AWARD-WINNING KENTISH CUISINE AT THE COMPASSES INN, CRUNDALE
Once upon a time, the lovely wooden beamed, traditional Compasses Inn at Crundale, near Canterbury, might have been a pleasant surprise, come across by accident on a Sunday stroll or a spontaneous outing in the Kent countryside. And although that may still be a case for some, for many the Compasses has become quite the destination restaurant – and for very good reason.
Debuting at an impressive number 17 in the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastro Pubs in the UK, head chef Rob Taylor, winning chef of the year in those same awards, being awarded two AA rosettes, becoming Michelin recommended, and being named local restaurant of the year for the South East by the Waitrose Good Food Guide, has all helped to make the Compasses the place to be. That and the fact that the food is pretty darn special, of course.
As is the pub itself. Comfortable, just the right side of casual with just a slight fine-dining atmosphere, this is the kind of place that can be visited time and again. It’s the kind of place that feels like home, but with the added benefit of award-winning cuisine.
My guest and I had a hard time choosing our meal; everything on the menu looked exquisite. Thankfully, the friendly staff were happy to give us a few hints and tips, and we finally arrived at a decision – we would have the crab and the duck to start. Or, to give these dishes their full titles, we would have crab and apple salad with honey glazed bacon and crispy garlic and the crispy confit duck with candied carrot and orange emulsion. These were undoubtedly a good choice. The salad was tart and crunchy and the crab softened it all with a smooth and unspoiled flavour. The duck was perfectly cooked, just pink inside, crispy skin on the outside, and the sweetness of the carrot and orange together blended well with the meat.
With starters working out so well, we were excited to try our mains, which consisted of 40-day aged Kentish beef with caramelised Stilton, crispy onions and gratin potatoes; pan-fried loin of cod with cauliflower purée, buttered kale, burnt onion chutney and a red wine jus; and (because we really couldn’t decide) confit belly pork with black pudding purée, barbecued celeriac and candied apple relish to share.
Beef and Stilton was not a combination I had tried before, but it is certainly one I’ll be trying again. The salty cheese and the melt-in-the-mouth beef were a triumph. The cod was handled lightly, and despite the power of the accompaniments, it never got lost – the sign of true cleverness in the kitchen. And although we didn’t really have room (and although we knew that desserts would need to be sampled because we didn’t want to miss out on those), we did manage the pork belly, thank goodness. It smelled far too good to pass up, and it tasted even better.
The staff were wise to our full-up status, so they gave us plenty of time before bringing out our fabulous desserts: vanilla crème brulée and salted caramel parfait with chocolate cream and peanut brittle. Simple, elegant, and unforgettable, these desserts were the best way we could think of to end what had been a magnificent meal. The Compasses Inn had won yet another two fans.
The Compasses Inn Crundale