Bigger is not always better – an adage that turns out to be particularly true when it comes to the world of food. Smaller vegetables can often be more tender; shorter menus suggest freshly prepared dishes.
And so it proves with the little but lovely Whitstable, on the Kent coast. Long regarded for its oysters and seafood, the town has also benefited from a thriving restaurant scene in recent years, and on Saturday October 15 welcomes a slew of the UK’s most respected chefs for talks, book signings and tastings at the inaugural Whitstable Food Festival (tickets for individual events from £8.50).
Food writer Drew Smith will give a gastronomic history of that foodstuff inextricably linked with the town, oysters; Dan Doherty and Angela Hartnett (pictured) will be holding talks and book signings; and critically acclaimed Spanish chef José Pizarro will take over Samphire restaurant for a five-plate tapas and cava tasting menu (£40 per person).
Seasonality and provenance are the buzzwords in food right now, and chef Skye Gyngell, who walks the talk at her Somerset House restaurant Spring, will host a conversation on the topic with local boy – and much heralded chef – Stephen Harris.
Harris grew up in Whitstable and in a double whammy was recently pronounced best cookery writer by the Guild of Food Writers and awarded National Restaurant of the Year for The Sportsman in nearby Seasalter. He’s a Whitstable expert: “Wheelers restaurant has been in the town for 160 years and serves wonderfully fresh local seafood, but the Whitstable revival began in the 1980s with the Whitstable Oyster Company restaurant, which really put the town on the map in terms of food,” he says. “I worked there myself and learnt so much about seafood.”
In keeping with the local, small-is-beautiful theme, events will be held in intimate venues across the town, from Pearson’s Arms to Copperfields, last year voted Best Cookshop in the UK.