A mini food lovin’ road trip to Faversham & Canterbury…

Whitstable, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

The bar was just around the corner, not out to sea!

After last month’s successful and relatively inexpensive trip to the pretty Kentish town of Sevenoaks we decided to jump in the car and go on another adventure. This time with the kids in tow!

For this road trip we opted for the Canterbury Triangle. No, not a dodgy remake of an even dodgier Barry Mannilow song, but a trio of food lover’s destinations all within fifteen minutes drive of each other.
Macknade Fine Foods, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

A box of mixed goodies from Macknade…

Macknade Fine Foods, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

… and a shelf full of sauce, who knew there was one especially for pie & chips?

First stop was Faversham and the incredible Macknade Fine Food Hall on Selling Road, there’s a smaller site in Faversham Village but that is shut on Sundays. Macknade has every consumable you could ever need. Artisan bread, a fully stocked deli counter, some amazing cheeses, fancy teas, the list goes on and on and on…

They have pasta in every colour, shape and size and tinned goods from all over the world. There’s a selection of beers, ales and ciders to keep even the most hardcore craft beer enthusiast happy. It fact we’re going to invite Keith, our good friend and real ale drinker, along next time we visit so we can play pick and mix with the bottles.
Macknade Fine Foods, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

Just one aisle of amazing fruit and veg, so many more not pictured

Macknade Fine Foods, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

I love shallots (and onions too)

What deserves a special mention is Macknade‘s unbelievable fruit and veg section. I told my daughter to run around and bring back a few items that she didn’t recognise… She returned with a bag of kumquats, Cassava, Salsify, an ugly fruit and some tiny, marble sized, salad potatoes (because they were ‘cute’).

Macknade Fine Foods, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

Salt beef and puy lentil salad

We decided to take advantage of their Coffee shop & café. It was just past 1pm and already a couple of the specials and the obviously popular scotch eggs had sold out. My son and I went for a Gammon, cheddar and pickle in granary sourdough bread. My daughter went for a plain Cheddar toastie, while Saff bucked the trend and ordered a Salt beef and puy lentil salad. Saff wasn’t over keen on her dish, but only due to the beef tasting ‘buttery’. But our sandwiches (£3.50 ish) were huge and even the dressed garnish salad was a decent sized portion.

That’s not all! On its grounds Macknade has a few standalone shops. The Hercules Wine Warehouse represents the very best of what the independent trade has to offer with a fantastic selection of wines, over 300 on the last count!
Macknade Fine Foods, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

The only ‘plaice’ to buy your fish

Herman’s Plaice Fishmonger, situated in a little hut near the main car park, sources directly from Billingsgate fish market. Herman’s has a superb range of fresh and frozen fish, ‘they still have eyes and everything’, another classic quote from my daughter. (Tel: 01795 591075)

For the non-foodie there’s Tasteful Plants, a boutique nursery run by husband & wife team Will & Bridget. Plus there’s the Macknade Collectors Village, a magical mish-mash of collectables and antiques. We could have spent hours sifting through this treasure trove of goodies, so many cool items from the 60s and 70s.

We eventually dragged ourselves away from the collectors village, jumped back in the car and made the short journey to Canterbury. To be honest the weather was too cold and the kids too restless for us to enjoy this historic city. The actual town centre/shopping area was dominated by chain restaurants and pubs and a high percentage of coffee shops and cheap cafes aimed at the huge student population (there are three major universities in Canterbury). You must pop your head in Nason’s, a department store that time forgot…

Parts of the city have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site (like Alberobello in our beloved Puglia). Many historical structures remain, including a city wall founded in Roman times and rebuilt in the 14th century, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and a Norman castle, and perhaps the oldest school in England. Plus ‘The Westgate’ is the largest surviving city gate in England. It even survived a demolition attempt for a road-widening scheme in Victorian times.

The Goods Shed, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

A quieter corner of The Goods Shed

Well that’s enough of the history lesson and back to the edibles. We’d heard some excellent things about The Goods Shed, a daily farmers market, food hall and restaurant. It’s situated right next to Canterbury West railway station and has become a bit of a food lover’s mecca… But to be honest we found it a little of a disappointment. Maybe because Macknade‘s is so good or maybe because it was all so cramped.

The actual ‘shed’ is big enough and the high ceiling gives an impression of space but you are forever being bumped and bashed as you try to take a look at the produce on sale. It might just be that they have become a victim of their own success, too many people are visiting. The biggest disappoint was the restaurant, last orders are at 3pm on a Sunday and we were hoping to have dinner there after reading such a glowing review from Marina O’Loughlin.

The Goods Shed, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

One of Jonny’s amazing sandwiches

There’s nowt wrong with the stalls that are there. The Jonny Sandwich stall made some incredible looking sarnies, the pork belly was superb. Murray’s General Store has a few quirky items for sale and Cheesemakers of Canterbury had a fab selection of over thirty artisanal and unpasteurised British cheeses. And the best of the bunch, The Canterbury Butcher sold us five beef short ribs for just over a fiver, bargain… The butcher and I chatted about the horse meat scandal and about how it’s been an absolute blessing for local independent butchers who pride themselves on knowing exactly where their free range meat is from.

Whitstable, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

Wee Willie Winkle’s of Whitstable – try saying that with a speech impediment!

We left Canterbury for our last port of call, the little sea-side town of Whitstable. We only had an hour here so we were determined to make the most of it. We parked at the harbour and rushed down, past some pretty beach huts, to the pebbled seafront. If we thought Canterbury was cold, Whitstable took it to another level. The icy wind howling in from the Thames estuary was wicked, I actually could feel my head freezing over!

Visible off the coast of Whitstable is a massive wind farm and the now-redundant offshore World War II Maunsell sea-fort. Sailing trips are available from the harbour to this wind farm, sea fort and a seal watching spot but I strongly recommend that you do these in warmer weather.

After my son threw the obligatory stone into the sea (it’s the Brown family law) and my daughter collected a few discarded oyster shells, we made our way back through the harbour to try to find a hot drink. If you wondered why these oyster shells were scattered near the beach, Whitstable is famous for its oysters. They’ve been collected in the area since at least Roman times, Whitstable even holds an annual oyster festival for 9 days every July.

On our way into town we passed a little fish market, a couple of seafood restaurants that sold freshly caught shellfish and a ‘village’ of craft huts that were shut for the winter – and who’d blame them? I must apologise for not remembering or writing down any their names, my brain was still thawing and there was no way my hands were leaving the relative warmth of my pocket…

Tea & Times, We Love Food, It's All We Eat

‘I believe in miracles, where you from, you sexy thing’ – Hot Chocolate couldn’t help himself.

With only twenty minutes left on the parking ticket, we made our way to Harbour Street. Most of the shops had closed for the day but luckily Tea and Times, a café AND newsagent, was open. We darted into the warmth and ordered some very indulgent hot chocolates, £2.70. They also serve some fab looking homemade cakes, sandwiches and a few cooked items. Be warned though, they don’t take cards. Luckily there’s a cash machine a few doors down the road.

As charming as Whitstable is, it’s definitely a fair-weather town and as Arnie once said ‘I’ll be back’. It looks as if the town really comes into its own during the summer months and I know that I want to be there to witness it. But for now it’s a drive home to rustle up something with those beef short ribs…