Fit for a King
From Michelin star sensations to fabulous dining experiences celebrated for their unique approaches to food, in Kent live places of unadulterated dining elation.
With innovative menus that serve local specialties, there is no doubt that every acclaimed restaurant in Kent takes some inspiration from their location: The Garden of England. A place awash with some of the country’s finest ingredients, from Kent cherries to Romney Marsh lamb, any restaurant setting up in Kent will not escape our plethora of perfect produce. This combined with the ultimate geographical location, strategically positioned between the global melting-pot that is the London dining scene and the rest of Europe, has allowed Kent to become a paradisiacal foodie passageway.
In turn, Kent has summoned culinary geniuses from far and wide who have thus dreamed up an array of acclaimed dining destinations, devoted to honouring the county’s farming roots while embracing their own unique approaches towards food and the style in which it is served. Now Kent’s dining scene prospers, known globally for its hoard of award-winners that include Michelin stars, Bib Gourmands, AA Rosettes and a host of other critical recognitions. With a landscape that provides a diversity of stunning scenes, from panoramic ocean views to historic towns nestled amongst rolling countryside, diners will not only have an extensive choice of cuisine but an eclectic visual mix of venues and sublime surroundings.
From ancient inns with crooked beams and crackling open fires, to slick restaurants with marble-topped bars and floor-to-ceiling glass windows that frame scenes of the roaring English Channel, Kent is the ultimate place to delight every sense. Proud home to a host of notoriously exquisite fine-dining experiences, exceptional tasting menus, perfectly paired wines, elevated gastropubs and the creators who carefully crafted them – Kent will undoubtedly have any epicurean captivated. Here are just some of insideKENT’s selected fine-dining experiences, fit for foodies and royalty alike:
Sitting neatly in the pretty village of Saltwood in what was once the village shop, is the curiously named Hide and Fox. Although a neighbourhood restaurant, Hide and Fox takes on a contemporary identity in everything from food to decor. Serving vibrant modern cuisine, Hide and Fox revel in their friendly and informal atmosphere, which embraces an accessible fine dining experience with a relaxed and unpretentious approach. Praised by the Michelin Guide for its unique identity and take on food and having already claimed three AA Rosettes, Hide and Fox was first awarded their Michelin star in January 2021 which it retained for this year’s Michelin announcements in March. Head chef Allister chooses every ingredient with a focus on the best quality and designs menus to showcase the season. With the help of their meticulously selected suppliers, their aim is to source only the best produce available, locally where possible.
Offering a carefully crafted five or eight course tasting menu, as well as hand selected wine pairings managed by the genius of Alice, Allister’s sommelier wife.
Offering a five course tasting menu consisting of small, seasonal dishes which showcase the local environment, The Sportsman Seasalter has retained its Michelin star for 2023, having held it since 2008. This menu is put together day to day and includes recipes from the past twenty years along with new ideas. An inn has stood here since 1642 and The Sportsman’s reputation still brings diners from across the country to this windswept spot by the sea wall. The Thames Estuary provides wonderfully fresh fish and oysters, and the adjacent marshes, woods and soils provide meat, game and vegetables. The daily changing five course menu is displayed on blackboards next to the bar and, while the place has a comfortingly traditional feel, the dishes mix old favourites with newer ideas. Cooking is assured and satisfying, with seamless flavour combinations and an understated level of complexity.
Retaining their Michelin star for 2023, this Grade II listed 16th century pub sits in the charming village of Bridge within the Nailbourne Valley and its low beams and fireplaces add plenty of character. The Michelin Guide comments: “The kitchen knows to keep things simple when it’s called for – such as the fish cooked on the grill – but there’s plenty of imagination evident in the snacks and other skilfully executed dishes which deliver sophistication and refinement; whatever you choose you’ll find the food immeasurably satisfying, comforting and nourishing.”
Sitting in a delightful spot beside the river, The Fordwich Arms boasts a wisteria-covered terrace with idyllic Kentish village views. An impressive wood-topped bar and open fires welcome you in and the wood-panelled dining room bursts with charm. Cooking is distinctly modern, they use excellent quality ingredients, and their vision is without bounds, resulting in some impressive creativity and adventurous contrasts. The wine list contains plenty of gems from some first-class individual producers. The Fordwich Arms have retained their Michelin star for 2023 through the seasonal menus which focus on provenance, showcasing the best of local Kentish ingredients, sourced directly from local farms and producers. Chef Dan’s cooking is accomplished yet approachable, served in a relaxed pub environment with a choice of á la carte or tasting menus.
An exquisite restaurant free from pretension, while being steeped in charm and history. A former residence of author William Makepeace Thackeray, the building itself is more than 300 years old and is an architectural work of art. Odd angles, sloped ceilings and off-kilter stairways make the experience here captivating from the moment you set foot over the threshold. Sitting just off London Road, among a cluster of traditional-style English villas and overlooking the open grassy common – Thackeray’s is the epitome of everything Georgian Tunbridge Wells is so cherished and famous for. When it comes to food, Thackeray’s ethos states that they are not an exclusive restaurant and have no desire to be one. For that reason they offer a wide variety of menus, from a daily set lunch menu to their indulgent chef’s tasting menu. Head chef, Patrick Hill, uses his immense knowledge, passion and creativity to craft ever-changing, seasonal menus to inspire and delight all tastes.
A relaxed and stylish venue, serving a modern European menu, Chapter One is well regarded and highly recommended by the AA, Good Food Guide and Michelin. Offering exceptional food alongside an extensive list of carefully chosen wines and delicious cocktails, Chapter One has become one of Kent’s most outstanding and well-known dining experiences. Complete with impeccable service and meticulous attention to detail, Chapter One prides itself on being contemporary and cosmopolitan. With an inspired modern-European menu that regularly changes, Chapter One makes the most of fresh, seasonal ingredients grown locally.
Based in a sixteenth century weaver’s cottage, The West House is a small family-run restaurant with rooms. Boasting a reputation for fantastic food earned through chef-owner Graham’s focus on excellent delivery of Kent’s finest ingredients. Since opening, both Graham and the restaurant have been the recipients of numerous awards and accolades. His food has gained the restaurant multiple awards and features in all the major guidebooks.
“Our set multi-course menus showcases the very best produce available to us on any given day, the freshest fish straight from the sea, the finest reared meats, lovingly nurtured vegetables, picked and prepared the same day. Imagine that perfectly roasted loin of rare breed beef, the sweetest just cooked crab meat, the beautiful fresh turbot, cooked whole before being removed from the bone and served with the sweetest peas.” Says Graham. “These are just a few of the exciting possibilities that our seasonal bounty has to offer. Cooked from the heart and served with love to friends in my home. No menus full of pretentious descriptions and endless choices to wade through, just relax, have a drink and let us feed and look after you as friends.”
A jewel in Thanet’s crown that has started to embrace a chic persona in recent years, becoming a more understated, quieter, sleeker sister to neighbouring town Margate. In the centre of Westgate, visitors will find a high street steeped in heritage, boutique shops and fantastic foodie treasures. One of these comes in the form of Quince, a small British restaurant focusing on local ingredients with a splendid Spanish inflection. Expect a bright, modern dining room with solid wooden floors alongside unique dishes presented in perfect style and just as delicious in taste. Kent is showcased to its utmost potential here too, through a regularly changing menu which includes top-notch ingredients such as the Chartham Downs venison loin, and seafood dishes such as local oysters.
‘Good food, laid bare’ is the mantra that Michelin star winning chef Ben Crittenden uses for STARK and its frequently changing, seasonal six course tasting menu. An intimate and relaxed restaurant, all that the Broadstairs husband and wife team ask of their guests is that they ‘sit back, trust them with your dinner, and enjoy.’ Ben has been working as a chef since leaving school and is utterly dedicated to preparing and serving quality food, made from the best seasonal ingredients.
Sitting stylishly on the corner of a weatherboarded Sevenoaks street in the town, is Number Eight. It emits an air of cool, discreet confidence which effortlessly entices discerning diners in for an evening meal or indulgent lunch. Owned and run by chef and restaurateur Stuart Gillies and his wife Cecilia, their menu is a mix of modern European cuisine and traditional British fare, in a relaxed atmosphere. A classic cosy corner bistro space, with a large vibrant bar, offering cocktails, draft beers and an eclectic wine selection. The á la carte menu changes regularly as does the weekly changing set menu of seasonal classics. Expect gastronomic delights such as ‘Grilled Rye Bay Scallops’ with nduja sweetcorn and brioche crumb, sitting exquisitely in their fan-shaped shells. Other delicate small plates include ‘Pan Fried Scottish Salmon’ with cauliflower puree and caper and raisin dressing, laid before the diner in exquisite artistic simplicity.
A culmination of chef Adam Turley’s life-long passion for food, love for fresh, seasonal and regional ingredients, combined with a rich family history to create a relaxed and elegant dining experience. Adam and his wife Emma both grew up in neighbouring Sevenoaks with long family histories in the area. They opened The Old Bank Restaurant as a celebration of Adam’s passion for food as well as their family heritage, and thus offer divine contemporary, seasonal British cuisine, influenced by French techniques, using the best quality ingredients locally available. Indulge in the eight course tasting menu, or the vegan tasting menu, as you sit back and relax at this sophisticated yet unpretentious eating experience set in one of Westerham’s historic buildings. For those that may want to extend their learning in wine, the Old Bank’s beautiful vault has been transformed into a unique wine cellar. Located in the basement, The Vault is stocked with fabulous wines found throughout Europe, the Americas and Australasia. Guests can come and sample many different wines guided by the extremely knowledgeable restaurant manager. With the use of their ‘Corovin’ and ‘Verre de Vin’ systems, The Old Bank can serve tasters of nearly all their wines, sparkling wines and champagnes without the chance of spoilage.
If picturesque countryside, idyllic villages and incredible food is what you’re searching for on your epicurean quest, then look no further than Bowleys at The Plough. A dining destination with a heartwarming tale behind it, this village gem really is the pride and joy of the tight-knit community that helped save it. Once a village pub to be sold to a housing developer, The Plough is now an acclaimed fine-dining experience favourite with diners coming from far and wide to sample the food of head chef Alex Yates who now runs the establishment with his father David. Expect nothing less than creative culinary genius poured into crafting dishes made from locally sourced and foraged ingredients, meticulously selected by the visionary that is Alex. Dishes are frequently changing, but the beautiful presentation and miraculous flavour is unwavering.
Serving seasonal Kentish food at its best, Rocksalt is cantilevered over Folkestone’s thriving harbour with panoramic floor-to-ceiling views out over the English Channel. With such strong visuals that pour in through the windows, bounce off the roaring ocean and scintillate throughout the restaurant, it comes as no surprise that Rocksalt’s dishes reflect the beauty of their environment. With an ethos built around seasonality, locality and simplicity, Rocksalt focuses on flavour and presentation while allowing the best produce available to them from the south coast of Kent to shine through in every dish.
If ever there was a perfect setting for a contemporary take on refined, elegant dining, Dorothy & Marshall has found it. Located right in the heart of bustling suburban metropolis of Bromley, which relishes in its positioning that reaches the heart of the city of London or the rolling fields of Kent’s Garden of England in equi-time, the recently opened restaurant is already living up to its ambitions of bringing London-style dining to the suburbs with a side order of architectural wow-factor thrown in for good measure. Chef Ralph is passionate about British food and is focused on big, bold, layered flavours. His commitment to quality and his innovative twists on the classics make him the perfect fit for Dorothy and Marshall.
Priding themselves on their own homegrown produce, cultivated in the large Kitchen Garden accessible to guests, dishes can’t get more local than those at The Ferry House. With beef and game from the family estate and local produce from handpicked suppliers, The Ferry House menus are inspired by what’s at its seasonal best. As such, the menus can change with that day’s crop. Head Gardener, Natalie, and her team work together closely with the chefs, cropping daily to provide fresh, delicious and seasonal produce year-round. You’ll find it ‘cropping up’ everywhere on the menus – from mains and desserts, to jams and drinks. As well as divine food, expect surreal estuary views and rural tranquillity from this island spot.
Twice Kent Restaurant of the Year winner, this acclaimed and welcoming restaurant prides itself on the quality of its ingredients and kitchen expertise to deliver dishes to remember. Having opened in July 2016, The Corner House has become one of Canterbury’s most popular restaurants to visit. The 16th century former coach house, overlooks the city walls and its beautiful refurbishment retains lots of its original character. Just like the drinks menu, the food at The Corner House is made up of the best of Kent’s local suppliers, with vibrantly fresh seasonal produce set to adorn every dish.
Showcasing the best that Kent has to offer, head chef Shane and his team strive to delight and inspire with fresh, local and seasonal produce celebrating the very best of Kent. Much of Boys Hall’s menu is cooked over fire and their menu changes with the seasons. Brad and Richie have curated a wine cellar that is brimming with Kentish and international vintages along with expertly crafted cocktails to enjoy at any time of the day. Beautifully reimagined, the restaurant is accessed at the rear of the grand house, passing the flourishing kitchen garden (which was hand planted by the family last spring) to enter an alluring L-shaped space framed with floor-to-ceiling windows that, come summer, offer views out across the gardens and beyond.
A unique, rustic and utterly delicious way to taste the divine local produce of The Weald. With a focus on self-sufficiency, the menus are defined by the seasons – the kitchen working only with ingredients directly sourced from their own farm or other growers in the local region. Two brothers run this farmhouse-style restaurant and carefully craft the menu that changes daily, which is served as a multi-course dining experience for both lunch and dinner. The Small Holding’s full menu can be around 10 courses while their lunch menu is around seven and has been described by the Michelin Guide as ‘rustic British meets Nordic cooking’. The menu is always a reflection of the food available locally to the restaurant, as well as from their farm and despite the inventive dishes changing regularly, there is always a mixture of fish, meat and vegetables. The food is certain to have bold, well-balanced flavours and lots of personality due to the use of completely fresh ingredients and the expert craftsmanship of the chefs at this acclaimed foodie gem.