What do you think of when someone mentions Canterbury? Chaucer (and/or his pilgrims), Christopher Marlowe (born here) and Canterbury Cathedral. Thought so. You’ll find that a great many shop owners feel the same. You’ll soon find just about every other shop or service called ‘The Chaucer…’ something, or ‘Pilgrim’s’ this and that. My current favourite is the ‘Chaucer Roundabout’. He’d be so proud. The author of Doctor Faustus is not left out of this kind of silliness either (though, at least our fine theatre bears his name). The Romans turned Canterbury from a wretched little market in Kent to a fine city. However, on their first attempt they failed to conquer all of Kent and so the motto of the county is ‘Invicta’; cue Invicta Paints, Invicta IT services, Invicta Coffee, and so on).
Canterbury is home to two large universities: Canterbury Christ Church University (ours) and The University of Kent. In addition to these, there are also several arts colleges and other training colleges. The result is that Canterbury has the highest student-to-townie population in all of Europe: of the 55,000 or so residing in Canterbury, around 27,000 of them are students. Unsurprisingly, we also have a lot of pubs—over 100 in the municipal area.
The website MyCanterbury has many deals and offers at local shops, attractions and events. There is also a free app available. This may enhance your enjoyment of your visit to our lovely city and could save you money as well.
Have a look at the map of Canterbury on this website . Canterbury city centre is still largely surrounded by a medieval wall (itself built on top of the Roman one) which has, over the centuries, kept the centre compact. You can walk from one end of the high street to the other in about 10–12 minutes. I mention this so that if your hotel or B and B is not right near campus, you’re unlikely to be beyond walking distance away.
Eating and Drinking
If you are arriving on the Wednesday to register and come to a drinks reception in the evening (you really should!), you might want to book a table for dinner that night. I’d love to write an eating and drinking blog for the conference, but I just can’t, so here is my off-the-cuff guide on good places for sensible people like you to go out to eat and/or drink.
The Goods Shed . Not only the best restaurant in Canterbury, but rated one of the top 50 in the South and one of the top 100 in the UK. Situated in our best food market. If your budget can take it, go here. Spanish chef Raphael is a master. Mains about £14–£25.
Deeson’s . For location and atmosphere, Deeson’s is hard to beat. There have been a few changes in kitchen lately and so the verdict is not yet clear. I’ve never, myself, had a bad meal here. Mains around £15–£24.
Zeus. A new Greek (really?) restaurant on Orange Street. It’s not the cheapest place (mains are around £11–£20), but great food and service in a dignified atmosphere. You have to drink Greek or Cypriot wine. Make of that what you will.
A La Turka. Not a chain, but they do have two locations in Canterbury. The combination of quality and cost are excellent and A La Turka has quickly become very popular with locals. Main courses around £10–£15 (though Meze’s are less).
Boho. Very popular with seasoned locals, they don’t take reservations (very Boho…). Chance your arm if you’re nearby. I’ve never had a bad meal here. You can get away with two course here for under £20.
The Ambrette . Indian (and Indian-inspired) cooking at its finest. Their restaurant in Margate has a Michelin star. Mains £12–£25.
Cafe Mauresque . Andalucian/Moroccan. Wonderful. Tapas start around £3.75, mains around £10–£17. You can order giant platters to share—good way to save a few pounds (and yet gain a few…).
Osteria Posillipo . You can get a plate of pasta here for under £7 and pizzas from £6.
Pinnochio’s. If you like unpretentious (moi?!) southern Italian food, this place is great. Enjoy authentic swearing in Neapolitan dialect from the kitchen whilst you enjoy proper Italian cooking.
Marino’s. OK. If you really must eat fish and chips, this is the place to do it. There’s no where to sit, so you’ll have to eat it in a bus shelter or in the nearby Westgate Park.
Café des Amis. Mexican. Really. Great food, but noisy.
Kashmiri Tandoori . Want a curry? Go here. You can fill up for under a tenner.
Azouma . Excellent Moroccan food. If you feel like eating like a horse, I recommend the lunchtime buffet (around £7). About a two-minute stagger from Christ Church campus.
Café du Soleil. Have you been giving or hearing papers about Lully or Louis XIV? Then why not continue your day of ‘Sun’ references by eating here? There’s no reason not to.
Tomago. All the Japanese students and staff go here—and for good reason. Miso soup from £2.
La Trappiste. Belgian-themed (though mostly decorated with copies of Alfons Mucha works) this is place is extremely popular.
Pubs that serve (edible) food
The Shakespeare. The beer is only OK here (it’s not terrible, it’s just OK), but the food is excellent and very good value. You can get a proper meal here for under £7.
The Foundry . Britain has imported the idea of brew-pub from America. This one is wonderful. The beers are generally excellent and the food is solidly good. Nice atmosphere and friendly service.
The Dolphin . As pubs go, this Canterbury’s poshest. This is a go-to pub for locals in the Summer because it has a large and lovely garden at the back. Well-kept beer and table service (with waitresses and everything). The food prices are higher than your average pub, but the quality is high. Mains about £8–£16. (I’m getting hungry just writing these down!).
The Unicorn . This is my local, so don’t get drunk and smash the place up if you’re still wearing your conference badge. This is a proper pub (so don’t go here for a Cosmo). First opened in the early 17th century, The Unicorn is unusual in that it has (apart from a few years) always been a pub and always called The Unicorn. Great bargains here for a meal if you buy them in pairs (they have a two-for-£11 deal). This pub is probably the best value-for-money pub on the list. It’s one of the best pubs for beer in the entire region and is frequently CAMRA pub of the year for the area. It’s just opposite one of Canterbury’s best butchers, so meat dishes are always fresh. They have a decent garden too, though last Summer, Canterbury was completely overrun by wasps and we hardly ever sat out in pub gardens. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again!
The Two Sawyers. Bored to tears of people prattling on about hand-rastrated paper or the influence of Silesian folk dancing on Irish pantomime? You’re only two minutes away from this little eighteenth-century oasis at the other end of the impossibly twee-sounding Love Lane. Have a burger and a pint, then make your way slowly back to the conference. You’re welcome. Warning: you might see me there.
The Parrot. This listed, 14th-century pub is a complete gem. We usually have our Music Department Christmas dinner here. If you go here, don’t tell too many tourists about it—I don’t want it ruined! Absolutely oozing with atmosphere, the food is excellent (same owners as The Shakespeare) and they have a lovely, higgledy–piggledy garden. If you’re tall, remember not to whack to your head on the countless beams and little doorways (note to self). Mains about £9–£17. Finally, there are also familiar and perfectly fine chains (Pizza Express has a wonderful location on a Roman canal) and sandwich shops and cafes on the high street and around the town centre.