It was Whitstable on the northern coast of Kent that kickstarted this corner of southeast England's reputation as a food destination. Chefs moved to the coast from the big cities to make the most of the esteemed local produce here like organic-grown vegetables, line-caught seafood, homemade cider, and sparkling wines.

Since then almost every seaside town has got in on the act. From the thriving smugglers’ town of Deal to medieval Hythe, this UK shoreline’s southern stretch offers a rich eating-out scene, swaying energetically between Folkestone’s street-food markets to the elegant dining rooms and rural gastropubs inland. Here are the best restaurants and cafes on Kent’s Heritage Coast, from budget seaside shacks to hotspots with a view.

Frog and Scot, Deal

A pioneering culinary opening back in 2016, Frog and Scot enjoyed a chic makeover during lockdown, and prices in recent years have steadily climbed, with mains now £22 to £40 (US$29 to $59). But the blackboard menu might offer halibut with tiger prawns and mussels, wild sea bass with braised fennel or its signature, bavette steak with twice-cooked chips, and the quality of the cooking is undeniable. 

The Rose, Deal

Best restaurant 

Directly opposite Frog and Scot is this hip restaurant-with-rooms, overseen by Chiltern Firehouse supremo Nuno Mendes. Don’t miss the signature snack, a savory doughnut filled with crab or chicken-liver parfait. Also recommended? Smoked beef tartare, cured sea trout with charcoal cream, and an ever-popular juicy chicken schnitzel. The short list of bespoke cocktails is seasonal too.

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A person wearing a hat and warm coat, sitting on a bench outside Mit Milch coffee on a mostly clear day
At Mit Milch Coffee in Hythe, owner Luke Reene uses Whitstable-based Blueprint roastery, and his bean selection changes weekly © Stephen Emms / Lonely Planet

Mit Milch Coffee, Hythe

Best coffee 

Who'd think a tiny former bakery would serve the best espresso on this whole stretch of coast? Owner Luke Reene uses Whitstable-based Blueprint roastery and rotates the bean selection weekly. Pair your unbeatable espresso with a salted-caramel brownie or a moist slice of Persian Love Loaf. (Mit Milch simply means "with milk," Reene says, although customers often mistake it for his actual name.)

The Folkestone Wine Company, Folkestone

Best seafood restaurant

Kentish chef David Hart’s acclaimed restaurant is tucked away on pretty Church Street, with just a handful of tables and a short menu chalked up daily on the wall. Dishes might include parmesan gnocchi, or just-opaque baked cod with saffron chickpeas, tomatoes and anchovy butter, and the service is neighborhood-style friendly – it’s the place locals will tell you they love the most.

The red-brick exterior of the Lantern Inn, with hedges in front
For a dream Kentish country pub, it has to be the Lantern, a spruced-up 16th-century hostelry with bucolic gardens © Stephen Emms / Lonely Planet

The Lantern Inn, Martin Mill

Best gastropub 

For a dream Kentish country pub, it has to be the Lantern, a spruced-up 16th-century hostelry with bucolic gardens, just inland from Dover. A warren of dimly lit rooms and fireside corners, it has a gastropub-style menu that includes mushroom risotto, mackerel sliders and a hearty duck curry. Service can be leisurely, but an afternoon in the beer garden with a local craft pint is no hardship.

Orchard Lane Coffee House, Sandgate

The pavement terrace at this sun-drenched morning spot is always packed, no matter the season. Inside, punters perch at large communal tables under industrial pendants, while bearded, tattooed baristas match the artisan beans of the week with sweet treats, like cinnamon buns or white-chocolate and pistachio blondies. Need a savory hit? Try the superior vegan sausage rolls, made from Folkestone Baycon.

Pick Up Pintxos, Folkestone

Best small plates

Nestling at the foot of the steep Old High Street is Gravesend-raised Gianni Modena’s passion project – the cooking here revolves around the asador, a wood and charcoal grill used in the Basque country. Try hearty portions of whole turbot, Iberican pork and rare, butter-soft txuleton (prime beef rib), or graze the thorough list of hot and cold pintxos, from molten croquetas to golden-edged Basque tortilla and boquerones with sherry vinegar.

Hide and Fox, Hythe

Best fine dining

A sharp climb from Hythe’s high street, in the rarefied Saltwood neighborhood, is one of the area’s only Michelin-starred restaurants, run by chef Allister Barsby. Blinds in the windows conceal a softly lit contemporary dining room, housed in a former village shop. Expect to pay £70 ($94) for five courses or £95 ($127) for seven courses, including delights such as salmon with horseradish, dill and apple ponzu and oxtail with tarragon, potato and shallot.

The Goods Yard, Folkestone

Best street food 

Folkestone’s harbor arm has been a destination for street food since 2016, and its new Goods Yard offers a handy edit of everything from pizza to poké. Open from April until mid-November, it's a useful first stop in a town now bustling with quality dining options; start your food pilgrimage at the tasty Taco Shed. 

Two tacos on a big plate, one with brisket, pickled onions and sprouts, the other with fried fish, spicy mayo, slaw and sprouts
The White Hart's taqueria-style menu includes smoked brisket with pickled red onions and gremolata and baja cod taco with slaw, spicy mayo, pickled cucumber and Tajín © Stephen Emms / Lonely Planet

The White Hart, Hythe

This striking Georgian red-brick boozer stands next to the 18th-century town hall. Take a seat in the pub’s beamed rooms and peruse the taqueria-style menu: the brisket is smoked nine hours, bejeweled with pickled red onions and strewn with piquant gremolata, and the baja cod taco – with slaw, spicy mayo, pickled cucumber and Tajín – is a must. There are also burgers and wood-fired flatbreads.

Thong Dees Thai, Folkestone

Up on Sandgate Road is this well-priced street-food café, with its cute booths and eye-catching murals. The menu rewards exploration, from silky prawn dim sum and crisp salt-and-pepper squid to marinated moo ping pork skewers and deep-fried tamarind duck. The vibe is boozy, raucous fun – you’ll make friends before you leave.

Deal Pier Kitchen, Deal

Best brunch 

Locals were delighted when this revamped diner opened in 2019, its chic interior a backdrop to a forward-thinking menu. There are imaginative plant-based options as well as chalked-up daily lunch specials, such as sirloin-steak sarnies and lobster rolls. Artisan coffee and outstanding cocktails – plus panoramic end-of-pier views back across Deal and the White Cliffs – all make for a foodie haven.

The Bao Baron, Folkestone 

Originally a street-food stall at the Goods Yard, the Bao Baron proved so popular its team opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Guildhall Street. Expect a mix of xiao chi (small plates) such as Korean fried cauliflower, plus killer ramen bowls and, of course, those moreish buns, both meaty and vegan.

Tables full of people, sitting under a shade on a patio on a bright sunny day
If the sun’s out, a meal on Little Rock's terrace feels like an Ibizan mini-break © Stephen Emms / Lonely Planet

Little Rock, Folkestone

With palm trees adorning its white terrace, this is the Mediterranean little sister to the town’s famous harbor restaurant Rocksalt, and an essential stop for seafood fans. Specials might include Kentish huss or Dover sole from day boats based in Folkestone Harbour, or you can try the tasty pale-ale-battered cod cheeks from the main menu. Whatever you eat, it’s the location that's unparalleled: if the sun’s out, a meal here feels like an Ibizan mini-break. 

Noiy’s Noodles, Hythe

Just behind the promenade is this quirky noodle bar, its centerpiece a bright-orange, corrugated-shack-style open kitchen. Our tip is the exemplary king-prawn pad thai, its rice noodles, egg and bean sprouts crowned generously with plump crustaceans. Grab a pint before or after at the cozy adjoining pub, the Hope.

Popup Cafe, Deal

Since it opened a decade ago, this warehouse-style institution in the southern part of Deal has steadily expanded, now occupying two floors. Faultless Margate-roasted coffee and tempting morning snacks aside, the emphasis is on healthy plant-based salad bowls and posh toasties, not to mention one of the town’s finest brunch options.

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