The Art of Food
Never before in culinary history has the aesthetic representation of food been more important. Hand in hand with this idea comes society’s relentless thirst for even greater sensory overload through flamboyant foodie experiences – and Kent has delivered, turning food into its very own art form.
By Olivia Riccini
With Instagram and the sharing of images and experiences spiralling into infinity, the visual side of eating has become just as crucial as the taste. Today, the biggest factor to propel eateries, bakeries and restaurants out of the unknown and into the ‘must try’ or ‘much loved favourite’ categories is no longer just through word of mouth or a glittering review in a newspaper or magazine. Since the rise of social media in the late 2000s, it has become pivotal for any aspiring chef, baker or food business to secure images and videos of their products and send them out into the stratosphere in order to beckon new customers through visual captivation. But what lies at the heart of this food-image-customer magnetism process, is the fact that the food must look enticing and exquisite to begin with.
Food is notoriously difficult to capture on camera; we’ve all heard of the tricks of the trade that go on behind the scenes of big corporate food advertisement campaigns – from shaving foam to engine oil – it takes a lot for food to look appropriately tantalising through the screen. But what of smaller, local food outlets? We have a myriad of outstanding eateries, bakeries and more in Kent that are famous for providing not just sensational food that is tempting to look at, but also deliver on every other sensual scale. From beautifully presented main dishes, sorcerer-style cocktails and extravagant cakes to elegant desserts, artisan cheeses and everything in between, the chefs, bakers and mixologists of Kent have created a true artform out of food and drink.
Cooking and baking is without argument an art form of its own. An artist’s creativity is challenged even further with food through the need to please every single sense a human is in possession of. Today, the pressure for food creatives to (increasingly rapidly) create ‘better’ products and experiences is stronger than ever. Each day we see new and utterly original takes on food burst into the culinary world, from Heston’s extraordinary concepts all the way to Marco Pierre White championing veganism with his new Redefine Meat 3D-printed plant-based steak.
It comes as no surprise that Kent, with its burgeoning foodie scene, Garden of England produce and prime coastal position for superior seafood, alongside its inspirational landscapes and aesthetic views, has become the ultimate melting pot of creative food and drinks venues as well as the go-to location for both seasoned and brand new chefs to situate their businesses.
To celebrate the art of food in this produce-orientated county, we have rounded up some of Kent’s most flamboyant, creative and artistic food and drinks outlets.
Curious Eatery at The Albion Inn, Boughton Monchelsea
Created by two sisters that trained in Cape Town at Silwood School of Cookery, Le Cordon Bleu, who now work alongside chef Ollie, whom they met while cheffing on Richard Branson’s private island, it is no surprise that the Curious Eatery is an experience for all the senses. This quirky team invites adventurous guests to ‘Journey through the looking glass’ (just like Alice) to magical foodie events and dining experiences fuelled by their passion for sustainability, community and food. A friendly, whimsical and totally imaginative venue to visit, The Curious Eatery comes complete with original rustic decor and a fun atmosphere. The perfect setting to enjoy the carefully crafted, fresh and vibrant dishes that proudly parade their own unique flair and style to every guest.
Set in perhaps what is one of Kent’s most artistic spots, right next to our famous Turner Gallery with magnificent views of the artist’s very own seaside sunsets from Margate’s iconic harbour arm is Sargasso. Epitomising the arty-indie-hipster scene that Margate is now famous for, Sargasso, comes from the trendy team behind East London’s Brawn Restaurant. Heralding itself as ‘a place by the sea to enjoy coastal cooking, real wine, music and guest broadcasting’, Sargasso offers stunning small plates that burst with the flavour of local produce. Enjoy dishes such as braised courgettes, artichoke and wild garlic pesto, as well as onglet, Tropea onions and anchoiade. Savour as the sunset over the sea makes this experience all the more surreal.
Winner of numerous awards and accolades including the Best Bistro Award, Samphire Whitstable is another sublime seaside haven. An independent, family run bistro in the heart of the town, Samphire proudly showcases the best seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms, allotments, fisherman and producers in Kent and the South East. Beautifully presented plates will arrive at your table and include one of Kent’s and Whitstable’s most famous delicacies – Whitstable Oysters. The presentation of the dishes is just as imaginative as the abundance of flavour.
Square Fish Café, Lenham
A contemporary restaurant and bar set in the picturesque market village of Lenham in a sensitively-restored grade II listed building. Experience the art of the ocean and the beauty of fish through this menu that offers the best in fresh local seafood, with plenty of options for both meat eaters and vegetarians. Inspired by the owner’s Cypriot heritage, expect to marvel at some gorgeous Mediterranean twists as well as French influence from head chef Fabien.
With a daily specials board and a catch of the day, The Square Fish showcases the freshest bounty from the Kent coast with a focus on quality ingredients where flavour is indeed an artform.
Mrs Sourdough Bakery, Chatham
A bakery, patisserie and coffee shop located in historic Chatham, this Medway gem is always filled with fresh baked sourdough loaves, as well as incredible cakes, savoury treats, lunches and speciality coffee. Well known for their artisan bread which is kneaded, leavened, shaped and baked with traditional methods using no artificial preservatives and no flour improvers, founder of Mrs Sourdough, Kat, says: “The only thing we add is our endless passion for real bread”. Kat also explains why she chose to focus her creativity on sourdough. “Sourdough bread isn’t made with commercial yeast but with a live fermented culture of flour and water (also called sourdough starter or wild yeast) to help the dough rise. This makes it one of the healthiest breads as the long fermentation helps break down gluten and it becomes more digestible and you feel much lighter.” Kat puts all her passion and creativity into the loaves and has quickly gained a huge and loyal following due to the quality of the bread and her kindness.
Pearson’s Arms, Whitstable
Fundamentally a seaside pub in Whitstable, just a ‘hop, skip and a jump away from the water’s edge’, the Pearson’s Arms pride themselves on retaining all the great qualities of a classic English pub: a cosy feel, friendly atmosphere and quality food and drink. Inspired by the beauty of Whitstable and its magnetic charm and quirky character, the Pearson’s Arms is very much a product of its environment. Whitstable and the surrounding area is famous for its ales and locally grown or caught produce, and their inventive menus regularly change to reflect the best of this delicious seasonal fare. Not only applauded for their food, the Pearson’s Arms is also well-known for their passion for cocktails, with every cocktail crafted by a trained mixologist.
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.
Roddy Burger at The Sussex Arms, Royal Tunbridge Wells
Yes, a burger can be an artform. With an infinite choice of fillings, relishes and accompaniments, a juicy burger oozing with flavour, style and even charisma of sorts lends itself to being a representation of both chef, county and taster. Perfectly embodying this idea is Roddy Burger at The Sussex Arms on Royal Tunbridge Wells’ Pantiles, who are also due to open up their own restaurant on Camden Road in the town. Using the best local meat and fresh ingredients Kent has to offer, Roddy Burger will have both burger-lovers and non-burger-lovers salivating when they glimpse a creation from spa-town burger genius.
Frog and Scot, Deal
Everyone has heard the opinion that French cuisine is the best in the world. Although we at insideKENT believe that this is an impossible title to award, we agree that French is one of the most elegant and artistic cuisines. Representing this perfectly from the beautiful seaside town of Deal is Frog and Scot. A little bistro mentioned in both the Michelin Guide and Good Food Guide, Frog and Scot is bistronomy at its very best. Serving both classic and contemporary dishes, the restaurant has a marble bar at which to sip exquisite cocktails and intimate Parisian style tables at which to indulge in refined and perfectly crafted French dishes.
Tallow Restaurant, Southborough near Royal Tunbridge Wells
“Wherever they go, I will follow,” said revered food journalist Grace Dent in The Guardian when she spoke of Tallow’s dynamic husband and wife team, Rob and Donna Taylor. Donna, a trained pastry chef, now runs front of house and Rob exerts his genius in the kitchen as chef. As previous owners of the award-winning Compasses Inn in Crundale, a Top 50 gastropub for eight years and recipient of the Bib Gourmand, Rob and Donna have achieved critical success from the hospitality industry, national restaurant critics and repeat diners. Their most recent accolade comes in the form of being named in Estrella Damn’s National Restaurant Awards top 100 list. Showcasing Rob’s unpretentious style where good ingredients are elevated with a sharp attention to detail using modern techniques and bold flavours, the menu at Tallow is an artform to be marvelled at. An East Kent native, Rob brings with him a wealth of local suppliers who source an abundance of goodies from the Kent larder. Visitors to Tallow are sure to be in awe when it comes to both visual pleasure and flavour.
The Windmill, Hollingbourne
A wonderfully cosy pub offering wholesome food and a friendly atmosphere, sometimes art comes in the form of comfort and a warm feeling of contentment. Priding themselves on using the best seasonal British ingredients sourced from local farmers to produce a tempting menu that has become well known for both its heartiness and its sophistication, guests at The Windmill in Hollingbourne can enjoy pub classics with a contemporary twist, traditional Sunday roasts and an enticing beer and wine list. All dishes are presented beautifully and any pictures taken of them will emit a heartwarming glow to any viewer.
Chantilly’s Bakery, Sandwich
A family run bakery in the heart of Sandwich, Chantilly’s is a realisation of this Kent family’s vision for creating and sharing affordable artisan breads, pastries and confectionery that are freshly baked each day. Run by Paul and Pauline Usherwood alongside their three daughters, each family member brings their own signature twist to the produce while maintaining traditional baking methods. Passionate about using natural and local ingredients, this is reflected in the unique flavour and character of each product. Based on the true traditions of artisan craft baking, Chantilly’s believe in a slow, timely fermentation process. They use all natural and organic ingredients which allow for natural preservation and better digestibility. Not only do Chantilly’s place emphasis on this scientific side which helps to develop flavour, they also pour passion into the beautiful visual outcome of their creations. With everything from blondies and brownies to drip cakes and artisan loaves, Chantilly’s is baking at its best.
The Bell in Ticehurst
A traditional country pub restaurant with rooms and a history that stretches back to 1560 when it was originally a coaching inn, today, The Bell has smoothed out the rougher edges while preserving the wonderful imperfections that somehow make it perfect. Believing in engaging with nature by cherishing the rich and varied bounty that each season brings, The Bell’s ethos blends three ingredients – people, produce and place – to create uncomplicated, unrushed food in their very own signature style to reflect the beauty, simplicity and originality of their character and surroundings. Serving gorgeous wholesome food to represent the Garden of England’s magnificent flavoursome produce on picture-perfect platters.