Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Yew Tree

Which? Good Food Guide 2009
Here’s a place to test the mettle of your Sat Nav. Found down narrow Kentish lanes, just seven miles from Dover, this pretty country pub now puts food and wine top of the agenda. A table-filled terrace leads into an intimate bar – serving local real ales – while an up-to-date style of wooden floorboards and undressed tables typifies the look in the light dining room. Ben Williams used to be head pastry chef at The Square in London (see entry) and while his cooking here is less intricate (and prices commensurately lower), a certain level of high-gloss proficiency is not lacking.

His menus keep things within sensible bounds, however, and are built around carefully considered combinations such as a textbook onion tarte Tatin or a soft-boiled duck egg with smoked eel ‘soldiers’. Asparagus, broad beans and peas make congenial partners for a main course of new season’s Kentish lamb, sauced with red wine, or there may be roasted sea bream with crushed new potatoes, Thai-spiced shellfish and vegetable spaghetti. Finish with vanilla rice pudding and poached rhubarb. Service is friendly and efficient. The wide-ranging wine list, compiled by business partner and wine merchant Ben Bevan, concentrates on quality without showiness or fanfares. Bottles are picked with total assurance and an eye for value at every level. Prices start at £12.50.
A: Barfreston, Dover, Kent, England CT15 7JH
M: Google Map
T: (01304) 831000

Sunday, 22 March 2009


Which? Good Food Guide 2009
Spacious and comfortable with a laid back ambience, this solid country pub is well matched by a thoughtful blackboard menu that eschews culinary somersaults in favour of a bedrock of well-executed modern British ideas.

The kitchen relies on a network of local suppliers, but the repertoire is wider in scope, with prosciutto and artichokes rubbing shoulders with a never-off-the-menu crispy duck, smoked chilli salsa and sour cream. Descriptions are refreshingly to-the-point, producing on one dreary winter’s day hearty garlic and thyme-roasted mushrooms on tapenade toast, then braised pork belly with crackling and apple sauce. Fish may be handled quite robustly, too, as when a whole gilthead bream is stuffed with garlic and rosemary and served with purple sprouting broccoli and roast potatoes.

There’s also a good home-made foccacia and desserts such as a ‘perfect’ flourless chocolate cake. Drinkers have their own bar and there’s a blackboard wine list with reasonable choice. House wines start at £11.50. Related to the Sportsman at Seasalter, Whitstable.

My wife and I lunched at the Granville today on spec and had one of the best meals we've eaten since we moved to Kent two years ago. Ambience as already described is cheerful and knowledgeable service and excellent food.

Ah, the food - my wife had pea and mint soup to start, with the flavours clear and vibrant; I had Granville's own bresaola, the best I've ever eaten - perfectly prepared, robustly marinated, and served with shavings of parmesan: you'd better enjoy strong flavours. She had coq au vin as a main course; I had smoked haddock in a mustard grain sauce with crispy, floury potatoes, boiled and briefly deep fried? Both dishes came with cabbage strips, which were crunchy and tasty in their own right - both triumphs in their separate ways. We have some good Gaggia espresso afterwards, too. Oh, forgot to mention the onion bread and fried pumpkin seeds served as an amuse-bouche before the meal - both perfectly done.

It's a Shepherd Neame pub, which is no bad thing in my view, as they're the best brewers around - I had early bird hop ale and my wife a glass of Chilean merlot, which she thought was fully up to standard. The Granville has an open, airy and down-to-earth pub ambience with log fires, games for the kiddies and newspapers for the grown-ups, and on a Tuesday - they don't serve food on Mondays - the clientele was of a certain age, as indeed we are. It's in both the Good Food Guide and the AA Good Pub Guide, with comments on it not being that inexpensive. Quite correctly, the Granville doesn't aim at ‘fine dining’, but judging by the food, it's worth every penny. It’s highly recommended.
(Reviewed by John N L Morrison 10 March 2009)
AA Pub Guide
Named after the Tudor warship, the Granville is a handsome solid building firmly anchored in the ancient village of Lower Hardres, just a five-minute drive from Canterbury city centre. With ample parking, a patio and large beer garden at the rear where summer barbecues take place, this Shepherd Neame pub is an ideal family venue, and dogs too are made welcome.

Nevertheless this is not a place for pub grub. The short but lively menu is designed for sophisticated tastebuds, offering for starters the likes of rock oysters with shallot vinegar, smoked local wigeon (a small wild duck) with mustard fruits, and antipasti. Main courses always comprise three meat and three fish dishes: slow-roast Waterham Farm chicken with truffle cream sauce, and Dungeness brill fillet braised in Macvin and morels are two examples. There is no children's menu as such, but portions from the main menu can be served where appropriate.
rom the same people behind the Sportsman, this modern gastropub is one of the best eating & drinking options in the Canterbury area. There’s a pub bar dispensing Shepherd Neame ales, a leather sofa filled-snug & a main dining room with an open-to-view kitchen.

The blackboard menu is short & to the point, fervent in its dedication to local & seasonal raw materials – so expect the likes of smoked local goose breast & mustard fruits, tender Godmersham venison with chocolate sauce & a superb coq au vin. Nice touches include outstanding homemade focaccia & simple desserts such as poached pear with vanilla ice cream. There’s no doubting the quality of the raw materials & the skill & ambition in the kitchen & it’s all backed up by good, casual service & a decent wine list.
Gourmet Britain
Although still a proper ‘local’, this pub is run by the same team who have the Sportsman at Whitstable (q.v.) – and is worth a detour if wishing to eat in the area. You’ll find wooden farmhouse-style tables and their food offerings displayed on a blackboard; and while the cooking might be called ‘homely’ in presentation, not many people eat at home at quite this standard – even their excellent home-made breads are not to be missed.

Expect the likes of ‘Smoked Mackerel with Potato Salad and Horseradish’; ‘Locally Smoked Widgeon Breast with Herb Salad and Mustard Fruits’ and ‘A plate of Bresaola’ (thinly-sliced cured beef) to begin. Maybe ‘Crispy Duck with Sour Cream and Chili Sauce’; ‘Pork Belly with Crackling & Apple Sauce’ or ‘Gilt-Head Bream with Rosemary and Garlic’ or seasonal game for something more substantial. Desserts include ‘Crème Brulée’; ‘Tart Tatin’, home-made sorbets and the like.
A: Street End, Lower Hardres, Kent, England CT4 7AL 
Google Map 
T: (01227) 700402 


Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Sportsman

"Simply excellent: go, eat, smile." Man of Kent
To find The Sportsman, you need to trek out of Whitstable, a couple of miles across the bleak mudflats to Seasalter. The pub may look rather weather-beaten from the outside, but the views from the beach and sea wall are impressive – in a blustery, bracing kind of way.

Inside, all is warm, cheerful and cosy, with bare boards, plain wooden tables and a few local landscape photos adding a touch of colour. The place has a genuine pub atmosphere, although everyone is here for the food these days.

Chef Steve Harris is happy to take inspiration from top London restaurants, but the results are very much his own and he has picked up a Michelin star for his efforts. There is plenty of self-reliant enterprise at work here: Steve cures his own hams, churns his own butter and even produces his own sea salt along the way. Local fish gets a good airing on the daily blackboard menu in the shape of rock oysters with slices of hot chorizo, poached smoked haddock with curried carrot sauce, braised brill fillet with mussel tartare and the like.

Meat eaters could focus on satisfying dishes such as coq au vin, crispy duck with smoked chilli salsa and sour cream and braised pork belly stuffed with black pudding and crackling. Those with a sweet tooth are likely to revel in rhubarb sorbet with burnt cream or jasmine tea junket with rosehip syrup and breakfast crunch. Tasting menus (Tue-Fri lunch and dinner) are worth exploring, and the wine list is full of interesting tipples at keen prices.
There’s a lot to admire about Steve Harris’s cooking. He has developed his own style which is a sophisticated form of the new no-frills British cooking – curing his own hams, churning his own butter, even making his own sea salt – while working with local farms to produce first-rate pork, lamb and chicken. The pub, too, has its own style: tucked away in marsh and farm land a couple of miles from touristy Whitstable, it’s a large, shabby building, full of light and big plain wooden tables.

But with the kitchen rising a good couple of notches both in scope and quality of cooking, the Sportsman must now be treated as a serious restaurant, albeit one where ordering at the bar is de rigueur and napkins remain resolutely paper. The short blackboard menu offers an intriguing array of dishes, from smoked mackerel on Bramley apple jelly with soda bread, or perfect pork terrine to some fine and original cooking in main courses, with proper appreciation of the importance of flavour: the combination of a smoked herring roe sauce with a perfectly timed fillet of brill ‘was inspired’, and reporters continue to endorse the never-off-the menu crispy duck with chilli salsa, sour cream and ‘excellent roast potatoes’. Desserts, no less inventive, include rhubarb sorbet served with burnt cream or a strawberry ice lolly with cake milk and elderflower foam. Service is laid back; house wines are £11.95.
As well as being a proper ‘local’, with views over the surrounding marshes - and very popular with walkers - this pub (run by the same team as the Granville at Lower Hardres) offers top-quality food. Don't be put off by the rather battered look - this comes from being so close to the sea. But once inside, you’ll find scrubbed pine tables, bare floorboards and local artwork – all giving a pleasant rustic feel.

Food is sourced locally, whenever possible, and you’ll find this chalked-up on a board. Lighter dishes or starters include the likes of ‘Bresaola’ (thinly-sliced cured beef); ‘Ham Terrine’; home-smoked Eel and of course Oysters in one way or another (perhaps with hot Chorizo).

For something more substantial, shades of Nico Ladenis with ‘Braised Fillet of Brill with Vin Jaune and Morels’; ‘Crispy Duck with Smoked Chili Salsa and Sour Cream’; ‘Braised Shoulder of Salt-Marsh Lamb’ or seasonal game. Fish is always a strong suit. Desserts might include ‘Crème Brulée’, 'Brioche with Strawberries'; ‘Chocolate Tart’ home-made sorbets and the like. Their home-made breads aren’t to be missed
Although it's not far from trendy Whitstable, Seasalter seems a hundred miles from the bustling Kentish town. The Sportsman, hidden away at the far end of the village on the fringes of the marshes, appears desolate & run down at first glance - but ignore the shabby exterior. Inside, the coastal light sweeps through an airy room with scrubbed tables decorated with jars of fresh wildflowers.

Fresh-baked breads are brought to diners while they wait for their meals, & the malty taste of a delicious soda bread hints at pleasures to come. Enormous oysters - served au naturel or jazzed up with hot, spicy slices of chorizo - are a great way to kick off the meal. Mains might include a fork-tender belly of pork atop a mound of creamy mash or simply seared fish fresh from the day's catch - it depends on what's in season that day. Leave room for one of the superb puddings.
A: Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 4BP
T: (01227) 273370