Victoria station was packed with a vast queue to buy tickets to Brighton, as Londoners took advantage of a rare sunny Saturday. We’re escaping by train too, just for the day but our tickets aren’t for London-on-Sea, but the North Kent coast.
The train rushes non-stop out of the city and in a flash we’re going through green fields. Just under ninety minutes later, we stop at Whitstable. It’s a bit of a walk away from the station to the sea front, but soon enough we spill out into a small harbour complete with working fishing boats, stands selling shellfish and, of course, tonnes of oysters (Native oysters available in September too – what better reason to go?).
The scene is reminiscent of picture-postcards. The wharf filled with people eating, surrounded by mountains of empty oyster shells. The beach, between the harbour and the main town, buzzing with sailors from the local yacht club, white sails flickering in the sun’s sparkles on the sea. Further out – and accessible by boat tour from the harbour – are the Maunsell Army forts, built to protect London and the coast in World War II. On the horizon, they look like a host of small insects skimming the blue sea.
Lunch was in the Dredgerman’s Court cafe, located just upstairs from the Whitstable Oyster Company’s restaurant. Both serve fresh local fish and boast a fine wine list, in a vast room once used as both a lookout post to protect Whitstable’s oyster beds ? it had a sweeping view along the coast and the oyster beds. Crab sandwiches were fresh and delicious, and oysters came by the dozen.
Wandering through the older part of the town, we looked enviously at the newly renovated traditional beachfront fishermen’s huts, perfect holiday homes where people were sitting in the sunshine or artists exhibiting their works right on the beach. Older buildings of the town are set back a little from the tidal defences, and the Favourite, a Whitstable ‘yawl’ or fishing boat has been rescued, hauled up safely where the sea can no longer harm her.
And what else would you do on what was only the second sunny Saturday this summer? Well, the beach was calling, and sheltered from the wind behind a breakwater, the haze of the late afternoon gave the day a real holiday feel. The Whistable Oyster Company also host the Whistable brewery’s fine brews in glasses that can be taken to the beach. So to crown our traditional British seaside experience, we coupled it with British fish & chips – served in paper – a winning combination.
Whistable is a real seaside day out with a difference – take advantage of it before summer’s over and while there’s still a chance of sunshine
Whitstable Oyster Fishery Restaurant and the Dredgerman’s Court cafe – visit www.oysterfishery.co.uk