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Winter tapas on the north Kent coast

It must have been the same winter blues that blew us this way before, though I can’t believe it’s been six years. I’d read that they moved and with a January Sunday in need of brightening, we headed to Whitstable and the string of nearby towns that merge along the north Kent coast for a fantastic lunch.

We’d been to JoJo’s in Tankerton when it was run from the ground floor of the owners home (I think), in a parade of shops off the sea front. We’d visited it then prior to being refurbished but they’d outgrown that in turn and had moved recently (in the timeframe of our visits) to new premises, overlooking the sea.

All trace of the locations previous life (it was a Spar) have been removed and whilst the loss to the local community of the opportunity to buy Pot Noodles must be felt, the gain in the area getting a great restaurant wins out.

The limited opening hours (Wednesday evening through Sunday lunch; it’s their work-life balance and I heartily understand it) has been supplemented by a café with extended hours but the main restaurant has a greater attraction. A wood burner was keeping the former mini-market interior warm, with a sofa and shelves of cookery books to give you a clue as to the food coming up, next to a new bar area (they didn’t have a license at the old place and didn’t here until recently, but more on that later).

The cooking area, like the previous location, has an open cooking area, with bar seating if you want to watch, the main area being filled with reclaimed and upcycled tables and chairs, with new (I doubt they were a Spar feature) wooden sash windows overlooking the green slope down to the sea and the wide North Sea horizon beyond.

The food is, as before, mixed Mediterranean small plates style. The fixed menu (on their website) is supplemented with a large list of daily specials. Between us we had the sharing meat platter (various salamis, sliced meats, etc.), mackerel, deep fried calamari, fried aubergines, fried courgettes, salad, risotto balls (aracini), Patatas Bravas, breads, olives, flat breads, cheese board (for two), some fabulous chocolate cake, sticky toffee pudding, baklava, err…. I think that was it. Between five of us, it was more than enough but still the temptation was to go on eating. As one of our friends said “I don’t want to stop eating!” It is seriously good and the temptation is to over-order but even then you won’t regret it.

Jojo’s never used to have a license and had a BYO policy with corkage at £2, unless you used the dreaded Tesco, in which case it was £5 with the difference going to charity. Since gaining a license, they’ve retained the highly commendable policy, which meant when it came to the bill, our sweepstake at guessing the bill was out, way out. Just a shade under £100 between five of us, it showed how wine (and the margin on it) pushes the bill up normally.

It really is a wonderful place; food, atmosphere, service (the expanded location means they’ve taken some more staff, all of who were just the right mix of friendly, professional and laid-back for this place) that we can’t recommend hightly enough.

We might just have to try visiting it some other time than the dark winter afternoons of January.

UPDATE – January 2015: After this visit in 2012, we’ve been back every January with a group of friends (as well as other visits in warmer times). On the most recent visit, we found they’ve dropped the BYO policy much to our embarrassment when we pulled out a bottle and put it on the table. Oops. It was a generous policy of theirs and I can understand why they’ve done it. Not sure if it was the weather or the change in policy, but the restaurant seemed quieter this January than previous years. Food was still blooming fantastic and great value.