The Lust List
A passionate pursuit of luxury in Kent
Welcome to insideKENT’s curated guide to the most opulent and romantic destinations in The Garden of England. As February – the month of love – unfolds, immerse yourself in a world of indulgence and sophistication across the picturesque landscapes and acclaimed venues that call this county home. Use our list as the key to unlocking the treasures of Kent, where Michelin-starred restaurants, top culinary havens, enchanting castles, idyllic beaches and artisan bakeries converge to create an exquisite tapestry of experiences.
Prepare to embark on a journey that transcends the ordinary as we unveil the crème de la crème of the county’s most adored offerings. Our stunning beaches provide the perfect backdrop for intimate escapes, while artisanal bakeries showcase the artistry of pastries, cakes and breads that embody the essence of indulgence. From devouring delectable creations in top-tier restaurants to discovering the allure of historic castles steeped in romance, Kent is the place to be this February.
insideKENT’s ‘Lust List’ is more than just a guide; it’s an invitation to immerse yourself in the lap of luxury, to savour Kent’s finest culinary delights and to explore the glorious landscapes this county has to offer.
Where passion meets precision and each dish is a masterpiece
Hide and Fox, Saltwood
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 last 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 and locally wherever possible.
Bridge Arms, Bridge
This Michelin-starred, Grade II listed 16th-century pub sits in the charming village of Bridge, within the Nailbourne Valley, its low beams and fireplaces adding 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.”
Fordwich Arms, Fordwich
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 through seasonal menus which focus on provenance, showcasing the best of local Kentish ingredients, sourced directly from local farms and producers. The cooking here is accomplished yet approachable, served in a relaxed pub environment with a choice of á la carte or tasting menus.
The Sportsman, Seasalter
Offering a five-course tasting menu consisting of small, seasonal dishes which showcase the local environment, The Sportsman in Seasalter has retained its Michelin star to the present day, having held it since 2008. This menu is put together day to day and includes recipes from the past 20 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 soil 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.
Ignite the flames of love with an affair of the senses
The West House, Biddenden
Based in a 16th-century weaver’s cottage, The West House is a small family-run restaurant with rooms that boasts 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, with Graham’s food gaining the restaurant multiple awards and mentions in all of the major guidebooks.
‘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-based 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.
Shampan, Westerham, Welling & Bromley
Shampan’s restaurants boast the kind of unfussy Indian food that has always been a magnet for locals and those beyond. Although keeping their menus deceptively simple, Shampan’s dishes are full of flavour and freshly rendered. From traditional items diners will have come to love from the Indian repertoire to their signature house creations, Shampan have won a strong following among those who are both new to cooking from the subcontinent and those well-versed, spice connoisseurs. From the cosy and ambient Bromley restaurant to the airy luxuriousness of the Westerham restaurant complete with ‘wow’ factor interiors, expect gorgeous surroundings as you dine.
Where masterful bakers craft confections that are as delightful to the eyes as they are to the taste buds
Gilda Bakery, Bishopsbourne
Gilda Bakery is nestled in the heart of one of Kent’s prettiest villages amidst rolling green countryside and Jane Austen-style stately homes. The bakery was established by master in his trade, Jon Warren, who brings his rich culinary experience from one of the world’s food capitals, San Sebastian, to the Kent countryside. A delicious range of plain and flavoured loaves and decadent flaky pastries can be enjoyed alongside a coffee from next door Tadpoles Tearoom – but beware – these pastries are so good that you will not be able to stop thinking about them for the rest of 2024.
Florence’s Artisan Bakery, Hythe
Delectable little artisan bakery freshly opened in Hythe. Specialising in pastry, expect divine croissants of all shapes, sizes and flavours, including highlights such as ‘peanut butter creme patisserie and jam hugged inside a cruffin’, house-made cardamom buns and out-of-this-world pain aux raisin. It doesn’t stop there; enjoy good, strong cups of coffee too – served just how you like it.
White Finch Bakery, Meopham
A myriad of mesmerising cakes, beautiful brownies, scrumptious scones, perfect pastries and more are baked here, all with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. As well as the sweet stuff, there’s also savoury sourdoughs, bagels and breads, all of which you can enjoy with a strong cup of tea in a beautiful china teapot or take away with you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home or perhaps picnicking outdoors at one of Kent’s beauty spots.
Where centuries-old tales intertwine with the modern pursuit of love
In the 15th and 16th centuries this medieval castle was the home of one of the most powerful families in the country, the Boleyns, who modernised the existing dwelling, and indeed the fate of Britain within the walls. The permanent exhibition in the Long Gallery depicts the saga from the Wars of the Roses to the Reformation through its art collection and all other rooms are just as exciting, telling their own unique story. Today, thanks to William Waldorf Astor’s remarkable efforts and those of the gardening team that have rediscovered parts of the garden that had long been forgotten, the award-winning gardens at Hever offer many magnificent areas that are a pleasure to visit at any time of the year.
A fortified manor house built in c.1378-80 inspired by ‘picturesque’ style, Scotney Castle is perhaps the closest castle we get to those from the pages of a fairy tale here in Kent. A enchanting building of two halves, Scotney’s style is certain to have visitors enthralled. One half (Scotney Old Castle) is a medieval manor house while the other half (Scotney New Castle) is a Victorian mansion. The grounds, classed as a Site of Specific Scientific Interest, are the ultimate place of beauty. With formal gardens and over 700 acres of parkland and woodland to explore, featuring spectacular flower displays and a moat from which the castle seems to rise.
Visitors never forget their first breathtaking vision of Leeds Castle rising majestically from the moat. From its riveting history serving six of England’s medieval queens, to its elaborate transformation into an elegant 20th-century retreat by Anglo-American heiress Lady Baillie, Leeds Castle’s rich heritage has secured its place as one of the most visited historic attractions in Britain. Glide into the exotic 1930’s house party of Lady Baillie as her guests and staff prepare for the weekend ahead where music, dancing and dangerous liaisons were the order of the day. Revel in the gossip and cocktails, high-stakes gambling and the sparkling mix of Hollywood stars, society’s finest and leading politicians, all of whom partied within the castle’s walls.
Leeds Castle also plays host to The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra every year at the Leeds Castle Concert – a spectacular and unmissable event in Kent’s calendar.
Where the rhythmic lull of the waves and the captivating coastal vistas create an atmosphere tailormade for romance
Botany Bay, Joss Bay & Kingsgate Bay, Broadstairs
Sheltered sands edged by impressive white chalk cliffs sitting as neighbours to one another along the coast of Broadstairs. Stone Bay is known for its patterned beach huts and quiet atmosphere, while Botany Bay is Kent’s closest answer to Bondi. A real beauty of a beach, this Instagrammer’s heaven is famous for its chalk stacks that stand resplendent on the sands. Neighbouring Joss Bay and Kingsgate Bay share similarly laid-back surfer vibes with golden sands that gently slope towards turquoise water for a truly tranquil swim.
Sandwich Bay & Pegwell Bay
Expect peaceful serenity on what comes closest to your very own beach thanks to the private road leading to the bay. This saltmarsh is a haven for nature lovers and is Kent Wildlife Trust’s largest reserve – expect sweeping skies, sunbathing seals, lapping waves and the cries of rare water birds overhead.
Margate Main Sands
One of Kent’s most iconic beaches complete with all the quintessential seaside idiosyncrasies. Expect ice cream, amusements, golden sunsets and a tidal pool backing on to the hipster haven of Margate Old Town. The perfect backdrop for Kent’s most famous art gallery, The Turner Contemporary and most iconic theme park, Dreamland, not to mention a whole host of foodie havens, cool cafés, markets, vintage stores and award-winning restaurants.