Innovation, style and faultless food at herd. – the steak restaurant that Canterbury has been waiting for
Besides the brilliant branding, which allows for any number of plays on words revolving around both the true or implied meaning of the word ‘herd’, and besides the impactful logo which flows as seamlessly as the service inside this tour de force of a restaurant, what’s the best thing about herd.? The food. Which shouldn’t be surprising, but isn’t as common as one would hope… Although people are seemingly more particular than ever about where they choose to spend their hard-earned cash, a lot of restaurants seem to rely too heavily on what they offer outside of their menus than on what they’re feeding their customers. Not so at herd. An exciting and exceptional addition to Canterbury’s burgeoning dining scene.
That said, there’s evidently been incredible clarity of thought and an awful lot of hard work that’s gone into the experience of a meal at herd. Experiential is, after all, today’s hospitality buzzword, with discerning diners looking for more than just good food on a pretty plate. A cool, but sophisticated journey of discovery, the herd. experience begins as soon as you step through the doors.
Originally opening on 1 June 1911, the building originated as the Canterbury Electric Cinema, and subtle nods to this fascinating history remain. The home of two amazing high-backed chairs draped in cowhide that take centre stage (a clever but not conceited link to the restaurant’s steak specialty and a great spot for social media pics), the former cinema box office is now a sultry speakeasy bar where you can grab a drink and look at the menu while waiting for your table. An original oak-panelled corridor then leads to the piece-de-resistance, the restaurant itself, via a super-stylish main bar custom-made with an industrial décor of brushed metals and reclaimed wood.
herd.’s interior design is a masterclass in how to nail consistent branding but without pretension, or worse, an obvious theme. Rich in teal-coloured leather, with lots of natural wood and flashes of gold that glint in the light that streams in from a huge floor-to-ceiling window, textured wallpaper in tones of gold complement the very contemporary but equally comfortable look. The vibe is exciting but relaxed; the service attentive, but not intrusive; and a laid-back soundtrack of varied music plays unobtrusively in the background allowing herd.’s commendable commitment to sustainability and provenance take centre stage.
Everything at the restaurant, from the choice of decor to the produce their talented head chef Darryl Quested uses and the fabulous cocktail list, is inspired by the building’s history, location and the characters that have brought it to life over time. Their classic Old Fashioned for example is called the One Eleven as herd. threw open its doors exactly 111 years to the month that the original Electric Cinema did the same – and its these touches that highlight the owners’ faultless attention to detail. Additionally, all of their produce (including a local wine list to die for) is sourced as locally as possible with the exception of their steak which is sourced from the best global stock including world-award-winning meat from Tom Hixson of Smithfield. Any non-local wines have been expertly chosen by local wine experts Clive Barlow, Canterbury’s own Master of Wine, and Johnny Wren, director of Canterbury’s acclaimed Songbird Wines.
So, let’s talk about the food. I mentioned that head chef Darryl Quested was talented. He’s not. He’s astonishing. With an imaginative and clearly very natural culinary instinct, he has the chef’s equivalent of the Midas touch, which is why the menu is wonderfully uncomplicated. Divided into simple sections: graze, starters, mains, bird, land, fish, sides and pudding, there is something for everyone at herd. from whipped cod roe and bread (taramasalata, but elevated to a heavenly level) for smaller appetites, to tender, juicy burgers for the purists, and a Josper-grilled roasted cauliflower steak dripping in the salty-sweet richness of miso butter for any veggies in the house.
But this is a steak restaurant first and foremost, so it was to the steak section of the menu that my eyes immediately went. Cooked over the open flames of the Josper grill, we opted for a sharing board comprising last year’s World Steak Challenge winner – the diamond-grade Prussian Black, which was juicy and buttery with a lovely bite; 48–day aged, grass-fed ribeye – rich and beefy with earthy undertones; and a chocolate-fed Irish wagyu with a deep almost caramel sweetness and a tenderness of texture that I’ve never in my life experienced. Outstanding; every single one.
Other standout dishes were a zingy starter of citrus-cured mackerel, fennel escabeche and split buttermilk sauce, which sang with South American flavours; Josper-grilled cabbage with toasted almonds and ginger butter – sweet, nutty and palate cleansing all at once; and – because who could possibly resist – a Godminster cheddar mac and cheese, which oozed with velvety smooth, salty melted cheese underneath a crispy lid.
When you have the skill and technique to cook ingredients and bring out every ounce of their individual flavour like Quested clearly does, you don’t need to complicate your menu and the food served at herd. is not only testament to the fact that they know exactly who they are and what they’ve set out to become, but that elevated food doesn’t have to be served in an affected setting. It’s simply brilliant. I urge you to book.
49a St Peter’s Street