The Ambrette 44 King Street, Margate, Kent

The Ambrette's take on modern Mumbai dining is just the latest sign of life returning to Margate's seaside strip

Margate is changing. And these days – if you plan your route carefully – you can avoid anything that looks boarded up or burnt out. You can drive past the Turner Contemporary arts centre, and the smart bars overlooking the Margate sands, and park up in the old town for a bite to eat. It's not a long drive, admittedly. But you get the point. Just remember to park somewhere well-lit – change doesn't happen overnight...

The Ambrette is symbolic of the new Margate – it used to be known as The Indian Princess, but chef Dev Biswal decided that the name sounded too old-fashioned. So he changed it. The food is still resolutely Indian – Biswal still comes from Mumbai – but it doesn't serve curry. And there's pork on the menu. Biswal wants the Ambrette to be known as a modern Indian restaurant with a difference.

It sits on the premises of the old George Hotel, which dates back to the mid-18th century. But, like the rest of Margate, it still needs loving. And a coat of masonry paint. There are only two designated parking spaces and – according to a large sign on the wall – the council is pursing an aggressive clamping policy. I'm glad of a table by the window. Not for the view, you understand – more so I can keep an eye on the car.

My six-year-old daughter doesn't like anything spicy. And, in her short life, Indian has always been about the spicy. So I want the Ambrette's "Gourmet Set Lunch" (three courses for £19.95) to put an end to all that – to put to rest her delusion that Indian food is all about fat and gravy. I got her to Margate by promising her she can have her own choice of dessert. But when the food starts to arrive, there's no need for any more talk of bribes.

Biswal's signature dish of freshwater Nile perch is off the menu. So instead we try the claresse. We are happy to be told that claresse is a freshwater fish from the European catfish family. We are even more happy when we taste it. It is pan-grilled, but soft and sweet inside its crust of sesame seeds, black pepper and coriander seeds. We don't give the perch a second thought.

The brochettes of lamb have been marinated in pineapple, and roasted – over charcoal. They arrive at the table, as soft as paté, on a mildly spiced bed of sweet potatoes. It's the right time for the waiter to bring my daughter's lassi to the table. With a straw – one of those with a joint towards the top. "You can drink round corners," he says. "Cool," she says. And promptly forgets all about the mildly spiced bed of sweet potatoes.

I've always wanted to rid the world of reheated bread rolls, pre-grated Parmesan, and overfilled wine glasses. The list used to include inter-course sorbets, but when my daughter and I taste the Ambrette's granita with space dust, well, I change my mind. As the waiter arrives with tiny tasters of mushroom soup (with a dab of ginger) and vegetable spring rolls with a smear of chutney, we're having a ball.

The sea-bream kedgeree is the best dish of the day. It is creamy, like a good risotto, and sweet with coconut. My daughter has discovered that her naan bread, still shiny with ghee, is big enough for her hand, and she turns it into a glove puppet while we wait for a dense, wet carrot cake – sweet with condensed milk. It is enough to make my daughter put down her naan bread.

The pastry around my chocolate samosas is, all at once, crisp and soft, giving way to a rich, dark chocolate ganache inside. The dish pairs well with the cardamom sauce, but not the sun-dried rose-petal jam. Biswal does have a tendency to crowd his plates, but once he gets the recognition he deserves, maybe he will find the confidence to step back a bit.

These days, the residents of Margate know that they've got more to boast about than their combined bingo and tanning centre. They had donkey rides and deckchairs before anyone else, and their town earnt a unique position in British seaside history. Now they've got the Turner Contemporary – and the Ambrette. Wish you were here? Not just yet. But it won't be long.

7/10

Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

The Ambrette 44 King Street, Margate, Kent, tel: 01843 231 504 Lunch and dinner, Tuesday-Sunday. £47 for two, including drinks and service

Richard Johnson is founder of the British Street Food Awards (britishstreetfood.co.uk)

More from the Kent coast

Crab & Winkle

South Quay, The Harbour, Whitstable, tel: 01227 779 377

Lots of local seafood, served with aplomb, and at reasonable prices, too – the attraction that makes this restaurant above the fish market well worth a trip

Petit Poisson

Pier Approach, Central Parade, Herne Bay, tel: 01227 361 199

Typically old-fashioned French seafood restaurant, on the prom, complete with ocean views; friendly and cosy... but will perhaps be less so when its expansion programme has concluded

Wheeler's Oyster Bar

8 High Street, Whitstable, Kent, tel: 01227 273 311

Sublime and wonderful seafood at this unlikely, tiny hole in the wall, which never disappoints with its inventive food

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2010'. www.hardens.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game