Restaurants located just outside of Deal, that we think are worth the journey.
We’re lucky to have so many great food places in Deal and the local area. Sometimes we like to feature a great food destination that’s somewhere slightly further afield. For these posts, we’re putting them under the category of Deal-ish.
Last week we were invited to try out the menu at Kathton House. A fine dining restaurant and guest house outside Canterbury. We took a meandering drive through Wingham and Fordwich taking in the quaint villages before arriving in Sturry. We were happy to find free street parking as we pulled up outside the pretty, blue and white frontage of the restaurant.
A muted grey colour scheme with high backed chairs and white table cloths sets the tone for formal dining that’s not too stuffy. We’re seated towards the back of the restaurant, that's well lit by a skylight and window. It’s a Thursday night just after opening and there are a few other tables dining too, two of which are booked up for Birthdays.
We order drinks, drivers choice of diet coke for Charlotte (me) and a foray into the cocktail menu for Ben. We look over the menu, and we can hear the sound of Ben’s French martini being made to order. The liquid sloshing against ice cubes in the shaker, is there a more exciting sound? It arrives in an elegant coupe glass with a generous frothy head. The raspberry fruity flavour is nicely balanced making it not too sweet or tart. We could easily throw a few of these back on a Saturday night.
Bread and butter are brought out whilst we wait for our meals to arrive. The mini bread rolls are delicious and a great size, no danger of wasting valuable stomach space on a boring bread basket. Perfectly formed round buns, wholemeal and mustard seed varieties with fluffy insides and golden tops. The two types of butter were made in house, one black garlic and the other lightly salted. Two glistening domes arrive, looking like treats plucked from a chocolate box. We slather on as much as we can.
Next arrives an amuse bouche. A deep fried goats cheese ball perched on rhubarb compote. A crunchy exterior yields to salty cheese within paired perfectly with the sweet rhubarb. A tantalising punch of flavour before our meals arrive.
To start Ben chose pan-fried scallops served with pickled apple, apple purée, smoked pork foam, and apple sponge. The apple sponge looked like pieces of coral with a foaming sea lapping against it. The scallops were buttery soft tinged golden from the pan. Notes of a delicious Chinese plum sauce were in the mix somewhere, perhaps from the apple puree. Each forkful is full of dynamic flavours and textures, salty and sweet pairings alongside crunchy and soft. A dish that satisfies the whole pallet whilst looking beautiful.
I went with the grilled octopus served with wasabi yoghurt, squid ink soil and salsify with hay ash. It was a plate full of unexpected flavours and textures. Grilled octopus brings to mind whole tentacles, instead, the plate was elegant they were sliced into little rounds, bites of smoky meaty seafood. The black nuggets of salsify which sat in the tangy yoghurt puddles were a revelation. It was a taste we’d never experienced before, aromatic salty flavour with the texture of ginger. Paired with the wasabi yoghurt, an unfamiliar combination alone. The squid ink soil was jet black on the plate. Your brain tells you to expect the taste of brittle burned crumbs, but instead its a rich deep flavour and soft texture. All decorated with some delicate nasturtiums. With so many new flavours, textures and combinations to take in the whole thing left us in a daze. This dish was probably the highlight of the meal for me.
Black cherry sorbets were brought out in between courses as a palette cleanser. A pleasant cherry flavour that didn't overwhelm the taste buds. Not entirely necessary but a nice refresher in between courses.
Onto the mains. I went for Kentish lamb loin served with grilled baby aubergine, aubergine puree, and lamb jus. The lamb belly was so tender it fell apart at the touch of my fork. It has a lovely braised quality and a rich fatty flavour. The loin itself was incredible quality, succulent nice and pink. Full of gamy flavour, juicy. Everything you would want from a superb quality piece of meat. Some of the aubergines were a little tough in texture and difficult to distinguish one from another but otherwise a nice accompaniment to the lamb.
Ben’s fillet of beef was served with confit Jerusalem artichoke, wild Mushrooms, pickled red onion and red wine sauce. The beef was beautifully seared on the outside with a soft juicy consistency throughout. The mushrooms and artichoke were well done and brought some interesting flavour combinations to the dish, but everything else on the plate was ultimately secondary to the beef. We had a hunch it was sous vide, which later the waitress confirmed to be true. It was such an incredibly tender and juicy texture that it couldn’t be anything else. A sous vide machine has been on our Amazon wishlist for a while, this has pushed it to the basket.
The vegetable side dishes continued the standard previously set by the bread. Something that could have easily been an afterthought, but instead was given the same care and attention as the main meals themselves. Grace Dent recently lamented on the Off Menu podcast about how restaurants so often disregard vegetable side dishes resulting in dull and lifeless offerings. This is a great example of how we can bring back some excitement to increasingly important vegetable dishes. Each side dish contained tempura battered cauliflower, with a salty crisp shell and al dente florets within, well seasoned yet crunchy tenderstem broccoli, and a truffle pomme puree that was creamy and smooth.
For dessert, I chose the pistachio souffle and raspberry sorbet. The souffle arrives, perfectly risen, pale green in colour. It has a velvety smooth texture that's delicately light and airy whilst the flavour is nutty and sweet. The sorbet, however, didn't quite hit the mark for me and instead of working with the souffle punctures its flavour and texture. This is personal taste and doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on the dessert. I would still order again because the souffle is really something to behold, my advice would be to pace yourself because before you know it the nutty ambrosia will be gone.
Ben ordered the creme brulee, his favourite. Rather than being something we’ve seen lots of times before, this is an original take on something familiar. A crown of mint flavoured meringue shards and raspberries on top of a firm custard base. It’s infused with lemongrass and ginger for a fresh tart flavour. Both options are a graceful end to the meal, delivering bold cleansing flavours and leaving us nicely satisfied.
The service we received was excellent, although we should note that most places we review are expecting us, so we almost always have impeccable service. With that in mind, Kathton House still stands out as particularly attentive throughout the meal, and very knowledgeable. We talked to a few different servers about the food, ingredients and preparation, they were all very helpful and seemed to know everything without needing to leave the table. This was hugely impressive to us as we had a lot of questions.
With a vegan menu available, Sunday roasts, tasting menu and a monthly cheese and wine tasting night, there's something for everyone at Kathton House. The food is such high quality, you can tell only the best ingredients make it through the door. Although they aren’t cheap you can definitely feel where that money goes, it’s ideal for special occasions. There are dishes full of creativity and flair, alongside well executed conventional meals. The result is food that is familiar enough to appeal to a wide range of diners, with enough intrigue to keep you coming back for more.