Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Goods Shed, Canterbury

Nine times out of ten if you asked any dedicated foodie scenester waiting at platform 13 at St Pancras late morning for the Javelin train where they were headed for lunch, they'd give the same answer - The Sportsman. Stephen Harris' pub on the coast near Faversham has over the last few years become something approaching a restaurant mecca; strictly seasonal food, cooked with care and presented with style, it is the platonic ideal of the gastropub and one dish in particular - slipsole in seaweed butter - is the star of a thousand Instagrams. You should go, as well, if you haven't yet. It's bloody fantastic.

But on this particular Saturday morning, we'd decided to give another star of Kent a try. Canterbury is worth visiting even if you weren't very hungry (I particularly recommend a walk around St. Martin's church, built an astonishing 1,400 years ago and still standing), but we had a reservation at the Good's Shed, handily located right next to the station so as not to lose valuable eating and drinking time.

Opened as an indoor farmers' market back in 2002, the Goods Shed has avoided the pitfalls of so many of these kinds of places by actually feeling like a real, normal, every day food market instead of one of those middle-class theme parks selling hand-painted tableware and bowls of olives. The restaurant, occupying a bright mezzanine level overlooking the bustle of the market below, feels similarly grounded, boasting huge wooden tables generously spaced apart, and is the kind of place you'd happily spend an entire afternoon.

So we did. Lunch began with weeny soft-boiled quail's eggs dipped in an interesting salt/spice mix containing dried chilli and fennel seeds.

House bread - foccacia I think - was nice and salty and came with a bright, creamy butter. It was also free, which was a nice touch.

Mussels in a white wine, cream and tarragon sauce is a time-honoured recipe and one that still has the ability to soothe, comfort and satisfy. Perhaps there was a tad too much garlic into the mix, but that could just be a matter of personal taste.

Artichoke broth was, for what I'm guessing was a completely vegan dish, fairly impressive. Of course, as a committed meat-eater it goes without saying I would have preferred a chicken stock base, but the huge chunks of artichoke had a nice bite and the rest of the veg had bags of flavour.

A third starter had huge, soft chunks of slow-cooked ox cheek, but the surprise star of this dish were the carrots, which were startlingly sweet and densely-flavoured. Clearly the Goods Shed benefits hugely from its trade with local farmers - the range and quality of produce both in the restaurant and on the shelves below is really something.

But while the starters had been decent, the mains were genuinely excellent. My own guinea fowl boasted a beautiful golden, herb-enriched crust and a cider sauce with a perfect balance of alcholic tang and meaty richness. The slices of black pudding were a bit odd - quite sour and with a strange uniform texture - but the Lyonnaise potatoes were soft and creamy, leaves of chard soaked up that sweet/sour cider sauce like a sponge, and the bird itself was bright and bouncy.

The only notable problem with this lamb main was simply that there was too much of it. There were so many generous slabs of lamb, and they were so expertly rendered with their perfect pink flesh and salt/herb crust, that it felt criminal leaving any. A barley, grilled courgette and herb salad underneath made further excellent use of market vegetables, and aioli was light and sharp.

The last of the mains, hake with fish croquette and clams, showed more technical expertise - look at the crisp skin on that fish, and the beautiful bright-white flesh - and more judicious use of seasonal vegetables (chard again). You could hardly want for a better way to eat hake.

The dessert menu at the Goods Shed reads like a dream - a poem of seasonal fruits and luxurious sweet continental wines. Unfortunately the first item from it that arrived was a rather mundane cheeseboard; a couple of OK blues and a soft goat's that I'm pretty sure you can buy at Tesco's. Still, the fruit bread and chutney was nice. Why the cheese selection was so half-hearted I can't work out, especially as there's what looks like a pretty competent cheesemakers (Cheese Makers of Canterbury) set up in the very same room.

Fortunately, the desserts more than made up for the disappointing cheese. Gooseberry and custard tart was a thing of intense joy, an ethereally-light custard cradling tangy stewed gooseberry. On the side, unpasteurised creme fraiche, rich in dairy with a faintly earthy, smoky note, a perfect foil to the fruit.

Raspberry sorbet was everything you'd hope for - powerfully fruity yet perfectly balanced, like eating summer itself...

...burnt milk ice-cream was similarly beautiful in its own way, richly creamy and silky smooth...

...and finally chocolate mousse was so light and fluffy it was practically thick chocolate milkshake, studded with fresh raspberries.

So, not all journeys to Kent need to end at the Sportsman. The Goods Shed almost makes as good a case for a day out in Canterbury as to Faversham, and though obviously not quite on a par with Stephen Harris' place - where is? - this charming building, bristling with activity and wonderful produce, is a triumph for all kinds of different reasons at once. The restaurant is a hymn to seasonal British food, cooking Kent's finest produce sensitively and generously, serving it with charm and style, and anything you particularly fall in love with during lunch you can pick up in the market below and take home with you. Enjoying yourself here, if you have a heart and an appetite, is something approaching an absolute certainty. I'd say that was worth jumping on the Javelin for, don't you?


Goods Shed Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I wish I had gone here when I was last in Canterbury. I saw it while I was walking to the station to get a ticket, but it doesn't look like much from the outside so I didn't go in. Mistake!