I recently read that the period between Christmas and the new year can be described as “Twixmas” – it’s kind of no-man’s land period of time where days blur into one and you are in a haze of drink and food and having to squeeze in seeing absolutely everyone. It’s not my favourite time of year. I’m an introvert through and through and having to see so many people in so many scenarios just makes me anxious and fed up. Just call me the Grinch.
In a bid to get a bit of a reprieve from these feelings we booked a night at Whitstable. I’m not sure it was our best idea; it was very busy, there were lots of people about and it felt quite manic and boozy. Not the relaxing break we were looking for. I much preferred our midweek break in October – go then – it’s much nicer…
For this visit we decided to give Birdies a try. I had been before, many lifetimes ago but Mr A had yet to have the pleasure. It was pretty difficult to get a table which led us to having to book a table at 6.30pm – the worst time to have a booking for. Even the nicest restaurant in the world can struggle to have any kind of atmosphere when you are the first table to be seated!
And very nice Birdies is too. Slightly French in its style, it’s very twee and I like that their menu is just on the chalkboard and therefore is nice and seasonal. The tables are set up in a pretty traditional way but with horrendous paper tablecloths. When you eat as messily as me you cringe at the sight of them. Practical they may be but they look awful the minute they get splashes on them and also they just bring the tone down a bit (if tablecloths can really do that?!)
We started with oysters because when in Whitstable you have to say yes to as many oysters as you can, they are the best in the world. My photography is not. But this was by far the highlight of the meal for me. Great vinaigrette and perfect, fresh, lovely oysters – oh how I could eat another platter of them right now!
Following this I went for the prawns. Ah, the prawns. They were very large, juicy prawns but they were just very bland. They were supposed to have lots garlic, you can see lots of garlic in the picture, but you couldn’t really taste any. I wish I had ordered more oysters instead.
Mr A had the mussels which was by far the better choice. A traditional Moules Mariniere. You could actually taste the garlic and the shallots in this dish, which given my prawns was a bonus!
Mains fared much better. I choose the Bouillabaisse, something that I have always wanted to try but that I have never seemed to get round too! This Bouillabaisse was packed full of mussels, prawns, fish, potatoes etc. Far too many potatoes in it but it tasted great. Special mention to the rouille which was spicy and garlicky and I could have swum in it – the other highlight of the meal.
Mr A chose the crispy skin seabass, the skin wasn’t crispy but aside from that the sauce was amazing and the fish was very well cooked, or should that be cooked very well – overcooked fish is never a good thing.
The vegetables that came within the dish were, well, pretty uninspiring. I also don’t know why you would cut carrots into straws like this and boil them. They look pretty sad don’t they?!
Can you see my point about the tablecloth in these (really bad) pictures – it’s so frustrating and irritated me throughout the meal.
In conclusion, nice is how I would describe Birdies; nice and traditional. It’s a perfectly nice place to eat in Whitstable, the trouble is that there are some great places to eat in Whitstable, and places that have a bit more atmosphere and don’t have paper tablecloths. So whilst nice is good and has its time and place it’s never going to be my first choice in this beautiful Kentish seaside town! However, it is beloved by many and well worth a visit. Perhaps if we had a better seating time that wasn’t in Twixmas I would have enjoyed it more… who knows? I just think it’s probably a little twee for me and the food is a little too 80’s for my liking.
Dinner for two of us, two courses, plus oysters and a bottle of wine came too just over £90 so it’s not the cheapest but pretty in line with what you will pay in Whitstable.
Birdies, 41 Harbour Street, Whitstable
P.S I promise not to go on about tablecloths so much in my other blog posts