Located on the Harbour Arm that juts out into the sea off the coast of Margate, Cheesy Tiger sums up why London’s creative classes are moving to this Kent seaside town in droves: it’s a brilliant place with a bohemian vibe and bags of atmosphere. Just a stone’s throw from the impressive Turner Contemporary gallery – which opened in April 2011 following a £17.5m development – it’s one of the most enjoyable restaurants I’ve been to in years, serving up comfort food in the most comforting of ramshackle environments. And unsurprisingly, given its name, it’s all about cheese.
Although I have several friends who’ve made the London-to-Margate move, I’ve never been quite convinced by Margate’s gentrification. I love the nostalgia of revitalised amusement park Dreamland, the weirdness of the subterranean Shell Grotto and the mix of art deco and brutalist architecture, but despite all the talk of hipsters taking the town over, there’s still a lack of good restaurants. Cheesy Tiger stands out though – it isn’t just good, it’s great. It’s tiny (with a group of seven or eight friends, we effectively took over a third of the restaurant) and it’s becoming increasingly hard to get a table.
The chefs work their magic at a frantic pace in full view, in the smallest kitchen I’ve ever seen – wielding blow torches over the best mac ’n’ cheese (£5) I’ve eaten, giving it that perfect crunch. There’s raclette (£6) with pan-roasted potatoes, bacon and pickled radish, burrata (£6) with heirloom tomatoes, broad beans and pickled radish, ever-changing seasonal specials – and always a grilled cheese sandwich (£8). The wine list is keenly priced, starting at £18 for a rioja through to the delicious chilled Davenport Diamond Fields Pinot Noir (£35), from a vineyard in nearby Sussex. Everything about Cheesy Tiger feels local and a labour of love. I can’t help but linger on each and every visit, for just one more glass of wine. I’d love it if they did cheesecake to round off the evening, but as one of the chefs said when I suggested it: “Look at the kitchen – there just isn’t an inch more fridge space!”