Kent’s Top Lunch Spots
As Milton Friedman so famously said: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” True, perhaps, but there is certainly such a thing as a great lunch, a delicious lunch, an unforgettable lunch, and a special lunch. In Kent, we are lucky enough to have a seemingly infinite selection of places to dine at lunchtime, and many of them are superb. Take a look at our extraordinary selection below, and prepare to feel hungry…
by Lisamarie Lamb
Chapter One // www.chapteronerestaurant.co.uk // Locksbottom
Chapter One is what fine dining is all about. It is exceptional food in a stylish setting, an extensive list of carefully chosen wines, impeccable service with meticulous attention to detail, and outstanding value for money. This is a first-class dining experience that’s contemporary and cosmopolitan – inspired modern-European cooking making the most of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Yet it’s also firmly rooted in traditional culinary excellence, subtly referencing the elegance, refinement and integrity. It’s this winning combination that has won them plenty of awards, most recently the Kent Life Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year.
Secret Garden // www.secretgardenkent.co.uk // Mersham
The Secret Garden is a beautiful restaurant set amongst the wonderful Kent countryside. With sumptuous views over the large Victorian walled garden and cobbled courtyard, you will feel relaxed and revived. The ethos of the chef and owners of The Secret Garden is ‘best of British’ and they offer excellent local seasonal food at all times, aiming to use only produce sourced from Kent – not one of their excellent suppliers (including J.C. Rook & Sons, Shepherd Neame, Chapel Down, and Bank Farm) are more than 15 miles away from them.
The Windmill // www.thewindmillbyrichardphillips.co.uk // Hollingbourne
The Windmill by Richard Phillips is where distinctive character, real ales, fine wines and good, wholesome food combine to create the ideal pub environment for thirsty passersby to avid foodies alike. The Windmill is very much a community pub whilst retaining a welcome to tourists and those in search of a great night out; a place where local and seasonal fare are as much of the experience as the proud heritage of the village. The Windmill is a totally different Richard Phillips experience, but retains the quality, passion, and attentive service for which his restaurants are known.
Rocksalt // www.rocksaltfolkestone.co.uk // Folkestone
The heart and soul of Rocksalt is the beautiful restaurant. With its Cherner chairs and marble facade, the bar is a fitting welcome to a stunning room. Cantilevered over the harbour, the floor-to-ceiling glass wall gives every table a view of the harbour, and on a clear day, France. The main section of the restaurant has lime washed oak flooring and dark timber tables, giving it a luxurious but simple feel. The room is surrounded by green leather banquettes, which provide the perfect vantage from which to see the tide roll in and the fishing boats land the day’s catch.
The Corner House // www.thecornerhouseminster.co.uk // Minster
At the Corner House, it’s all about serving quality British food in relaxed surroundings. The menu changes frequently, depending on the seasonal availability of ingredients and all dishes are made from scratch including the pasta, bread and ice creams. And all ingredients are sourced locally where possible. Braised venison and mushroom pudding with savoy cabbage, pulled pork sandwich, triple-cooked chips and tomato salad, wild mushroom and leek tart with butternut squash purée and salad, and Biddenden mussels with triple-cooked chips are just some of the delicacies on offer at lunchtime.
Royal Harbour Brasserie // www.royalharbourbrasserie.co.uk // Ramsgate
With an unrivalled position on the harbour arm in Ramsgate, the Royal Harbour Brasserie recreates the relaxed style of the original Parisienne brasseries. The menu concentrates on simple dishes beautifully prepared with the freshest of local, Kent ingredients. The brassiere’s unique position offers panoramic views of Ramsgate marina, the jetty and out to sea. Even France can be seen on a clear day! Dine al fresco on the extensive terrace, and enjoy a lunch with a real cosmopolitan air to it. The food here is fresh and tasty, and includes some truly exceptional dishes such as fried duck egg with brown shrimps in shrimp butter on granary bread; Swedish hash (chorizo, sausage, bacon, onions covered in Worcester sauce and topped with an egg; and smoked Brogdale bacon or sausage sandwich.
Eastwell Manor // www.eastwellmanor.co.uk // Ashford
The Manor Restaurant at Eastwell Manor is inventive and creative when it comes to the food on offer. Choose from an extensive range of French and modern English cuisine in the award-winning restaurant where quality is the hallmark. Formal but intimate, this is the setting within the wood-panelled dining room where you dine in the company of the hotel’s resident pianist. A specially designed lunch menu is available here, and it includes venison pâté with chutney and toast; corn-fed chicken breast with chorizo, wild mushrooms and game faggot; and fillet of salmon with crab gnocchi, smoked salmon hollandaise, and baby beetroot.
Deeson’s British Restaurant // www.deesonsrestaurant.co.uk // Canterbury
Deeson’s is a privately owned restaurant situated in the heart of the historic cathedral city of Canterbury that prides itself on using the best produce that Kent – the allotment of England – has to offer. The passion-led team uses these wonderful ingredients to create new and innovative British dishes. Deeson’s even grows and rears its own produce too, and The Bunker is a five-acre smallholding that the talented staff members use to grow a selection of seasonal vegetables and breed livestock and poultry. There are even beehives here!
Turner Contemporary Café // www.turnercontemporary.org/visit/turner-contemporary-cafe // Margate
The café at Turner Contemporary is a great place to relax, drink, eat and meet family and friends. With stunning views across Margate bay and an outdoor terrace, you can enjoy modern seasonal cuisine, whatever the weather. The aim here is to prepare food with ingredients sourced from independent suppliers within 40 kilometres of Margate. Dishes include a variety of interesting and tasty salads, free-range chicken fricassee with Nash Farm vegetables, and the local ploughman’s – a true treat! There is a children’s menu too so the little ones can enjoy their lunch as much as you.
The Bull // www.thebullhotel.com // Wrotham
The Bull in the historic village of Wrotham is a destination country hotel with a highly regarded restaurant whose menu is matched with perfect wines. In the restaurant, the menu has been completely revamped by a talented new team of chefs (Ben Richards, sous chef; Rob McLean, chef de partie; and John Coles, commis chef) led by head chef James Hawkes, a professional with over 20 years’ experience. The award-winning modern British menu makes delicious use of the highest quality seasonal produce from the wealth of fantastic local Kentish producers – from free-range eggs at nearby Wood Farm, to the royally acclaimed Winterdale Shaw cheese produced locally and the now legendary beefsteaks from close-by Glover’s Farm, which are hung exclusively for The Bull’s restaurant for 30 days.
Oscar & Bentleys // www.oscar-bentleys.co.uk // Canterbury
Oscar & Bentleys was opened in 2012 and it had a mission: to become the best gluten-free bistro around. It has certainly succeeded in that mission, catering to all allergies whilst sending out the most delicious (and great-looking) food. Dishes include smoked salmon and eggs, halloumi wrap, roast beetroot and goats’ cheese salad, the gourmet burger, and desserts such as Eton mess sundae and sticky toffee pudding.
The Great British Kitchen // www.leeds-castle.com/restaurant // Maidstone
The Great British Kitchen takes the finest seasonal produce and adds culinary passion to create a delicious menu of both classic and modern British dishes. Only the highest quality ingredients are considered – local meat bred in the surrounding Kent Countryside and daily home-baked sourdough bread and fresh herbs cut from the Castle gardens. Set within the beautiful Leeds Castle estate and offering stunning views of the 900-year-old castle, The Great British Kitchen offers a wonderful dining experience, including a sensation lunchtime menu that includes dishes such as Kentish cauliflower cheese, roasted wild wood pigeon, and estate fig and homemade goats’ cheese tart.
The Marquis // www.themarquisatalkham.co.uk // Dover
The Marquis is strikingly contemporary restaurant with rooms set in an idyllic Kentish village, in the undulating hills of Alkham, resting neatly in the valley. It is overlooked by St Anthony’s Church, which dates back to the 12th century and is located just five miles from Dover and Folkestone. The restaurant is a revelation. Head chef, Andrew ‘Drew’ King, provides seasonally inspired and locally sourced menus, which are as fresh as they are imaginative, and the elegant 21st-century styling is exceptional. Food is sumptuous here, and includes ham hock and prosciutto terrine, piccalilli, and truffle dressing; seafood mosaic, tempura fennel, caper and raisin purée, and sauce vierge; and roast lamb rack, pickled beetroot, courgette, and smoked aubergine. Desserts are just as mouthwatering – try the salted caramel tart, malt milk sorbet and burnt orange purée; or the warm Bakewell tart, crème anglaise and tonka bean ice cream.
The Great British Pizza Company // www.greatbritishpizza.com // Margate
GB Pizza Co’s founders have always been passionate about food. Rachel Seed is an award-winning chef (Best Gastropub in the South West; UK Food Pub of the Year) and a former food writer; Lisa Richards is a journalist who has travelled the world reviewing hotels and restaurants. GB Pizza Co started life in the back of a 1974 VW Campervan. Rachel and Lisa travelled up and down the country with a ‘portable’ wood-fired oven, serving their pizzas at farmers’ markets, festivals and outdoor events. Very quickly afterwards, they found a site on the historic seafront and opened their first permanent restaurant. Thanks goodness they did, as now you can savour the delicious pizzas on offer including chorizo and chilli, veal and sage salami, and pepper and goat curd.
Hythe Brasserie // www.hythebrasserie.com // Hythe
Hythe Brasserie offers classical cuisine with a contemporary twist. Simple, warm décor creates an intimate ambiance and is complemented by first-class service without fuss to create a great dining experience. Light and tasty lunches are prepared using seasonal ingredients for optimum freshness. The main menu is complemented by specials, which change daily. And what a menu! Dishes include garlic and herb-crusted New Zealand mussels; freshly battered cod, chips, and minty peas; hot chicken bap with mango and chilli salsa; and green bean and rocket pesto linguine.
Thackeray’s // www.thackerays-restaurant.co.uk // Tunbridge Wells
Along the upper reaches of the London Road, facing the common, stand a number of villas where spa visitors would have stayed in the 18th century. Amongst the oldest of these is one that is weather-boarded, tile-hung and built in a traditional Kentish style; this was William Makepeace Thackeray’s home. This is Thackeray’s restaurant. The lunch menu here is refined and elegant, delicious and delightful. It includes layers of smoked salmon with lightly curried butter, coriander, anchovy, apple and horseradish; pecorino and bacon croque monsieur with tomato and rosemary fondue and fine lettuce; and chargrilled rump of Kentish lamp with Moroccan-style cous cous, apricots, mint, tomato, red onion, and ‘Ras al Hanout’ spice, as well as many other intriguing and mouthwatering dishes.
Hotel du Vin // www.hotelduvin.com/tunbridge // Tunbridge Wells
Lovingly converted from a grade II-listed mansion, Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells is one of this stunning spa town’s architectural landmarks. The beautiful Georgian architecture has been restored and enhanced throughout, and whether you choose to eat your lunch in the stunning dining room or dine al fresco on the terrace with wonderful views out over the ornamental gardens of Calverley Park, you will be treated to a lunch that is memorable for all the right reasons. Grilled Normandy chicken, moules frites marinières, Hotel du Vin burger and pommes frites, and the exceptional four-course Sunday brunch are all available here.
Pork & Co // www.porkandco.co.uk // Canterbury
Described as “the finest pork you ever did have” Pork and Co in Sun Street, Canterbury, has a lot to offer. The sensational pork comes from pigs that are all free range, and all rolls and breads are homemade. Many of the excellent ingredients come from Pork and Co’s very own smallholding too. The menu includes 14-hour, slow-roasted pulled pork rolls, homemade brioche buns, slaws, sauces, exquisite crackling, sausage rolls, Scotch eggs (made with their own free-range eggs), macaroni cheese, and salt beef in a homemade seeded bagel. Pork and Co is exactly right for the pulled pork revolution the country is currently experiencing.
Fish & Beer // www.fishandbeerbroadstairs.co.uk // Broadstairs
The Fish and Beer bar in Broadstairs serves eight different beers and various fish dishes including paella, mussels, escalopes and more. If you enjoy simple, well-cooked food, and enjoy sampling different varieties of beer – some of which you may never have seen or heard of before – then Fish and Beer is the ideal place for you to enjoy a seaside lunch in a beautiful spot.
The Ambrette // www.theambrette.co.uk // Margate and Canterbury
At The Ambrette restaurants, the menu is seasonal and features a mix of local and exotic ingredients. The cooking style is influenced by regional Indian cooking. Dev Biswal has an adventurous, artistic and open-minded approach to creating dishes. As a result, influences of other global cuisines such as French and South East Asian are reflected through the menu. The style of service is friendly and professional at the same time. The restaurant features unique foraged produce such as local seaweed and game along with traditional favourites such as lamb and chicken. Guests are treated to an array of palate teasers and tasters throughout the meal.
Café Nucleus // www.nucleusarts.com // Chatham, Rochester & Maidstone
An oasis of calm in the heart of Chatham, the award-winning Nucleus Arts Centre is a cultural and creative organisation of sorts, but it doesn’t stop there. Serving up a mouth-watering menu in its onsite café, discerning diners can look forward to a choice of homemade soups, sandwiches, paninis, salads, daily specials, matchless coffees and more. From field, boat, herd or flock, Café Nucleus works with its suppliers – local and further afield – to ensure it delivers the very best produce from traceable origins. In addition to its two Chatham locations, Nucleus boasts friendly, inviting café spaces in Rochester and Maidstone too.
McLeods Restaurant and Bistro // www.midkent.ac.uk/college-facilities/the-hub/mcleods-restaurant / Gillingham
Relax and enjoy the fine food and atmosphere in McLeods, part of the Mid-Kent College. The food is modern and creative, yet simple. Each dish is composed by the head chef from flavours and ingredients that complement each other, and make the very most of local produce and suppliers. Food includes slow-cooked chicken breast, roasted pepper, red wine braised chorizo and spinach; pan-seared scallops with slow-cooked pork belly, peas, and cider foam; and roasted banana crème brûlée with pineapple sorbet, spiced oat and Muscavado crumble.