breadcrumbs it's hardly surprising. Ok Ok, I'm climbing off me soapbox before I really start sounding off. Now you know about the town, there's the Whitstable Oyster Festival which happens early in the summer every year, well worth a visit.

  5. I told you my smugness took a blow! ;-)

    You would have LOVED this place. Did I mention the mussels were HUGE? And my squid was to die for - they called it 'spicy crusty squid' - oerrrrr....

    But I so want to have a go at the oysters with the guinness batter. And the whole lobster. Or the lobster lasagna.


  6. The menu sounds fab, (sorry fab ;-))Its a gem of a place, I've never been but it's been featured a lot on TV, lots of cooking program's, Rick Stein is a real fan of the place. There's a few jewels like it spotted around the coast, but nowhere near enough to do our sea produce justice, which is why well over 90% of everything caught by UK fishermen ends up in Europe, where they can't get enough of the stuff. Rant over ;-)

  7. TV? Cooking programmes? Rick Stein??

    And here's me thinking I'm letting you all in on this great little secret...

    Oh and yes do stop ranting dear. That's my prerogative I'm afraid. Why did you think I started the blog in the first place??

  8. I want to go here!! I love fish and oysters!!

  9. Fantastic place. Lovely food.

  10. Fantastic place. Lovely food.

    1. Isn't it just??

      I love the place - great food served in a 'no frills' kind of place. You don't pay for a luxury ambiance and mediocre food as in so many restaurants, but for wonderful fresh food cooked to perfection. And the quirkiness is a nice extra touch ;-)


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