CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Kent Life today CLICK HERE

Food review: The Abbot’s Fireside

PUBLISHED: 15:35 11 September 2017

The ancient bar and restaurant flow into one area along the width of the building

The ancient bar and restaurant flow into one area along the width of the building

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Oozing history and character, The Abbot’s Fireside offers atmospheric accommodation, homely fare and a setting in beautiful countryside close to the Channel Crossing

Bedrooms are named after the well-known or local people relating to the history of this ancient building: this is NelsonBedrooms are named after the well-known or local people relating to the history of this ancient building: this is Nelson

New owners of The Abbot’s Fireside, Eric and Helen Gaskell, who reopened the 15th-century inn back in December 2015, are a very busy couple indeed. They also run The Duke of Cumberland in the neighbouring village of Barham, the newly opened Gatekeeper in Etchinghill and The Jackdaw in Denton.

Their latest acquisition lies in the heart of the Elham Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and has seven individually styled bedrooms all named after well-known or local people relating to the history of this ancient building.

Rumour has it that the Duke of Wellington used the hotel as his headquarters while preparing for battle with Napoleon at Waterloo and that Charles II and his son the Duke of Richmond hid in the great chimney to avoid being captured by Cromwell’s Roundheads during the Civil War.

Built as an inn in 1451 and now Grade II listed, throughout Tudor and Stuart times it was known as The Smithies Arms and the cosy bar still bears that name.

Food at The Abbot's FiresideFood at The Abbot's Fireside

While there is a terrace at the front of the building and a very pretty little courtyard garden tucked at the rear, this is a place made for winter, with its heavy antique furniture, open fireplaces and original leaded glass windows throughout public areas and bedrooms.

Both the lounge and restaurant feature huge medieval fireplaces which, like the hotel itself, are listed by the Historical Society; one hand-carved example was taken from the Abbey in Lyminge during the Reformation.

My room for the night is up in the gods, a steep climb up narrow, creaky stairs during which ascent Julie (on her first day working here) and I manage to get spectacularly lost and I also miss the sign alerting me to low beams …

Was there anything else I needed, she asked, after we’d tracked down my atmospheric attic quarters, all angled beams, simple furnishings and a portrait of Lord Horatio and scenes from the Battle of Trafalgar above my comfy double bed just in case I forget I’m in the ‘Nelson’ room.

Chef Mark BatchelorChef Mark Batchelor

No, just scatter some crumbs for me to find my way back to the bar, I responded, not quite in jest. Later, bearings sorted, on my way back down again for dinner I spot some 16th-century wall paintings preserved behind glass and was able to better appreciate the layout of a building that has seen so many changes, including being converted into four cottages in the 1700s.

I was joined by the owners and their chocolate labrador Mollie in the tiny bar area and we were soon chatting with a couple of regulars who clearly love it here. It’s easy to see why; it’s very relaxed and welcoming, with the public areas extending unbroken across the width of the inn.

Soon people were taking their places in nooks and crannies, some up on different levels, and it was interesting to hear the different accents; being so close to the Channel Tunnel, it’s a popular stopover point.

The food here is good, honest fare and the menu changes regularly to keep in touch with the seasons. Water is by the carafe, bread is a plain white roll and from the short wine list I select a glass of Pato Torrente Sauvignon Blanc to accompany my largely fishy feast.

My starter of Parma ham-wrapped scallops with leeks and black pudding was slightly marred by an over-heavy hand with the pesto, which overwhelmed the subtle flavours.

However, the picture improved with a main course starring well-cooked sea bream on a generous bed of sea-bright samphire. Accompanying vegetables were homely carrots cut into chunks and mashed potato.

Pudding was a bit of a disappointment – lemon tart requires the crispest of thin pastries and the tartest of flavours, but mine lacked any zesty appeal and the pastry was thick and soggy. Summer fruits on the side proved a nice touch, but the dollop clotted cream was not really needed.

Service throughout the evening was almost entirely by new girl Julie, who was tireless, engaging and efficient.

And so up my ship’s ladder to bed on a hot summer’s night under the eaves with a tiny window. To my surprise, I slept soundly and encountered no ghosts, although I am sure there must be many in this ancient, atmospheric hostelry.

An American couple at breakfast (help yourself from a mini fridge to milk and juice, order what you fancy and Eric will cook it for you) were exclaiming over the quaintness and antiquity of their surroundings. Welcome to Ye Olde Englande; Abbots Fireside is a perfect example.

The essentials

Where: Abbot’s Fireside Inn & Restaurant, High Street, Elham, Canterbury CT4 6TD. 01303 840566 or info@abbotsfireside.com

What: ancient inn in a pretty village

When: restaurant open Wed-Sun, lunch 12-3pm, dinner 6-9pm, Sun lunch 12-6pm

How much: smoked mackerel, spinach and pistachio fishcake £6.25, pork fillet roulade £17, chocolate ganache tartlet £6

Meet the chef

Head chef Mark Batchelor

Tell us a bit about you

I have been working in the catering industry for 16 years, having started as a kitchen porter and slowly working my way up to where I am today. Becoming head chef at the Abbotts Fireside is a relatively new experience for me but I have been working for Helen and Eric for the past five years in their other establishments.

Your main suppliers?

We like to keep all our produce Kent and locally based with our principal supplier being Aldington Fresh Foods, who supply local meats, dairy from the Romney Marshes and are also fresh fish specialists. We also have various locals who supply fresh produce daily.

Your signature dish?

The closest thing would probably be a dish I came up with over a challenge with a previous colleague during a late-night menu-writing session. The challenge involved developing a lamb dish each, which was later surveyed and the most-requested dish was mine. It later went on the menu and proved very successful. It’s pan-seared rump of lamb served on a roast fennel and ginger root salad finished with a smooth Amaretto jus and toasted almonds.

Your must-have gadget?

It’s not so much a gadget, but if I was to try working without my speaker and music, my focus would be straight out of the window! However, having a good-quality, multi-purpose food processor is a must for efficiency.

Who would you like to cook for?

I’d love to cook for the original cast of Dad’s Army, in full character, that would be a good day indeed.

Breakfast today?

Breakfast is the same everyday for me; a good, strong, black coffee.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Kent Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Kent Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Kent Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Food & Drink

If you like fun with your food, you are going to love the new Radnor Arms in Folkestone, where the welcome is as generous-hearted as the food offer

Read more
November 2018
Friday, November 16, 2018

Knowledgeable, attentive service, masterful cooking and exciting food and wine pairings make Sturry’s Kathton House a must-visit and one to watch

Read more
November 2018
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Kent’s leading drinks producer Chapel Down is to open a bar, restaurant and ‘gin works’ in King’s Cross

Read more
November 2018
Monday, October 29, 2018

Christmas Day is about celebrating with loved ones over good food and conversation, so head to one of these fantastic restaurants or cosy pubs and have a festive feast

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Keen2Cook in Deal has been awarded a grant of £2,500 to purchase new kitchen equipment, as part of the rural energy provider’s annual funding scheme

Read more
Monday, October 22, 2018

Working with Kent Farmers’ Market Association, we put a different market in the spotlight each month

Read more
October 2018
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Whether you want slow cooked pulled pork, huge steaks or some surf and turf, we’ve got the meat-heavy restaurants in Kent that you need to visit

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Thank you to everyone who entered and nominated and congratulations to all our finalists and winners

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

We reveal the winner of the Independent Café/Tea Room of the Year award

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

We reveal the winner of the Chef of the Year award

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
Kent Life Food & Drink awards 2016. Open for entries.

Latest Competitions & Offers

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search