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Restaurant review: The Tickled Trout, West Farleigh

PUBLISHED: 12:49 25 July 2017 | UPDATED: 12:49 25 July 2017

The Tickled Trout enjoys a rural setting with plenty of sunny outdoor seating and a pretty interior

The Tickled Trout enjoys a rural setting with plenty of sunny outdoor seating and a pretty interior

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

The Tickled Trout in West Farleigh has emerged from renovations as a stylish boutique hotel with good dining

Robust, seasonal cooking Robust, seasonal cooking

It was a logical extension for owners of Hush Heath, Richard and Leslie Balfour-Lynn, to want guests to their Winery in Staplehurst to be able to stay on and enjoy more of their hospitality and the beautiful Kent countryside.

However, adamant that the stunning site for their own home, business and vineyards would not develop into something away from its central core, the couple devised a cunning plan.

Now The Goudhust Inn and, most recently, The Tickled Trout in West Farleigh, provide a place for wine enthusiasts, locals and the rest of the county and beyond to experience Hush Heath wines and ciders, enjoy great food and have a comfortable and stylish place to stay for the night.

Having joined a crowd of soon-to-be regulars when The Tickled Trout held a lively launch party earlier in the year, it was a joy to return for an overnight visit and to also bring my same guest from party night back for dinner. It’s a cosy pub and dining room, with sun terraces and a large garden with a kids’ play area, so there’s plenty on offer for the whole family.

Luke's Tree is one of six delightful bedrooms Luke's Tree is one of six delightful bedrooms

After a slight confusion about where to check in (there is a separate entrance for hotel guests from the car park, but you need a key first), I was shown up to ‘Luke’s Tree,’ one of the six highly individual boutique bedrooms, designed by Leslie Balfour-Lynn and named after the vineyards and their children.

Cool and contemporary in greys and creams, with Sky TV, a striking silver wall panel, sleek en suite and a nod to its namesake (eldest son Luke’s Tree Pure Russet Apple Juice, made from Egremont Russet apples grown on the estate) in the shape of small branches as coat hangers instead of a wardrobe.

Refreshed I headed back to the bar and nearly tripped over a large black bear – well, a dog really, but vast and clearly as at home as its owners enjoying a Friday early evening drink.

Don’t mind if I do, so settling into a comfy leather tub chair I admired the grey-painted beams, wooden floors with occasional rugs and the old framed prints and maps on the walls. The cocktail menu was enticing but there was only one choice for me – a glass of Balfour Leslie’s Reserve with citron and elderflower: summer incarnate.

Fabio Vinciguerra, Executivef chef for Hush Heath Hospitality Fabio Vinciguerra, Executivef chef for Hush Heath Hospitality

Once my guest arrived, we were seated in the adjoining dining room, which had a nice Friday night buzz about it, but without a full house we felt it might seem a tad characterless.

However, service by Jane was friendly and informed and the Spring à la carte selection gave us plenty to choose from, with a good balance between meat and fish. Star of the show was my guest’s day boat catch of the day – artfully presented, succulent grilled plaice served with chorizo and the fattest, juiciest asparagus spears: “One of the very best fish dishes I’ve had in a long while,” was the verdict.

She enjoyed her Whitstable mussels in cider cream and thyme sauce served with generous pieces of focaccia, although found the mussels a tad salty. My smoked reservoir ‘Tickled’ trout pâté and croutons was lifted from the ordinary by the freshness of the fish and the vibrant pink jelly topping.

Although later chastised by exuberantly Italian chef Fabio for not choosing the more seasonal lamb, my braised beef blade, served with broccoli and stilton purée and a generous slab of potato dauphinoise gave me some great flavour sensations and beef cooked so long and slow that it just melted in the mouth.

Pudding for me was a disappointment – I love panna cotta, but mine was far too hefty and lacked lightness and ‘wobble’ while the strawberry jelly felt out of place.

My guest plumped for a cheese plate featuring local Winterdale Shaw, Kentish Blue and Rosary Goat’s cheese with chutney, quince and crackers. She successfully paired the cheddar and chutney, the Blue with the quince but poor old goat’s cheese seemed a little left out.

Lovely touches include a flight of Hush Heath wines – the ideal way to sample mine hosts’ finest – and the gorgeous blue crockery used for our mains that made such a distinctive background for the vibrant food.

A good night’s sleep was followed by a nicely informal breakfast in the bar of good coffee and scrambled egg with smoked salmon.

A great place for a drink after work, meal with the family or special occasion, with many seasonal events, including jazz and wine-pairing dinners with Richard Balfour-Lynn in person.

The essentials

Where: The Tickled Trout, Lower Road, West Farleigh, nr Maidstone ME15 0PE

01622 814 717, info@thetickledtrout.com or visit: www.thetickledtrout.com

What: Stylish boutique hotel with six rooms and a menu focused on fish

When: Mon-Sat 8am-11pm, Sun 8am-10.30pm, during the week breakfast is served 8am-11.30am

How much: Haddock croquette, edamame and fennel salad £6; lamb fillet, mashed potato, spinach and carrot purées, mint jelly £19; chocolate pistachio tart, pistachio ice cream £6

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