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Restaurants & the 19th Hole

One of the joys of going away is eating out. Tasting regional produce and experiencing local hospitality is a great way of discovering an area.

Kent's fertile countryside and coast means that the county's best restaurants have access to an abundance of fresh local produce. Diners can enjoy vegetables within hours of them being harvested.

Combined with locally reared meat, such as the succulent Romney Marsh lamb, which gets its special character from the salty, coastal pastures on which the sheep graze. Also freshly caught fruits of the sea, such as Dover sole, turbot, brill, seabass and cod, and juicy local oysters, plump mussels and delicate crab, Kentish restaurants are able to create mouthwatering and memorable dishes.

This is why the county enjoys five Michelin-starred restaurants – Chapter One in Bromley, The West House in Biddenden, Apicius in Cranbrook, Read’s in Faversham and The Sportsman in Seasalter. And the latest Good Food Guide has identified “the rough triangle, encompassing Canterbury, Whitstable and Faversham in East Kent as the new gastronomic hot-spot,” having “lured quality chefs, who appear to be drawn to the high quality Kentish meat, fish, vegetables and fruits.”

But it is the diversity in Kent’s gastronomic landscape that makes a visit to this county so special. Rural pubs, coastal gastro bars, stylish urban restaurants – you can find them all. The breathtaking countryside is peppered with pubs producing culinary delights: The Marquis at Alkham, set in an area of outstanding beauty, a refurbished 200 year old ale house, combines contemporary and rustic charm with seriously good food using seasonal local produce and the warmest of service. The Secret Garden at Mersham le Hatch, with its working kitchen garden and set in beautiful relaxing surroundings, offers freshly cooked food using fresh, local and homegrown ingredients.

RURAL TREATS

For those who are fond of their food firmly in a contemporary style then they will be more than impressed by Produced in Kent’s Taste of Kent & Good Food Guide award winning stylish restaurant The Mulberry Tree in Boughton Monchelsea nr Maidstone. The head chef ensures that there is always a fine seasonal menu which will suit a broad range of tastes. For a gastro pub experience try The Oak in the small historic village of Charing in the heart of Kent, The George & Dragon, Ightham, a classic village pub dating back to the 1500s, with oak beams and open log fires, or The Harrow in Hadlow. Near Canterbury the village of Hoath is the setting for The Prince of Wales a cosy country pub with a wonderful array of dining options.

For stylish restaurants, don’t miss Michael Caine’s ABode in Canterbury, where chef Toby Lin uses local produce - outstanding fish and shellfish from ports such as Rye and Dover, as well as Kent beef and Romney Marsh lamb, game in season, and Kentish fruit and vegetables to create exquisite modern food. In Rochester's historic high street, you have the elegant Elizabeth’s of Eastgates, where food sourced locally for high quality and freshness of flavour, is used to create modern British cuisine with a classic French influence. The Royal Wells Hotel in Tunbridge Wells played frequent host to Queen Victoria and with its award winning chefs prides itself on the very best of British Cuisine. Two places to put on your itinerary, both headed up by restaurateur Gavin Oakley, are the restaurant at the Wallett’s Court Country House Hotel housed in 400-year-old manor in the heart of White Cliffs Country and The Bay at White Cliffs Hotel in St Margaret’s, both offering creative modern and classic cuisine using local, free-range, organic and sustainable food sourced from Kent. In nearby Sandwich is The Bell Hotel’s Old Dining Room, where bar, lunch and dinner menus vary according to seasonal availability, and where fresh foods are simply cooked to bring out full, natural flavours.

If you’re holidaying beside the seaside, a meal with a view may just be what you’re after. You can’t get nearer the sea if you’re sitting on the terrace at The Coastguard at St Margaret’s, situated on the bay. In addition to a choice of British bitters, there are Belgian beers to choose from and a delicious menu, created twice a day by the chef according to the tides and the season, of simple cooking with the best local ingredients. Take a table at The Minnis Bar & Restaurant nr Birchington for stunning views across the Channel , glorious sunsets, that combine with an impressive menu from classic bar food to more adventurous innovative dishes. Dunkerley’s in Deal is a stone’s throw away from the beach and features local seafood on its menu.

SEASIDE SPECIALS

Go along the coast to Thanet, and you will find more seaside specials, all using fresh local ingredients and many with fabulous sea views over the harbours and sandy bays that make up this part of the coast. Fish caught in the morning will be on your plate by lunchtime. Local Ramsgate fishmonger, Eddie Gilberts, has extended the original wet fish shop to include a fine dining restaurant upstairs. Bare brickwork and exposed beams, fishing nets and marine artwork creates the perfect ambience to enjoy the delightful – and experimental - menu, which uses the fruits of sea bought in by fishermen on that day. In the same town is Age & Sons, a real foodie’s haven, whose menu not only features local ingredients but often, local recipes – contemporary British with a Kentish twist. Overlooking the marina is Atlantis Seafood restaurant, which offers an international menu using local fresh fish, and includes a seafood bar for lighter snacks.

INTERNATIONAL CUISINE

Travel on from there to Broadstairs, where you can find a restaurant to suit almost any international cuisine, many of which have terraces overlooking the town’s quaint bay and harbour. The dining room at the Royal Albion Hotel, where Charles Dickens was a regular, offers sea views to go with an extensive British and European menu. Right down by the harbour is a pub and restaurant, the Tartar Frigate, housed in an 18th century flint building, with seafood platter and lobster specialities.

Just around the coast in Margate, you will find the fine No 6 Brasserie, a contemporary eatery and lounge bar in the Old Town. Open all day, it offers high quality food to be eaten quickly at lunchtime or for a more leisurely dinner. Nearby, the Indian Princess presents an original take on South Asian food, using the freshest local seasonal ingredients and combining them with delicate blends of spices and flavours to create unique dishes. The chef and owner, Dev Biswal, is also responsible for the new restaurant at Quex Museum in Quex Park, Birchington. Here, the idea of local is taken a step further, and the modern British menu uses meat from the flocks of sheep and cattle reared on the Estate, vegetables grown in its gardens, and wild herbs found on the grounds.

Kent Garden of England

Reproduced with kind permission of KOS Media Ltd and Visit Kent. For further information, go to www.kentnews.co.uk and www.visitkent.co.uk

 








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