Joy of joys, Le Petit Poisson has re-opened!
I was starting to worry that it was in danger of death by dustsheet – the building work for the refurb and enlargement had been going on for so-o-o-o long. Le Petit Poisson is in a rather odd building (public loos once upon a time) at the shore end of the Pier, and they’ve been going through the extended trauma of building works for what seems like about a year by now. Must seem like half a lifetime to them.
They’ve managed to roughly double the floor space by knocking through the back wall and opening up another dining area about half a storey down – a kind of inverse mezzanine. A view through to the kitchens, slate and flagstone floors, exposed brickwork, plenty of light – all very much du jour if not de rigeur for current restaurant interior design. But so what? If I wanted to be surrounded by stone with a view of the sky, I could just go and sit in a quarry, or Brett’s Aggregates yard at Whitstable.
Food is the point of restaurants, and these people really do get the point. I’ve had more than my fair share of fine food over the decades, and in my humble-ish opinion Le Petit Poisson is worth every twinkle of a Michelin star. (I thought the same of The Sportsman at Seasalter, and they got theirs!) In the modern age, restaurants are dubbed Eclectic European, Modern British or Pacific Fusion in an attempt to give an enticing twist to the description of what they serve. Le Petit Poisson can be plainly described as “Excellent Fish”.
A limited range of starters and mains (with some long-standing and outstanding favourites) and a couple of daily specials, some classic shellfish dishes, and reliable puds. It’s a simple formula that means effort and attention isn’t dissipated – each dish on the menu is well-judged and accomplished. Every time I go, I’m torn – everything is tempting – and what continues to impress me is the consistent excellence. The baked cod in cep, and the haddock chowder are perennial favourites of mine. I don’t really ‘get’ oysters, but mussels are another matter – a different kettle of shellfish – and here they are superb. A while ago I got chatting to another diner there who said she used to go on regular daytrips to Boulogne, just for the moules. “Used to” – now she goes to Le Petit Poisson.
I’ll double-check the details, but I believe it’s owned and run by a husband and wife team. Husband’s something to do with the fisheries at Whitstable (which explains a lot). Wife’s Belgian and charming and runs the customer-facing end of things, and together with their regular waitress (also delightful) delivers service that manages to be both friendly and professional. I hope they can sustain it with twice the number of tables.
The window tables in the upstairs (i.e. original, ground level) part of the restaurant are great for watching the world go by, and in fine weather they put tables out in the roped-off area outside the front – feels positively European (in a good way!). I think they’re also thinking about making use of the roof, which would be great. I’m surprised there aren’t more fish restaurants along our coast, but I’m delighted that Le Petit Poisson has made its home in Herne Bay. All in all, a gem. Long may it sparkle.
HBM 24th Apr 2010
But don’t just take my word for it – here’s some reviews:
19 Mar 2010: Really nice seafood restaurant, undergoing refurbishment at the moment (March 2010) and has moved over the road. Food is excellent and the service is good. Wines are good and it is right on the seafront.
8 Dec 2009: An overcast December day on Herne Bay’s sea front, and an unlikely looking building next to the pier, but friends had recommended Le Petit Poisson to us so here we were for lunch. Lunch was superb. Started with the best bread I have had for a long time ( made daily on the premises we were told) with lovely fresh olives. I had a rich, spicy fish soup to start; my husband had 4 different oysters, so perfect that he had to order some more before moving on to the main course. My main of poached smoked haddock with mustard sauce and pureed mushroom was outstanding; his moules marinieres could not have been better. Food, and not decor has clearly been the priority in this tiny and weathered restaurant; I hope that this is still the case after the current extension and redecoration – its lack of style is part of its charm. Only wish we lived closer.
Absolutely perfect food. Charming service. Even the other customers were great and were enthusiastically recommending whatever they’d just eaten. I’ve been raving about this place ever since and would recommend it to anyone. Unless you’re concerned about plush decor or starchy tablecloths and napkins.
3 Aug 2009: Great restaurant for a romantic lunch or dinner. You definitely need to book if you don’t want to chance it. Great menu and friendly staff.
11 Jun 2008: Excellent service and great food. Small restaurant, need to book.
Le Petit Poisson is situated almost right on the beach – when the weather is fine you can sit outside looking at the boats come in and out of the little harbour, watch your children playing on the beach, while eating your meal. Inside is cosy, only twenty two covers, the menu is on a blackboard and is a mixture of local and other fish offering an average of eight starters ranging from £4.25 to £5.50, with main courses from £8.95 to £12.95 and a specials board, so there should be plenty of choice for everyone. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, with pleasant and friendly staff serving excellent food at a reasonable price.
29 August 2009: Ten of us ate at Petit Poisson last Saturday and our ages ranged from ninety one to eighteen months. We had a lovely meal, finding it difficult to choose from the varied menu. The service was great giving us plenty of time to enjoy our meal. They were also aware of the needs of the children aged eighteen months and three years. We shall certainly be back.
26 May 2009: My husband and I have eaten there a number of times and found the food and service to be excellent. The moules mariniéres were perfect and my whole sea bass was beautifully cooked. The strawberry and rhubarb crumble and a passion fruit crème brûlée were both worth breaking the diet for! A charming little place and the lovely Valerie who looks after you so well is charming too.
Le Petit Poisson is situated in an enviable position, almost on the beach in Herne Bay, by the old pier. The restaurant is in an historic building which has just undergone a major refurbishment. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal and on a nice day you can sit outside and watch the boats come in and out of the little harbour. The restaurant uses only locally sourced fish and produce wherever possible, with the style of food seasonal, simple, local and fresh. Le Petit Poisson was a finalist in the Kent Restaurant Awards (seafood category) 2009. The average cost for a starter is £5.75 and for a main course £13.75. The menu changes seasonally to showcase the best in local produce.
reviewcentre.com 30th Mar 2009
Good Points: Service, food, ambience, seaview. Good house wines.
Bad Points: A little stingy with the delicious bread. Otherwise could not fault it.
General comments: Le Petit Poisson is a small restaurant on Herne Bay’s seafront, cosy interior, very friendly waitress. The menu is devoted to seafood. It is not a huge menu, but everything that I saw coming out of the kitchen looked well-cooked, well-presented and delicious. Having wrestled with what to choose, I ordered the squid as a starter, which arrived coated in the lightest of batter with a light garlic mayonnaise – fantastic! My main course was Moules Marinere – beautifully cooked plump mussels in a steaming juice, served with a huge portion of piping hot frites. My companion ordered the tempura battered rock oysters – I don’t normally like oysters, but I tried one of his, which melted in the mouth, and was so good I had to order some more! For a main course, he ordered the Dover sole in a herb and butter sauce – beautifully cooked fish with a light sauce. Not being dessert lovers, we passed on these, but the menu looked very tempting. The bill was not cheap, but we had thoroughly enjoyed the meal and service, and did not resent paying it. Le Petit Poisson is a very welcome addition to Herne Bay, and I would thoroughly recommend this restaurant.
Mobile Food Guide
Situated between the road and Herne Bay promenade, this is a cracking little seafood restaurant and the real deal for holidaymakers and fish-loving visitors alike. It looks and feels like a family-friendly café, with a green awning above the frontage, gingham-clothed tables, big windows and an outdoor area (with parasols) looking out over the little harbour.
The menu is chalked on a blackboard and it’s 100% fish. Proprietor Philip Guy has his own oyster beds (in Scotland, apparently) which provide top-notch bivalves, but just about everything else is from the Kentish day boats. You might begin with char-grilled sardines on tomato and balsamic salad or pan-fried baby squid with soy, ginger and coriander, before trying tandoori monkfish with couscous and cucumber raita, pan-fried sea bream on stir-fried noodles or a bowl of bouillabaisse. To finish, it’s a straightforward choice – perhaps summer pudding, or caramelised oranges or strawberries in red wine. The concise wine list is right on target for value and quality.
25 Jun 08: This restaurant really is a gem. Authentically French cooking, quirky decor and great service combine to create a wonderful eating experience. The menu was well thought out and offered something for everyone, although there were a couple of bizarre combinations. Highlights include lobster salad, tempura prawns and cod with olives and chorizo. Whilst there are probably better fish restaurants in east Kent, the value for money here is unrivalled.
14 Apr 08: The best seafood resturant in Kent, a fantastic little place on herne bay’s seafront.(Find it at the entrance to the peir). The food is just amazing, all fresh and local and above all – really good value. The menu is ALL fish, no meat options available – a good sign. Book in advance or be disappointed.
31-01-2009: Best restaurant I’ve ever been to, excellent food and atmosphere 10 out of 10.
17-02-2008: Had an absolutely fantastic lunch here today 17th Feb 08, lovely food and nice service. Will be back, thanks.
13-11-2007: A fantastic restaurant, couldnt recommend it highly enough. The mussels are great and cheaper than the Continental Hotel in Whistable. My family have been coming here since it opened. The staff are very friendly and the service quick but relaxed. The best restaurant in Herne Bay by a mile.
29-10-2007: We’ve eaten at this place a number of times and just keep going back. Valerie (the proprietor) makes you feel so welcome, the food is excellent and even though we live in Whitstable, we really much prefer to go here to avoid the pretentious side of some of the Whitstable restaurants, not to mention the Whitstable prices. Won’t be long before we’re back at PP…
12-06-2007: If you are planning to eat at Le Petit Poisson then you are in for a real treat. I ate there last Saturday (June 07) and had a fantastic meal. The restaurant itself is quite compact and does have tables outside although it was too chilly to contemplate it on this occasion. Of the food I would have to commend the Thai fish cakes, Gurnard in Tempura Batter and the amazing ice cream. Having said that it is one of those memus where you could chose almost anything and be in for a fantastic meal. We had a bottle of red and an amazing floral Chardonnay which I usually hate but this was so fantastic and a great match with our food. The bill came to about £25 per head, great value for money. If I lived in Herne Bay I would be a regular. I am desperate to come back and try the lobster which looked amazing. Anyway if our experience is anything to go by I can thoroughly recommend this restaurant.
14-05-2007: An excellent restaurant with delicious and well presented food. Nice atmosphere and friendly service.
01-03-2007: Excellent food at half Whitstable prices (and better!) Service is always friendly and efficient.
17-02-2007: Visited this seafood restaurant on 13/02/07 with my partner, had the squid and I must say it was just fantastic, partner had also amazing cod wowowow what a find, and will be visiting very soon.
20-01-2007: This is an excellent restaurant, serving wonderful seafood. On the two occasions I have dined there I can only say it’s the best seafood restaurant have been to.
The Guardian 14 July 2007
Stationed right next to the ugly Pier Pavilion, it is clear from the menu that something beautiful is going on inside the kitchen. They serve deliciously delicate rock oysters, which are farmed on the Isle of Seil in Scotland. Everything else is fished locally, from crab and lobster to squid and dover sole. Take your fishy dishes out on to the seafront terrace and cop a sniff of the sea air while you dine.
Kent on Sunday 10th Sep 2006
HERNE BAY seafront on a windswept weekend in August can be a disheartening place. The flashing lights and low level hum of the amusement arcades providing the only illumination for the weary holidaymaker against the grey clouds hanging low over the dark waters of a foreboding sea.
But for a town which is so often overshadowed by the extravagant hype of neighbouring Whitstable, it is perhaps well deserved that the pearl in its shell is a restaurant which beats its coastal rival at its own game. Don’t get me wrong, Whitstable is awash with high class eateries – but you half expect a decent feed in a place which trades on its image as Islington-on-Sea. Which makes discovering Le Petit Poisson outside its borders even more of a treat.
The seafood restaurant is plonked right next to the pier and overlooks the arcades and trampolines on the beach. It’s small – 22 seats inside and a handful outside – but it packs an almighty punch. So why the glowing praise? Well, if you want good food, competitively priced, where presentation is as important as pleasing the palate, and the service is with both a smile and a pace which cannot be faulted, then it earns ticks in all the right boxes. And with three children – aged 13, seven and four in tow – we were able to give it a real work out.
For starters we had deep-fried calamari (light and tasty), avocado stuffed with crab and cream cheese (a subtle blend of subtle flavours), and grilled goat’s cheese on prawns and crushed potatoes (giving the sort of kick only goat’s cheese can). All were priced between £4.50 and £4.95. For the main course, my partner had a bowl of moules mariniere (£7.95) where big fat, juicy mussels benefited from a sauce which accentuated the taste of the mollusc without dominating the dish. I tackled monkfish wrapped in bacon with a creamy basil sauce (£10.50), and was not left disappointed.
The children opted for a salmon fillet on roasted vegetables and pesto sauce (£9.50); the fish soft and plump, the vegetables perfect. For dessert; cheesecake, banana meringue, homemade ice-cream and pot au chocolat – all faultless (all £3.95). The family; well-fed, the children content (clean plates and smiles all round a testament to that) and three courses for five for under £85.
And it wasn’t just us going away happy. The waitress was actually being called over to be congratulated on the quality by fellow diners, and the feel-good factor was reflected in that rarest of things – cheerful banter between the clientele. Never has a dark day in Herne Bay been illuminated by such a ray of sunshine.
The Guardian 29 July 2006
Whitstable was once charming, but is now Fulham-on-Sea. Therefore, we avoided its Oyster Festival last week and motored along to Herne Bay, a few miles further east, for lunch. “Lee Pet-it Poisson,” the bloke on the phone said when we reserved. “We’re next to the ugly 1970s Pier Pavilion.” Herne Bay turns out to be unreconstructed, unaffected, thoroughly uncontinental English seaside. There’s Connaught Bingo and Macari’s Cafe with its good coffee, pegboard menu and the same knickerbocker glories for 60-odd years. Crazy golf and the Central Bandstand. Shingled beach huts and a pebbled beach that crucifies your feet. Empty churches, greyish sea, buckets and spades of feel-good factor.
The pier broke up some time in the past, leaving the end bit marooned towards the wind farm over in Essex. Between the prom and the road, Le Petit Poisson. A glance at the chalked menu shows that something serious is going on in the kitchen.
The carte and specials look more than tasty, so we order our way through them, and ask for bottles of Muscadet and Shepherd Neame Whitstable Bay Ale. Nice bread, Normandy butter, garlicky olives. The place has pine seats for 22 inside, and wickery ones outside that leave criss-cross patterns on your bottom. Service is really nice as are the starters. Frances and her sisters have fat grilled prawns, and spanking fresh sardines, the kids have calamari with real mayo and I have the best rock oysters ever. I collar the boss, who’s called Phil Guy and is looking shy. I guess the oysters are from Whitstable. God, no – he wouldn’t serve us oysters from there: farmed them on the flats for 20 years, water’s no longer up to it. He has his farms on the Isle of Seil in Scotland now. Nice tides, wonderfully clean water, that’s what makes them so sweet, nutty and plump. That tells me.
Waiting for our mains, we watch the ebb and flow of the natives taking the sunny air. Two biddies on motorised wheelchairs circle our roped-off area, scooting in to buzz a table that’s finished its meal, letting them know it’s time to go. Absolutely everyone is in a good mood, especially our kids, who watch mini-speedboat races and beg 70p for the trampolines. Main courses put us in excellent moods, too. Whole sea bass on slippery noodles, perfectly cooked lemon sole, cod and chips – it’s all tip-top and bang-on. Turns out that Darren the chef used to cook at that royally rammed, top-dollar place at Whitstable, but likes it here because it’s so … normal.
There are simple, normal desserts on the menu, such as caramelised oranges with ice cream, lemon syllabub and petit pots of chocolat, but we ask for the bill, which is nice and small, and stroll along to The Rock Shop by Cain’s Amusements for softee ice creams with flakes. Someone’s barbecuing on the beach. Is Herne Bay the New Whitstable or next year’s Broadstairs? No, thank God. But it is the Real Deal.?