We review Beach Buoys on Marine Drive, Margate
Do you remember when you place an order for your fish and chips, you talk to a member of staff and then wait a few minutes staring at a soft sausage under the griddle?
Well, we’re in the 21st century, and apparently it’s pretty old fashioned.
At a popular outlet overlooking the main golden sands of Margate, there are now only touch screens and text messages. For those of us of a certain vintage, we cling to progress — and our hopes for a decent seaside diet — by our fingernails.
But Beach Buoys (see what they did there?) turns out to be a hit.
Run by the people behind the city’s famous seafood restaurant, Buoy and Oyster, its fast food offering joins a growing trend of savoring Britain’s iconic fish and chips (see our previous jaunt to Flotsam & Jetsam in nearby Broadstairs as another good example).
Opened last year, it’s part of the revived chain of food and drink outlets that line bustling Marine Drive.
Before Margate’s revival in recent years this stretch was a rather dark place – offering a bizarre mix of Primark and a sex shop (not, it must be said, operating from the same premises – but it would have been something, right?).
On a hot weekend the place is bustling with life – day trippers and locals alike are now spoiled for choice for a decent bite to eat.
Beach Buoys, with its bright pink facade, is no different. People sit at the tables outside, either eating their food or waiting for it to be served.
Because to order here, you enter the small atrium where there are three touchscreen machines (or, to be more precise, two during our visit because one was broken).
Everything is quite easy to navigate and the range of options is vast.
From your classic cod and chips (yours for £10.50) to locally loaded crab and chips (£12) and a gloriously comprehensive vegan menu, you’ll be hard pressed not to find something to tickle your fancy here. There’s even a big sausage that, perhaps, is a throwback to one of the old street shops. But probably not. Let’s move on…
So we go vegan and plump for fritto misto – fried vegetables and tofu in batter – for £5.50 plus a portion of ‘proper’ fries – their words, not mine – for £3 sweet potato fries (£3), and a portion of beer battered pickles, as they looked intriguing and were only £2.
Everything will be washed down with a can of lemonade (£2). Oh, and a jar of ‘seaweed mayo’ (yes, you heard) for £1.
Once you have completed your touchscreen, you are prompted to pay and then add your name and mobile number. Do not forget this bit in any way – or do not get the number wrong. Because you are then directed out of the store by the signs – you can only go to the service area when your order is ready – and you are told not to come back until you get a text.
So we disappear outside… there are no free places. Yes, we could have crossed the road and built a sandcastle, instead we do what everyone else does…and just hide outside the store and wait.
Ten minutes pass and I’m starting to get a little nervous. Did the order reach them? Did the message get lost? I know I should have more faith in modern technology (and, let’s face it, a text message isn’t exactly cutting edge), but, well, you know what it’s like for us old people. . We worry.
I do not need.
Four minutes later, a text message arrives and we wander into the sacred service area where a young boy passes us over a nicely designed paper bag filled with nicely designed boxes. You cannot chat with the presentation.
Where to eat?
Well, cross the road and there is the beach or the steps that lead to the rising tide. Very scenic. We choose to avoid having sand in our battered pickles and sit and drink around and, of course, comment on how everywhere you go these days the hint of smoked cannabis now seems ubiquitous. Probably still my age.
Anyway, let’s get to the food. And if the first bite is with the eyes, it all looks like freshly cooked quality. First of all, “proper chips” are just that. There’s none of your artsy-fartsy pretensions here – they’re good old fashioned chip shop chips and they’re very nice too.
The sweet potato fries, on the other hand, are the pretentious alternative and they taste great. But sometimes you want a good chip, don’t you, and today is one of those days. I’m not going to try to be lyrical about “crispy exterior and choppy interiors” – we all know well-done fries are very important. Personally, I prefer to dip them in salt and vinegar to give them that kick. But it’s only at this point that I realize that when I put them all back in a bag, they hadn’t received any doses of either…and we forgot to put them all back in a bag. to add.
My fault. School stuff.
So let’s move on to the main meal. The fritto misto is really a game of two halves. I think the kale was in the middle of the main piece – and it was beautifully done. A nice crispy, crunchy and flavorful pastry giving way to the veggies you kids are in, this meal might be better for you than a piece of meat.
However, one of the other fried pieces is tofu. I really, really want to like tofu, but unless it’s really well done (which normally involves being drenched in enough flavor to disguise it), I find it hard to really enjoy it. The batter is a little heavy too… I probably would have given it another 20 seconds in the fryer.
But forget all that, because alongside it all lies the true star of the show and how easy it would be to overlook them.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to be the one to introduce you to the sheer culinary glory of beer pickles. And by pickles, we mean pickles. They are delicious. Light and crispy batter giving way to the kick of the moist pickle inside. They were absolutely sensational.
Future visits will see me ordering about three boxes of these instead of anything else. Of course, if you’re the type of person who peels a pickle from your Big Mac, then probably miss it, but for everyone else, they’re gloriously £2-a-box richer.
Beach Buoys are deservedly busy. If you steer clear of modern technology and don’t have a cell phone I suspect this won’t be for you considering the ordering process (actually I don’t see how you could order without) but for everything the world if not, its vast array of options makes it an almost unmissable visit.
Not everything was top notch – and with fish and chips you carry heavy expectations on your shoulders, we do, after all, love the classic dish in a way – but overall it was clearly to high quality, freshly cooked, food at a price point which these days represented good value.
I always thought trying to be smart with fish and chips was a risky business – but I’d be surprised if you came back disappointed.
BEACH BUOYS, MARINE DRIVE, MARGATE CT9 1DH
Food: Battered pickles to die for. ****
To drink: £2 for a can of lemonade is, let’s not beat around the bush, a little steep. But it was the fancy “green lemonade” so you’re only adding three calories to heaven, I don’t know how many you’re consuming with all those fries and battered morsels. It was very nice anyway and in terms of choice you could have local beers, cocktails or even a vegan iced coffee ***
Decor: Nice exterior, a little scruffy around the touch screens but the service area looked spotlessly clean and well lit. ***
Personal: Well, given that your only interaction is to say your name when your order is called – and let’s be honest, “Chris” isn’t very confusing, the young boy who couldn’t understand him when I showed up at the counter , made picking up the food slightly more irritating than it should have been. ***
Price: For 16.50 two of us shared a range of freshly cooked fried vegetables and two portions of fries, plus a dip and drink. Good value for money ****
Scores out of five