Carnaval, Dartford

This blog is but a couple of months old and I have already lamented the lack of decent places to eat in Dartford and in my opinion I am quite justified in doing so. A glimmer of hope comes in the form of the twinkly lights outside of Carnival. Unassumingly situated on Spital Street, opposite the Royal Oak pub (which is now doing a roaring trade on delicious looking Sunday lunches) and next to the bookies it is not really where you would expect to find a Tapas restaurant; especially not one serving food as good as they are here. It is a delight and a welcome addition to the town. I can only hope more will follow!

There were three of us dining on this occasion, celebrating my beloved brother’s birthday and what a feast we had. We dined on a Thursday and didn’t book, when we got there at 7pm there were just a couple of tables occupied but it was a pleasure that as the night went on it really filled up – surely a testament to their growing popularity! As it fills up it does get quite noisy, I find it a bit too much when you go on a weekend as it is just too loud for me alongside music, but on weekdays it’s that bit more chilled. It’s not really their fault just the acoustics of the venue are not great!

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Meluccis, Bexley Village

Ask people where their favourite restaurant in Bexley is and you will quite often get the standard “Oh we love Ferraris” and I should confess that a decade ago I would have been one of those people (you know, style over substance yada yada). Whilst there is nothing wrong with Ferraris, I just don’t know why you would choose to eat Italian food from here when you have close to perfection in the form of Meluccis just down the road.

No it doesn’t have the trendy facade and posh table settings, in fact you sit in amongst the products that it sells throughout the day when it is a thriving deli. It doesn’t have an extensive wine and cocktail list, it doesn’t even have a bar! Yes, Meluccis is a BYOB establishment and I just love them for it! If you do forget there are a number of stores selling wine across the road and soft drinks need to be purchased in-house.

I feel like now is probably the time that I should admit that Meluccis is a firm favourite of mine and that I really debated on whether or not to post about this gem of a place in the heart of Bexley Village – it’s already getting hard enough to get a table there when I call! But I want this website to showcase the best of places to eat in Kent and I take my responsibilities seriously so let me tell you about one of the best Italian restaurant in the county…

From the tiniest of kitchens (and it really is everso tiny) owner Maria creates and serves the most splendid and authentic Italian dishes outside of Italia itself. Her husband is front of house and is fantastic at entertaining his customers. The staff are always friendly and helpful and will look after you well throughout your meal. On this occasion I was eating with my in-laws, Mr A and my step-daughters which means we had a vegan at the table. This is no problem for Maria but I always drop her an email beforehand just to give her some warning and then she gives a selection of dishes on the day to choose from. They always sound really tasty and I know that my step-daughter is grateful for something other than a boring vegetable pasta.

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Radhuny, Dartford

Ah Dartford; town with a population of 97,365, three different railways lines into London, making it a commuter hotspot, some of the best schools in the county and yet a diabolical lack of decent places to eat out! Yes indeed, the birth place of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mackenzie Crook, Pete Tong and… Len Goodman, struggles to provide it inhabitants of even a handful of viable options within the town centre. Carnaval, the recently opened Tapas Bar has been good the couple of times I’ve tried it – very skilled at making a dry martini and their croquettes we as lovely as any I’ve had before. Then there is The Horse and Groom in Wilmington which is always full to bursting, but I would say overpriced and the food is inconsistent. They get away with it due to them having the monopoly on halfway decent restaurants in the area.

The busyness of these establishments strongly suggests that there is a real desire for some great places to eat in the town and I’m hoping that the tide will start to turn. Restaurant owners see the opportunities that exist and that we start to have some more viable options soon. Rant over.

What Dartford does have plenty of is Chinese and Indian restaurant, lots of them, and what you tend to find is they chop and change chefs on a regular basis so one year the best might be one establishment and the following year it’s another. My Dad has always been a fan of the Radhuny and, as it was his choice of venue for the evening, we trotted of there – 6 of us in total, oh yes, the whole family!

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Franks Restaurant & Mussel Bar – West Malling

 

My last rather unfortunate experience of a mussel bar – or an establishment that claims to be one – was Bromley’s branch of Belgo’s. Belgo’s is a rather insipid chain of restaurants which are so far removed from their original venue (Belgo Centraal) in Covent Garden that one can only wonder if your memory of steaming bowls of mussels, mountains of crispy French fries and freshly baked bread is some sort of misplaced mussel nostalgia – surely I didn’t consume that much Belgium beer back in 2010? God it was depressing, an experience not to be repeated.

Step forward West Malling in Kent – probably one of the last places you would think I would find a mussel bar to restore my love of mussel and Belgium beer serving environments. But step up to the plate Franks did and delivered not only some fantastic food but a really rather wonderful dining experience in general. The restaurant does not try to be achingly cool. It is a very kitsch styled, welcoming joint that is serving some of the best mussels I have ever tasted. Unlike the aforementioned they know exactly what they are doing.

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