Glammed-up pub grub and restaurants rivalling London’s best make the county a good one to dine in. But with its up-and-coming coastal towns, country walks, and rich history, Kent’s a great place to stay a while, too.
The Wife of Bath, Wye
Former Gordon Ramsay protégé Mark Sargeant has brought good things to Kent – Rocksalt and The Duke William seriously improving the eating and sleeping credentials of Folkestone and Ickham respectively. The Wife of Bath is another example, where northern Spanish influences take their place on the menu and, subtly, among the rooms as well. If you’re into steak, don’t miss Galician Beef Night on Tuesdays.
The Dog at Wingham, near Canterbury
The Dog, with all its medieval charm, has collected its fair share of county awards in the past few years. They must be doing something right – namely the food, taking its influences from Europe (think Social Eating House or Adam Byatt’s Trinity, only more wholesome). It’s a tough place to leave, especially without wishing it was your local.
The West House, Biddenden
Graham Garrett experienced a bit of culture shock when he departed the busy kitchens of London to settle down in picturesque Biddenden, where he opened a restaurant in a 16th century weaver’s cottage and, later, accommodation to go with. He quickly found himself in the middle of an impressive local larder and clearly he knows what to do with it. The West House was recently named ‘Restaurant of the Year’ at the Kent Life Food & Drink Awards.
The Powell, Birchington
The Powell cooks up British pub grub, hearty enough so that the rooms upstairs – all in keeping with the timber-framed aesthetic – provide just the sort of comfort to collapse in to. Conveniently nestled next to three of Kent’s of-the-moment coastal towns (Broadstairs, Ramsgate, and Margate), The Powell is found in a part of Kent only growing in attraction.
With its views over the Channel from Folkestone harbour, Rocksalt makes a more than idyllic venue during the summer. Naturally, seafood has a prominent place on the menu (the oysters round here, for instance, are famous). Its four rooms, in their exposed brick and period wallpaper glory, are the epitome of shabby chic.
Read’s is a Georgian manor house in the pretty old market town of Faversham, walking distance from the Thames Estuary. It has for a while been one of the chosen places to dine out in Kent – well worth a visit if classic French techniques married with British ingredients are your jam.
The Duke William Ickham, Canterbury
The team at The Duke William have done everything they can to retain the feel of a rustic pub, right down to the open fire, real ales, and warm welcome for the locals and their dogs. The food follows accordingly, only taken up a notch – it’s not any old sausage and mash; it’s Cumberland sausage, braised red cabbage, and parsley mash. Save a little room for classic puds like Gypsy tart and sticky toffee pudding.
The Plough Inn, Stalisfield
Recently named Kent Dining Pub of the Year by The Good Pub Guide, The Plough makes the most of local farms, breweries, vineyards, and cideries. The building dates back to the 15th century and, inspired by its history and surroundings, rooms have a distinctly country feel. With nearest civilisation being Faversham – a 20-minute drive away – it’s certainly well-suited for some peace and quiet.
The Marquis of Granby, Alkham
Out-doing its former life as a roadside drinking den, The Marquis is putting good food front and centre. In Alkham, not far from Dover, it’s perfect for holing up for the night before catching one of those early morning ferries. The rooms, wood panelled with a tartan or subtle ‘60s trim here and there, make it a cosy one too.
This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.