If you answered in the negative, you’ve obviously never eaten at GB Pizza in Margate. If you answered “YES,” then I’m guessing you’ve already had the pleasure so you’ve no need to read further. This article is to enlighten the uninitiated…
It wasn’t my first visit to GB Pizza, I’d eaten there on a previous visit to Margate about four years ago so I immediately noticed that the décor had changed somewhat. Although it retained its utilitarian ambiance, it appeared less metallic and industrial than before. I mentioned this to our server, the lovely Ben who was working there during summer break from studying Economics at university in Brighton.
From Ben, we learnt GB Pizza had survived a fire in October 2022. Sure enough, there were some pretty dramatic photos printed in Kent Online news at the time. Apparently, it was started in GB Pizza’s doorway, the culprit being a homeless man who took the opportunity of serenading the arresting officers with his rendition of The Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter.’ None of this came as a surprise to me since one of the things I love about Margate is its quirkiness.
I’m pleased to report the fire has in no way affected the quality of the GB Pizza overall experience. Ben confirmed to us that it’s still manned by a friendly team and said he’s loved working there all summer. This sense of enjoyable industry communicates itself to the customers and undoubtedly adds to the restaurant’s popularity.
And popular it is. Fortunately, we’d pre-booked our table, but four hopefuls immediately in front of us on entering the premises weren’t so lucky. They were sent away with empty stomachs and sad faces.
On this occasion, we’d arrived too late to appreciate one of the gorgeous sunsets but I know, from my previous visit, how spectacular they can be. GB Pizza makes the most of its great sunset-viewing location by having a picture window that takes up its entire frontage and positioning tables and chairs on the pavement outside. I asked Ben how the sunset had been that night and he confirmed it was another stunner. He told me that some nights, for a few minutes when the sun’s at a certain depth, the entire restaurant is bathed in a bright, orange glow – quite surreal. So my tip is to check the time of sunset before you book and schedule your visit to take advantage of this wonderful natural phenomenon.
There was nothing for it but to console ourselves with a couple of drinks. I stuck to my usual pink: Pinot Grigio Rose. This came in the form of a 175ml glass of La Calvisana, Delle Venezie. It was simply delicious. Very delicate with a fresh, slightly fruity flavour. Hub chose a Session IPA called Neck Oil manufactured at Beavertown Brewery.
Based in London, Beavertown is one of only a handful of suppliers GB Pizza use that aren’t based in Kent, but we’ll forgive that as Beavertown is still a pretty quirky operation. Had Hub been enjoying their Neck Oil IPA in a sunny beer garden, he may well have been one of the lucky 10,000 people to receive a free sachet of Oil Your Neck SPF 50 sunscreen that Beavertown have created in partnership with Lifejacket Skin Protection following research – commissioned by Beavertown – that showed only 18% of Brits wear sun protection when drinking in the great outdoors. Ideas like this, plus the psychedelic packaging, put Beavertown into an idiosyncratic category that fits perfectly with Margate itself.
Nevertheless, I’m pleased to report GB Pizza’s menu is heavily geared toward locally-sourced supplies. The drinks menu alone offers you Cider made in Ashdown, Pale Ales from Whitstable and Folkestone, Gin from Folkestone and Tenterden and Vodka from Tenterden and Chatham.
Turning to the pizzas, ingredients include Kentish goat’s curd, sausages handmade in Thanet and Jam Face hot sauce and chilli jam made in Margate. There’s a note on the menu that tells you their pizzas are “Made in Margate with Great British ingredients.”
So how do they taste? Well I first had to get over the dilemma of which to choose. There were several I really wanted to try but eventually I narrowed it down to two, one was ‘Pear & British blue cheese on a ricotta base’ but I’m happy to report that my eventual choice of ‘Spinach, mushrooms, caramelised onions, hazelnuts, rocket and cheese pizza’ (also available without cheese in a vegan option) was juicy and addictive. The ingredients were clearly very garden-fresh and the made-to-order dough was just chewy enough.
One challenge when preparing a pizza with several ingredients is making sure they’re all perfectly cooked. These were. The onions were beautifully soft with that slight caramel flavour they ought to have, the mushrooms were chunky and soft without being soggy and the spinach was wilted but not “dead.” Crispy, raw rocket was scattered over the top, retaining its full flavour. With pizza dough, you know it’s fresh when it continues to expand in your stomach and fills you up after the event, as was the case here. The dough was just the right thickness so it didn’t overpower the ingredients. It remained intact, didn’t go soggy and the crusts had some crispy bubbles that made them ideal for dipping.
Ben had recommended the Jam Face chilli jam, but I’d instead plumped for a small bowl of their hot sauce to dip my crusts. A word of warning… that hot sauce was HOT! I’m quite used to hot foods but this was on another level. Still extremely tasty but consider yourself warned.
I had no real need to avail myself of any of the oil bottles available for use on each table. But I did! I must say they were all light and tasty. All three bottles of cold pressed rapeseed oil were made by Kentish Oils in Canterbury and the three varieties on offer were Jalapeño chilli, Garlic & herbs and Lemon.
Hub chose the Margate-rita pizza with additional fresh black olives. I could tell he was enjoying it because he was very quiet until he finished (every last crumb) and declared it extremely “more-ish.” This was one of the cheaper pizzas on the menu at only £8.50. My own pizza, with its abundance of ingredients, was only £11.50.
These days when we can easily pay £10 for a traditional fish & chips takeaway, GB Pizza’s prices are a revelation. Even the pizzas under the ‘Specials’ heading are very reasonably priced, the most expensive being the ‘Crab, samphire & chilli’ at £14.50. I surmise that they keep costs down by serving the pizzas on a wooden board with a handle, pre-slicing them into wedges so customers can eat with their hands, New York style. There’s no cutlery provided which saves on both purchasing and washing up. It bothers me not a jot. I’ve always preferred to eat pizza that way. In my opinion, the afore-mentioned fish & chips have never quite had the same flavour since the banning of newspaper as wrapping and I believe pizza tastes better eaten with fingers.
Of course, they don’t quite get away without ANY cutlery as my Pistachio shortbread by Meghan’s Magical Bakes, also a local Margate supplier, was served with a spoon and fork. Hub’s ‘Vanilla ice cream & cookie sandwich’ with Cookies by Clarkini of Kent (who also supply GB Pizza’s cheesecakes) could still be eaten with the fingers… indeed, it was! When I say “shortbread,” it’s not as we know it. This was a rather substantial chunk of shortbread base layered with chewy, gooey toffee laced with pistachio nuts, topped with thick, crunchy chocolate. I have to admit, I couldn’t quite finish it, even with the assistance of another Pinot Grigio Rose to wash it down. I guess by that time the fresh pizza dough was fluffing itself up in my stomach. Hub reported that his cookie was just enough of a dessert on top of his expanding pizza.
All I can say is that I was over-satisfied. Next time we go to Margate, GB Pizza will be the first eatery on our itinerary and I’ve no doubt they will still be thriving, even if it’s another four years before we get there. They’ve already been around, in one form or another, since 2012 when they transferred from serving from the back of a VW Campervan to a permanent facility on Margate’s seafront.
Co-founder, Lisa Richards, was previously a travel and food writer, an occupation that I’m certain informed her of what the public enjoy as much as what to avoid. Along with Chantelle Else, Manager and shareholder, they ensure GB Pizza continues the legacy begun by co-founder and mentor, Rachel Seed who sadly died in 2018 after a 13 year battle with cancer.
Rachel’s “Rules for Life” can be found displayed on a wall in the restaurant. The list contains some real gems, one of which I’ll end with here: “Compliment often and with sincerity.” It’s easy to sincerely compliment GB Pizza, Rachel, Lisa, Chan and their fabulous team for providing mouth-watering dishes in a relaxing, friendly atmosphere at very reasonable prices. If you’re heading to Margate, a visit if a must. If you’re not heading to Margate, GB Pizza gives you a reason to go.
Great British Pizza Co, 14 Marine Drive, Margate, CT9 1DH
Tel: 01843 297700