“I could have stayed at this chic Charleston café all day” 

A laidback dining spot from an Englishman in South Carolina

Basic Kitchen is set in a beautiful historic Charleston building
Basic Kitchen is set in a beautiful historic Charleston building

It’s easy to see why British Airways is adding a direct flight from London to Charleston, South Carolina. I love this charming little city by the water, with its rich history, diverse architecture, friendly vibe and tasty Lowcountry cuisine. Nowhere is the latter more evident than at Basic Kitchen, a downtown restaurant I discovered on a recent visit, which specialises in seasonal food that is nourishing, healthy and delicious. Now while I like shrimp and grits as much as the next person, I was craving lunch on the lighter side of things, which I would find, said the concierge at the hip Dewberry hotel, at Basic Kitchen.

Main courses range from healthy to hearty
Main courses range from healthy to hearty
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I could have stayed all day at this chic café set in a beautiful historic building – a high-ceilinged, whitewashed space with enormous wicker lamps, vintage furniture and a slight surfer vibe – which was opened in 2017 by English entrepreneur Ben Towill, an erstwhile partner in cult-ish New York restaurant Fat Radish, and his interior designer wife Kate. Their local, by way of Britain and Brooklyn, menu is as laidback as the crowd. My picky teenagers may have initially wrinkled their noses at the absence of the word “battered”, but they were quickly won over by the signature appetiser of lightly tempura-fried Cauliflower Wings ($9) with an elevated take on buffalo sauce. The dishes aren’t huge, so we sampled several of the other starters as well: local beets ($12) with feta, arugula and pumpkin seeds and a citrusy shrimp ceviche ($10) were both winners.

The downtown restaurant was opened in 2017 by English entrepreneur Ben Towill
The downtown restaurant was opened in 2017 by English entrepreneur Ben Towill
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The mains ranged from healthy to hearty: for me, a Basic Bowl ($15) of brown rice, sesame kale, grilled broccoli and sweet potato was the vegetable hit I desired, while my husband opted for the Power Bowl ($17), garnished with chimichurri steak strips, quinoa and two eggs, sunny-side up. Both delicious. I’d like to return in spring, when those BA flights kick in, to take in the cheerful back garden and sample the fresh and inventive cocktails, such as Stalk or Heart ($11) – a savoury combination of vodka, St-Germain, celery and lime that sounds right up my alley. 

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