FeaturedFood + Drink

The East Kent, Whitstable

The ultimate blend of East Kent’s traditional seaside heritage with Whitstable’s polished identity as an upmarket escape and sprinkled with a little Australian seasoning.

BY OLIVIA RICCINI

Perhaps Kent’s most sought-after destination by the ocean, Whitstable has always been the forerunner, and has long since crossed the finish line in the race of reinvention between Kent’s seaside towns. Yet another arty renaissance has enveloped Whitstable, magnifying its quaintness and celebrating tradition, all the while injecting a new passion for the arts, creativity and activities on the water. 

While this neat and pretty little town, with its quintessential highstreet running parallel to the thriving seafront has never strayed far from its coastal heritage, Whitsable has embraced new trends and taken inspiration from other beachy destinations across the globe. One such business that perfectly reflects this expertly curated identity is The East Kent. I find myself marching down said highstreet, adorned with bunting for the coronation and decked out with hanging baskets, on May’s sunniest day yet, mouth parched and ready for a drink. Located at one end of the highstreet, The East Kent is no exception to the adornments, with bunting blowing in the breeze and golden lettering glinting in the sunshine: the pub itself stands resplendent against the blue skies of this clear May day. I step inside. A cosy pub complete with dark wood floors, low ceilings and a neat, well-stocked bar with Shepherd Neame on tap greets me. Sunlight floods the room, the doors are open at the back and beyond these lies The East Kent’s promising pièce de résistance for the summer.

This is no ordinary beer garden, so dismiss all preconceived thoughts of pub gardens and patios from your mind. It is instead an oasis bathed in sunshine. Shielded from any wind and whisking spring and summer visitors up and away from the cool British air, this sunny terrace is set to showcase English summertime at its best. With an orange juice ordered and on its way, I join my four insideKENT colleagues and we take in our surroundings. A pergola complete with climbing plants, outdoor heaters and tile-topped tables gives the impression of places on the European Riviera, yet converted beer barrels with high seating and cold glasses of Shepherd Neame ale reminds us that we are, of course, in glorious East Kent. 

The pergola is not the only thing that takes up this outdoor space. The garden would not be the marvel it is without the Wood-Fire Kitchen, a lockdown project that has become a much adored and imperative part of the pub since it first welcomed visitors desperate to eat out when eating out was not so viable due to Covid. This ingenious addition sits in its own neat outhouse detached from the pub itself and making up half of one end of the walled garden. Inside, a young female chef throws pizza dough up in the air with all the ease of a seasoned Italian chef. For the table, we of course order two of these freshly baked pizzas, straight from the wood-fired pizza oven; one margarita and one prosciutto. The pizza base is sensational, not too doughy yet not too dry, a satisfying crunch with a gorgeously floury soft element. The tomato base on both is wonderfully flavoursome, as is the perfectly melted cheese. Fresh pizza at its finest. 

Other dishes come thick and fast from the kitchen, brought to us by landlord Andrew Hennessey. It is because of Andrew and his wife Lisa that The East Kent’s eclectic menu has its  acclaimed Australian twist. Leading chef and restaurant professionals, Natalie and Andrew Hennessy took over this landmark pub in 2018. After 15 years of Natalie working in Australia and setting up her own bistro, the couple relocated to Kent, Andrew tells us. Not only is this wonderfully laid back beach-style approach reflected in the ambience of the pub, but also the menu. Australian highlights entwine with Whitstable’s identity as a fishing town, resulting in dishes such as the famous white fish tacos and crab tostadas. The battered fish in the tacos is beautifully fried, dolloped with tartare sauce, reminiscent of traditional English fish and chips, yet modernised with the global influence of jalapeno mayo. The crab tostadas are yet another example of this blend of Kentish coastal tradition combined with global cheffing influence and both dishes make for bites of ultimate flavour sensation. 

This is again explored in the form of the bao buns with pork belly, sriracha mayo and coriander. These bites are perfectly sized, the fluffy buns encasing a filling that really packs a flavour punch. Perhaps the most obvious Australian-inspired dish on the menu however, is the appropriately named ‘All Aussie Burger’. This is an absolute must for burger lovers. A rich part-beef part-kangaroo patty with the ultimate high-quality burger texture comes topped with melted cheese and bacon. Smeared with a delectable pickle chutney and encased by a fluffy bun, this is burger bliss – especially when eaten in the sunshine and accompanied with perfectly salted golden fries and a glass of Shepherd Neame’s finest beer.

Yet another global influence is added into our meal when The East Kent’s signature slow-roasted lamb is placed in front of us. A sharing platter for two, this dish almost transports us to a Greek Island, consisting of lamb slow-roasted overnight in the wood-fired oven and served with flatbreads, tzatziki, hummus and an iceberg salad topped with sheeps’ cheese and drizzled with a lemon and oregano dressing. Perfectly tender and utterly delicious, this is the ultimate platter to enjoy at The East Kent when the sun is high in the sky and your day has been spent exploring Whitstable.

Never a group to turn down desserts, we order banoffee pie, Biscoff cheesecake, key lime pie and a chocolate brownie, each with either fresh cream or ice cream. A scrumptiously sweet and satisfying end to our meal in the sun, we spent as much time soaking up the atmosphere as we do savouring the sweetness of these puds. 

The East Kent

72 Oxford Street

Whitstable

@theeastkentpub

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