The Isle of Sheppey is suddenly becoming a popular destination, even more so since lockdown and the increase in staycations, as it is fairly close to London. For years people have looked down their noses at the island, seeing it as a bit rough and ready – caravans and mobile homes, slot machines and fish and chips at Leysdown, home to three prisons, industry, sheep filled marshland – and since the closure of the naval dockyard, an area of deprivation. But people have recently discovered what I’ve known for years, another side to Sheppey – naval history, its importance in the early days of aviation, , a huge nature reserve, Shellness with its fine sand and quirky beach houses, and now glamping – and to these I’d like to add Queenborough, for its rich history and small harbour.
If visiting the Isle of Sheppey please take the time for a quick diversion to this small town. Yes, there is still industry here and unattractive bits but it has a lovely wide High Street leading to the waterfront; there are some pretty Georgian cottages and some larger 17th and 18th century houses plus an 18th century Guildhall with museum (not currently open and when it does it’s only on Saturdays in the summer). Parking is free, on the side of the High Street or in the car park at the end near the waterfront, or you can come by train as there is a railway station. In the winter if the tide is out there are many wading birds to be seen out in the mud, where the Medway and Thames estuaries meet the Swale. There is a wealth of history – Edward III first established the borough and named it after his queen, Phillippa – Nelson lived there for a while with Lady Hamilton and Queenborough was invaded by the Dutch in the 17th century; it still has links with Holland.
There is a harbour that is navigable on all tides so it is used by local fishing boats (I’ve had the most delicious local fish and chips – rock salmon/dog fish/gurnet, whatever you call it where you come from, in The Flying Dutchman). There are other pubs nearby but my main reason for this review is to tell you about The Mint and Chocolate Eatery, which is as delicious as it sounds!
Next to the Admiral’s Arm micropub in West Street, which is the road that leads to the creek and harbour, is a small, unassuming black building called The Mint and Chocolate Eatery. Don’t be put off by the exterior – inside it is mirrored and sparklingly clean – with a 1960’s milk bar vibe. We happened upon it while walking round Queenborough on a cold day in winter and thought the menu outside sounded amazing. Unfortunately we had just had a meal in a nearby pub but we had to investigate and went in for a coffee and a slice of the house special cheesecake – Mint & Choc. It’s only a small cafe but everything is homecooked by the really friendly proprietor, who is Belgian – hence the chocolate theme. The mint and chocolate cheesecake was absolutely delicious; unfortunately I could only try a spoonful as cream makes me physically sick. This cheesecake is always on the menu, along with a Bailey’s cheesecake and at least one other flavour.
We returned another day to try the lunches, which include things like sausage casserole, Hungarian Goulash with pasta, mushroom lentil stew, shepherd’s pie and chicken, leek and mushroom pie. Main meals were around £6 – £7, sandwiches and wraps £4 – £5.75 and cheesecake £3.75 but might have gone up in price. There are also soups, sandwiches, salads and omelettes. At Christmas I went with three friends for a special festive meal which was really good. We’ve been back many times and tried quite a selection from the menu and everything has been delicious. The kitchen is tiny so all the main dishes are home cooked and frozen; everything else is prepared fresh. The vegetarian options are highlighted on the menu and non dairy milk is available. Hot drinks are served in mugs but thankfully everyone gets their own little spoon rest on which to deposit spoons and used teabags. Cream teas are on the menu, as are special afternoon teas, which need to be pre-ordered. As the cafe is so small it’s a good idea to ring to book a table if travelling from outside the area as currently only four tables are allowed. The opening hours are limited too, Tuesday – Friday, 11.00 – 4.00, Saturday and Sunday 12.00 – 4.00 (see the Facebook page) and it’s probably best not to leave your visit to just before the allotted closing time.
If visiting Queenborough I can highly recommend this as a place to get a really tasty meal or snack. Food is also available to take away. I’m looking forward to going back now it’s re-opened but if travelling any distance I advise phoning first.
“Visit their facebook page for more information”:http://www.facebook.com/mintandchoc