Thursday 27 September 2018

Dip In Brilliant, Fulham Broadway

The Brilliant, in Southall, is some people's favourite Indian restaurant in London. Of course being the hopeless restaurant spod I am, the moment, nearly eight years ago now, I learned that it was at least someone's favourite restaurant I persuaded a friend to take the train to Southall one evening to check it out.

Long story short, I wasn't that impressed, but then the mid-range of Indian restaurants is a very competitive market. I know where I am with top end Mayfair joints like Jamavar and Indian Accent, where all the food is spiced and cooked to perfection and costs an arm and a leg. And then at the budget end there's Tayyabs and Lahore Kebab House, where the meat is a little more... mysterious but you can feast until you're all chopped out for £15/head. The problem with the £25-£35/head bracket is, in a word, Dishoom. Can anyone really do better than Dishoom? If you were going to spend £12.90 on 3 lamb chops, instead of £7.60 for 4 (Tayyabs) or £28 for 3 (Jamavar), would you really risk anywhere that wasn't Dishoom?

Dip In Brilliant, a more casual, proto-chainy concept from the Brilliant owners, is, I get the very strong impression, trying to mustle in on Dishoom's corner. From the quirky, casual menu descriptions ("Top dips", "Brill Grill") to the mid-range (though by no means top-mid-range) price points, it's a restaurant aimed at people who know they like black daal, and lamb chops, and comfort-fusion things like "Desi Chilli Cheese Potato Skins" (have you ever had Dishoom's "Chilli Cheese Toast"? You should, it's great) but are sick of the queues at Kings Cross.

All of which is perfectly fine - nowhere exists in a vacuum, and there's no such thing as a truly original idea, certainly not in restaurants - but if you're going to start a new, mid-range Dishoom-a-like, you're going to have to make pretty darn sure your product measures up where it counts. And from the very first tray of lacklustre chutneys, the tomato and mango versions of which, sweet and gloopy, tasted bought-in even if they weren't, it was clear this was no Dishoom. Mini poppadums were mixed in with colourful little corn snacks of various kinds, and the mint & coriander chutney was OK even if it was a bit heavy on the vinegar, but this was hardly an auspicious start.

The best thing about the mixed grill - sorry, "Brill Grill" - were the seekh kebabs, which were moist and nicely sausagey and with a very decent chilli kick. Next in order of success were the cubes of tandoori chicken, very slightly on the dry side and needed more spicing, but were still OK. Then the king prawns, again slightly overcooked and in need of some more robust flavouring but still edible. But finally lamb "chops" were just weird, leathery morsels of bland meat - not a hint of spice or seasoning - clinging to a collection of mysteriously-shaped bones. The idea they'd hold their own next to any others in town, never mind the best, is laughable.

Other bits were, thankfully, better. Naans were light and bubbly, slicked with ghee and easy to demolish...

...raita was, well, raita, but there's nothing much wrong with that. I wasn't even that irritated by the pansy on top...

...and finally, fair do's, the black daal was very nice, thinner and less richly flavoured than the best examples but I can usually find something to enjoy in even the most ordinary black daals. I think the effort and knowledge required to cook these things means there's a certain minimum standard - I don't think I've ever had a truly bad one.

But despite that, not much of the above was worth the money they were asking for it. An £18 mixed grill puts you in contention with some serious London curry houses, likewise charging £4 for mini poppadums and dips, which are provided free at most places. There's every chance that in the 8 years since I visited the mothership the Brilliant in Southall it's turned into more my kind of restaurant, but I have to say, if Dip In is anything to go by, I'm better off sticking to what I know. And what I know is that I can get in the queue at any of the Dishooms and enjoy some of the finest Indian food in town for about the same money. Did I mention I just really, really love Dishoom?


Wednesday 26 September 2018

CheeMc, Walworth Road

With deep and heartfelt apologies to those who call the area their home, there aren't too many convincing arguments to visit Walworth Road of an evening unless you have a particular fondness for betting shops, nail bars and standing traffic. Caught in a bit of a no-mans-land between the heaving Elephant & Castle roundabout (more recently less of a roundabout than a strange C-shape, but still heaving) and the genuinely enticing restaurant options of Camberwell, it's more of a conduit than an area, and up until quite recently its most significant impact on my life has been making me late for dinner at Silk Road. And I really do not like being late for dinner.

But, the merest hints of a dynamic food culture are flickering into life. As with so many (for want of a better word) unlovely areas of town, rents tend to be lower and with the freedom to be a bit more experimentational with your concepts and not worry too much about paying large investors back, London's restaurateurs can spread their wings a bit. True, Louie Louie wasn't quite my cup of tea in the end, but I like the fact that it's there, an okonomiyaki restaurant in South London, because why the hell not, a pleasing example that there are some people out there taking risks.

I wish I could tell you that I had a more successful evening at CheeMc than at Louie Louie, that I'd finally found my Korean chicken nirvana and that Walworth Road finally deserves to be spoken about in the same breadth as Camberwell Church Street or Brixton's Market Row. Sadly, we're not quite there yet, but it's still heartening to see a quirky, independent little operation like CheeMc pack them in on a rainy Sunday evening even if, in my usual tedious way, I could still find fault with a lot of the food served.

Partly my gripes were with the menu, which was large to the point of overwhelming and included a rather geographically ambiguous mix of Japanese staples like ramen, katsu, udon and takoyaki as well as Korean classics like bibimbab and soondooboo jigae. Had the food which appeared been better, I could have overlooked the game attempts to be Jack of all trades, but once a rather lacklustre bowl of udon ramen appeared, tasting of packet stock and raw onions, it quickly looked a lot less like idiosyncrasy and a lot more like an identity crisis.

Japche glass noodles were better, containing nice fresh vegetables and a confident hand with the sesame oil, and were pretty easy to enjoy in a straightforward kind of way. £7.90 does seem like quite a lot to pay for a some stir-fried vegetables and noodles, though. I could have them delivered to the door for that from a few places on Just Eat.

Bibimbab was good. Not astonishing, but good. More interesting once doused with gochujang, certainly, and there wasn't really anything significantly wrong with it, it just did its job as much as as a bowl of rice with various bits of veg on top can do.

The only real disappointment was the chicken. I don't pretend to be any kind of expert, on this or anything else, but I've had good Korean fried chicken, and I've had bad, and this was not good. Poorly butchered, in fact hacked into a strange collection of misshapen bits of pieces with broken bones jutting out at ugly angles, they were no less upsetting to eat than look at, being overcooked and tough, and coated in a chilli sauce that tasted of nothing much more than dry chilli powder. We soon wished we'd ordered a half portion instead of a full (£18.90), but even that would have been far too much to pay for a fairly mediocre pile of wings. Even an included bowl of sweet pickled daikon couldn't make this value for money.

With a drink each, the bill came to £16.31/head, great if your life's ambition is to eat vegetable noodles and poor fried chicken, not so great if it isn't. And I'm very much in the latter camp, so it seems my search for the Best of Korea goes on. Perhaps I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and travel all the way back to New Malden; if they can't get it right there then there's no hope for anyone. And for now, the Walworth Road will go back to its primary function of slowing me down on the way to dinner in Camberwell. If anything changes, though, you'll be the first to know.


Monday 24 September 2018

El Asador at Sabor, Regent St

If you have even the most passing interest in great Spanish food in London, chances are you've heard of Barrafina. Across three locations in Central London, these gleaming, marble-decked temples of Iberian gastronomy have, along with Jose Pizarro's emponymous gaff in Bermondsey, set a new level for the cuisine in the city, and done more for the image of high-end Spanish food than almost anyone else I can think of. It's a bit too easy to enjoy yourself in Barrafina - once the sherry starts flowing and you've picked your favourite crustaceans from the cold bar, you settle in for the long haul, ordering and snacking and slurping and ordering again, until you've racked up a bill so big you're not sure if the extra zeroes are from that extra bottle of La Gitana or alcohol-induced double-vision.

While Barrafina was earning its Michelin stars and countless other gushing reviews (not least from yours truly) its head chef was one Nieves Barragan, who with front of house José Etura were to be seen most days in at least one of their restaurants. It was an usually subtle double-act - kitchen dynamics dictated they necessarily had to spend most of the evenings communicating via the occasional barked question across a noisy dining room - but it worked, and the warmth and energy they brought to proceedings was no doubt a huge part of the Barrafina success story.

But now, it's time for the next chapter. Barragan and Etura have left the Hart Bros' empire to set up Sabor, in a brightly lit spot down a slightly dingy alleyway off Regent St, and at first glance the influences and tributes are obvious. There's the large open kitchen full of busy, smartly-dressed chefs. There's the handwritten chalkboard menus of interesting daily seafood. And there of course is a pile of crushed ice covered in a heaving spread of fresh fish, crabs, carabinero prawns, razor clams and all the other delicacies from British shores that until Rick Stein intervened, used to be packed onto the backs of lorries and sent to France and Spain.

Part of me had hoped that the opening of a new place may allow Barragan and Etura to move away from the whole Barrafina communal seating model. Call me a spoiled old grump, but I do not like sharing my personal space with a complete stranger, and if there's anything going to stop me getting in the queue at Barrafina, or indeed any of the other top restaurants where that kind of seating is the main option (Kiln, the Barbary, Padella) it's that. Sadly, on both floors of Sabor (apologies, I wasn't paying too close attention but I think upstairs is called Asador and has a slightly different menu; I can't remember the website booking page asking me which I wanted, but I may have just not noticed) it's mainly large tables, and I'm afraid I could barely hide my horror when asked to squeeze in between two parties on high bench seating. Fortunately our waiter took pity on us and we eventually got away with being sat by the wall, but I'm sure a few tables of two wouldn't have hurt. Or, as I say, maybe I'm just a hopeless grump.

Anyway, negatives out of the way I can concentrate on the positives. The food, for example, which is as good as it's ever been from these guys. Red prawns, served simply and beautifully on a wooden board, had plump little bodies and heads packed full of that briney, bisquey seafood flavour.

It's incredibly difficult to get things like monkfish tempura right, at least I assume it is as so many versions of this ostensibly straightforward dish have been disappointing, but this was basically perfect. Greaseless, moist, with a good smooth mayo (not too thick or too thin), they were a great little fishy snack, and we polished them off quickly.

Pulpo a fiera is (thank you Google) a Galician dish, involving boiling the animal in a copper cauldron. The texture is quite unbelievable, so soft and silky that they're almost textureless, and I admit at first it took a bit of getting used to. of course, thanks to some lovely spicing - oil and paprika at least but possibly much else besides - there was plenty else to enjoy about them but I did slightly miss a bit of crunch from the tentacles. But then who am I to suggest an improvement to a Nieves Barragan dish?

Finally the famous tortilla, in the Basque style so runny inside with lots of soft sliced potato, every bit as impressive here as when I tried it all those years ago at Barrafina. It's also worth mentioning not only that Sabor make more effort than most Spanish restaurants with the vegetarian options, and that £7.50 for this very generously sized item means you could probably get away with ordering just this and perhaps a snack and sample some of the best Spanish food in London for under £15/head.

Our bill was slightly more than that. But with a bottle of wine we still got away with £36.22 a head, which really isn't bad at all considering the effort going into the menu here. And more than likely I'll be back, without a pescatarian friend next time, to try their whole Segovian suckling pigs to share (£190) or a txuletón or two (£85). For that, I'll need a group, maybe ten people or so. And come to think of it, in that case, I'll probably need one of those big tables so we can all tuck in at once. Oh that's what they're for...


Friday 21 September 2018

The Hero of Maida, Maida Vale

Usually I write up my restaurant visits in chronological order, for my own sanity more than anything else, but given the most significant meal following that rather disappointing dinner on the Walworth Road was (spoiler alert) another rather disappointing dinner on the Walworth Road, for the sake of variety I'm instead going to skip forward a few days to Maida Vale and the latest and greatest Henry Harris gastropub The Hero of Maida.

As much as anything in the restaurant world is a sure-thing, the ability of Harris and his business partner James McCulloch to aquire, beautifully renovate and reinvigorate handsome old London pubs is something approaching a given. I have not stopped raving about the Coach in Clerkenwell to anyone who would listen (and many who won't) since I first went back in February, and countless lunches there since (it's quite handy for the office) have done nothing to dissuade me that this is one of the absolute best way of spending your dinner money. I loved the food at Racine in Knightsbridge when Harris was cooking there, but it was quite pricey and the room a bit frilly and old-school. The Coach took all that was good about Racine - namely, the kind of classy French/British game and seafood cooking that you'd travel continents to eat - and served it in a no-nonsense (albeit smartly dressed) Clerkenwell boozer where you could just as happily drop in for a pint as you could sit down to a lavish multi-course spread and finish up with a nice Armagnac by the fire. I love the Coach. I love it.

And I love the Hero of Maida too, so much so that following a blindingly good evening there as a guest when it first opened I wasted very little time in organising a return visit, in game season. Because of all my happy memories of Racine, it's trips in late summer and happy evenings picking at the bones of a roast grouse that have brought me the most joy. These guys really know how to cook a grouse.

But first, a little starter of colourful seasonal veg, beets and squash and rocket pesto, with sourdough croutons for a bit of crunch and all seasoned beautifully. The lighter beetroot (I think it was) underneath had been sliced thin and soaked in oil like a carpaccio, and that and the pesto, with its punch of garlic, brought to mind the late Mediterranean summer. You really couldn't ask for much more from a salad.

Mains were all, also, essentially unimprovable. The rabbit dish from the Coach also makes an appearance at the Hero, and is just as wonderful here, without a hint of dryness (quite an achievement if past experiences with restaurant rabbit are anything to go by), hung with smoke from the grill, and topped with shards of Alsace bacon so fragile and translucent it's like eating pressed bacon floss. Served on a plate of silky smooth mustard sauce, it's a masterclass in French cooking, yet somehow far more at home here reinvented as a £16 gastropub main than something from a stuffy Parisian bistro.

Devilled kidneys is traditionally a more solidly British affair, but even here some fancy French techniques (particularly a very nice pommes purée) have been put to judicious use to give the whole thing a bit more oomph. Between this and the Guinea Grill's version of the dish on toast, I doubt I could choose a favourite, but when why should anyone have to choose? You should make it your mission to try both.

And then of course, there's the grouse. To say I'm obsessed with these funky little game birds is an understatement - I will never pass on an opportunity to eat them, and no matter what the presentation, from the Parkers Arms version served off-the-bone and dressed in local blackberries, to the Holborn Dining Room's beautiful grouse pithivier, if you're serving, I'm buying. But hand on heart, if I had to just eat one style of grouse for the rest of my life, it would be as above - with delicate golden game crisps, on toast soaked in foie gras, alongside bread sauce and salty, rich armagnac jus. The flesh of the bird was soft and gently pink, and with that ever-so-slightly bitter taste of fresh moorland and heather. It was worth the journey by itself - in fact it justified the existence of the whole restaurant by itself.

On this occasion, we didn't have dessert, but I know from the Coach that Harris puts just as much effort into the pastry section as he does the savouries. Instead, we paid up - the bill inflated slightly by the £32.50 grouse but overall not an unreasonable amount of money for such quality - and jumped on the bus home.

It's inevitable given how brilliantly things have gone so far - though should be no less of an astonishing achievement nonetheless - that Harris & McCulloch already have their sights on a fourth branch of their... I hate calling it a chain but I suppose that's what it is now, albeit an extremely high-end one. Yes the next in the chain is to be the Harlot in Chiswick, of which details at the moment are scarce but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess they'll serve high-end British/French gastropub cuisine in a lovely room, and it will be just as much fun as all the others. It's nothing short of incredible what these people are doing; ask anyone in the business and they'll tell you running one top gastropub is a constant battle, never mind four of the damn things at once. But if anyone can, these guys can. And we are all the richer for their efforts.


Monday 17 September 2018

Louie Louie, Walworth Road

I should probably say up front, at the start of what will turn out to be a rather mediocre review, that of all the ultra-specialist Japanese restaurant types, I've always found okonomiyaki to be the least engaging. It's not that there's anthing particularly wrong about the combination of shredded cabbage, egg, bacon, mayonnaise and tamarind sauce (and whatever else you may find in there - okonomiyaki literally translating as "how you like"), it's just that I would seek my fill of kaiseki, yakitori, sushi, ramen, udon, soba and a few others, in that order, before I began to harbour a serious desire for cabbage omelette.

"But it's comforting, hangover food," I hear you say, "it's not supposed to be life-changing". Perhaps not. But it seems odd to me that Japan, a country that raises almost every aspect of eating out to an art form, would obsess (and they do obsess, based on the number of okonomiyaki joints I passed in Tokyo when I was there) on something so... well, ordinary.

It's also probably fair to say that to get the "full" okonomiyaki experience you need to be sitting around a hotplate with your dinner cooking in front of you - it's an interactive experience - and for various very sensible reasons this isn't possible at a popup in a café on Walworth Road. So, while the main events cooked backstage we got stuck into some starters, such as this very pleasant arrangement of pickled mushrooms and cucumber....

Fried lotus roots were greaseless and crisp, dressed in seaweed salt...

Japanese "tacos" were a bit wet and bland, but had a decent serving of fresh tuna so weren't a complete waste of time...

...and ssam short rib, Korean interlopers, had a lovely soft texture and plenty of flavour once paired with gochujang.

"Angry wings" were nice enough, certainly pretty heavy on the scotch bonnet, though could have done with a bit of a crisper skin. Also, rocket is the devil. But apart from that, fine.

After that, the okonomiyaki arrived. I have three photos here of the three different styles, but as you can tell, visually they weren't exactly distinctive so I'll leave you to decide which was which because I sure as hell have no idea myself. And it has to be said, they tasted pretty similar to eat too, despite one containing seafood, one involving beef & mustard, and one with pork and kimchi. This is probably largely to do with the fact that 90% of any okonomiyaki is egg and cabbage, dressed in mayo and tamarind sauce, and whatever else you add to the mix tends to get a bit lost. As I have mentioned, they were fine - not inedible, not wrong, just a bit underwhelming. And at £13/£14 a pop, not particularly good value either.

I should point out that by the time we left Louie Louie on that wet Thursday evening, every table in this attractive little space was taken, so there are clearly enough omelette fans in SE17 to make the numbers work - at least for now - and despite my own reservations, for this I'm glad. I may not have been bowled over myself, but anyone trying to do something a bit different, in an area of town that you'd usually only visit on the way to somewhere else, should be applauded. I doubt I'd be back, but if the idea of paying £12 for a cabbage omelette fills your heart with joy, well, you know where to go.


Friday 14 September 2018

The Wife of Bath, Wye

Wye is a picturesque, peaceful Kentish town of half-timbered cottages and quaint, friendly pubs where you get the strong impression very little, apart perhaps from the addition of the odd Co-op or nail bar, has changed much in the last 500 years. In this bucolic scene, the Wife of Bath, with its handsome Georgian frontage and medieval cottage rooms, looks right at home; as English as mutton pie, as Kentish as hops or gypsy tart. Here, you think, I'll grab a room temperature pint of local IPA, sit by the fire and pick at some rustic local nibbles, and soak up the Best of British.

Well, no. You won't be doing that, because the Wife of Bath's attractive edifice is home not to a traditional country pub, or even anything so 20th century as a wine bar, but in fact a serious, modern Spanish restaurant; two bright, spacious rooms populated by effortlessly attentive staff, serving the kind of high-end Iberian fare you would be more than pleased to pay for in Galicia, never mind in deepest Kent. It's the brainchild of Gordon Ramsay protegée (though don't hold that against him) Mark Sargeant, who bought the place in 2016 following the rampant success of Rocksalt in nearby Folkestone. I didn't make it to Rocksalt myself on this trip, but my parents, who are retired and don't need to schedule their days around office hours, visited on the Friday night and reported back: "lovely fresh seafood with fantastic views", so that sounds like a recommendation to me.

Anyway, the Wife of Bath. Dinner began with a succession of substantial nibbles, first of which a single huge seared scallop, sat in what I think was some kind of pumpkin purée and topped with crisp shallots. You'd have to be dead inside not to enjoy a plump, gently caramelised scallop, sweet and fresh like this, the neon yellow of the sauce contrasting nicely with deep blue ceramic tableware.

Cheese croquettas suffered slightly from underseasoning, but still had plenty of flavour and an irresistable delicate crunchy crust. They came topped with a surprisingly punchy chilli jam, which I like to think came from the farm we drove past on the Saturday that had a giant inflatable chilli parked outside it. Or maybe they just came from their usual Brindisa suppliers. Either way, nice chilli jam.

Chicken wings, meticulously boned, battered and honey-glazed, were a good example of the kind of effort the Wife of Bath put into their food. Presumably it would have been a lot easier to leave the bones in, but these little extra touches are always appreciated. By the customers, at least, if not the kitchen staff...

Starters began with a buttery mound of wild mushrooms, topped with a duck egg, and surrounded by a wall of superior Ortiz anchovies. This was, as you might imagine, great - just the right side of rich, satisfying rather than overwhelming, the anchovies doing their wonderful umami-dense thing.

Baked crab had another surprisingly powerful hit of chilli, a pile of pickled fennel to cut through the sweet seafood, and a couple of slices of excellent house sourdough, so no issues there either. Personally, I'm always slightly happier with cold crab meat than hot - something about the texture of hot crab is slightly unnerving - but it was still very nice.

Beetroot salad is very rarely the most enticing option on a menu, but quite unexpectedly this was a highlight of the starters. Fantastic local beets, of all different shapes and sizes, alongside smoky charcoal-grilled courgettes, were studded with Valdeon, a salty blue cheese, and bouncy broad beans. It added up to the perfect late summer salad, colourful and textural, the kind of thing only the most accomplished and confident kitchens can produce - the Wife of Bath make it look easy.

Had I been eating with a few of my more carnivorous friends the £100 12-years-old Galician sirloin to share would have been a tempting - in fact inevitable - proposition. But with mum & dad largely beef-free these days I was forced to go alone with a plate of boldly pink Iberico pork loin, though believe me it was no hardship. I'm yet to find any part of the famous black-legged pigs I don't love, and this was no exception - unbelievably tender and full of flavour, presented simply with a dollop or two of romesco and some toasted cauliflower as well as more wild mushrooms. It was one of those perfect main course dishes - a supremely good lead ingredient, sensitively presented with flavours and textures to let it be its absolute best.

Wood pigeon, dark and smoked from the grill, had a powerful gamey flavour and the "spiced cherries" were a good foil for the bitter (though not unpleasantly so) meat. I think you either like game or you don't - I know at least one person who, fearless food adventure in most respects, can't go anywhere near a hung grouse or teal, despite mine and others' best efforts to convince her otherwise. Fine, but I consider grouse in particular to be one of the finest foodstuffs on the entire planet, and I can't help feeling she's missing out. Still, all the more for me I suppose - and she is at least saving a bit of money.

"Pea and leek tart" was pretty generously proportioned for a starter ordered as a main, and the Idiazabal cheese used to bind it all together had an incredibly deep flavour. Some of the food at the Wife of Bath is solid, unreconstructed Spanish, but you will notice that much of the menu is a kind of Spanish/gastropub fusion, Brindisa ingredients and the odd technique like romesco to liven up what would otherwise be solid British dishes. This tart is a good example of that fusion style - the kind of thing you might order from a number of country pubs, only using much more interesting Spanish cheese than the usual goats or cheddar.

Pre-dessert was a very clever coconut parfait topped with coriander. Probably not very Spanish - or English for that matter - but very successful, the floral herb really sitting well with the dairy.

I've always said, if you want the measure of a restaurant, try their home made ice cream. Every bit of effort a kitchen puts into its ice cream is obvious in the result, and at the Wife of Bath their version, studded with raisins and soaked in Pedro Ximinez sherry, had a texture so utterly smooth and silky it almost had no texture at all. It just floated into you, a cloud of cream, sugar and sweet alcohol.

And finally, an orange and saffron ice cream sandwich, topped with fresh local raspberries and micro basil. Another top bit of ice cream work, this also cleverly fused the British and the Spanish to great effect.

Those of you familiar with the latest foodie obsessions will have probably noticed that there's been a lot of attention on Kent in recent times. It all began (probably) with Stephen Harris' the Sportsman, where in making his own seaweed butter and evaporating seawater to make salt, was one of the first pubs to demonstrate that hyper-localism can find an enthusiastic audience. More recently, just down the road at the Fordwich Arms, a different set of enthusiasts have taken the bounty of the Garden of England and run with it, creating a menu of genuinely astonishing class. I can also recommend the Goods Shed and the Corner House, both in Canterbury, where you can get your fill of Kentish goods without breaking the bank.

The Wife of Bath deserves to be spoken about in this exalted company not despite the fact that it's a Spanish restaurant (of sorts) but because it has cleverly combined everything good about the fantastic produce available on their doorstep and the best of a cuisine practiced a thousand miles away. I'm not saying it's ever easy to run a great gastropub anywhere, but it's a model that has been thoroughly tried and tested, and in 2018 is almost (whisper it) becoming a bit of a safe option. Here in Wye, you can eat Iberico pork with local mushrooms, dayboat fish with Spanish anchovies, house sourdough and Spanish Tempranillo, and it all makes absolutely perfect sense. Why shouldn't the best Spanish restaurant in the county be in a sleepy half-timbered medieval town, 2 hours' drive from London? Viva Kent!


I was invited to the Wife of Bath and didn't pay for dinner or accommodation, although we did pay for 2 nights in a different room in the building. Which was lovely, as you can see. Also - check out the insanely low minibar prices.