Restaurant review: Frasers of Egerton

PUBLISHED: 16:24 03 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:25 03 December 2018

Food at Frasers (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Food at Frasers (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Enjoy a rural break at this converted farm, today an award-winning restaurant with characterful rooms

Taking the country route to Frasers of Egerton, My Petite Friend and I felt we were in the middle of nowhere when we arrived at our destination for the weekend. Yet Ashford is a mere 20 minutes away, as are glorious places to visit such as Leeds Castle and National Trust property Sissinghurst.

The site is a mixed farm owned by Adam and Lisa-Jane Fraser that was bought by Adam’s father John Fraser in 1960. He completely modernised it, eventually running two dairy herds, one Jersey and one Fresian. The Fraser family weren’t farmers, however; their background was in retail, as founders of the House of Fraser.

It was this heritage that led to the stag’s head branding (the Fraser family crest) still used today and that you’ll also spot all over the place at Frasers two AA rosette fine-dining restaurant with rooms.

The latter has branched out so much over the years under Lisa and Adam’s watch that in 2017 it won the British Farming Award for ‘Large Diversification of the Year’, recognising its transformation from a working farm to a successful hospitality business.

Frasers has been transformed from working farm to a successful hospitality business (photo: Manu Palomeque)Frasers has been transformed from working farm to a successful hospitality business (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Starting out with bed and breakfast and holiday lets, Frasers now caters for weddings, parties and corporate events alongside guest house accommodation.

Lisa-Jane, who plays a hands-on role in welcoming guests, started her farmer’s wife life selling home-baked cakes and pies at Farmers’ Markets, gaining a loyal following.

The hub of the business is a new-build barn which houses the dining area and has been built in traditional Kentish style using reclaimed local timber beams. This is where you check in and also where all meals are served (there are no other public rooms).

There’s a small bar next to the cloakroom and the kitchen is off to one side. A very large terrace offers uninterrupted views across 300 acres of grounds, which guests are welcome to explore.

The grand but cosy Blenheim Suite in the oast house (photo: Manu Palomeque)The grand but cosy Blenheim Suite in the oast house (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Accommodation in period buildings – a Kentish ragstone oast house, a converted former stable block and a former cart-barn – is the other side of a large gravel car park. Crossing it for dinner later on in a downpour, I wore my wellies and carried my heels to protect them. Bring a brolly when you visit.

Back at the barn, it was time for afternoon tea, despite it being lunchtime. Turns out this is quite a ‘thing’ at Frasers, and we weren’t the only ones tucking into a tiered plateful traditionally associated with later in the day.

This worked because among the dainty sandwiches and delicious cakes, fat scones with cream and jam were for me the stars of the show – piping hot, home-made sausage rolls and light-as-a-feather goat’s cheese and caramelised onion tartlets. The superb pastry boded very well for later and I thoroughly approve of hot savoury additions to a typically sweet feast.

Our plan to stride across the estate and burn off the calories was thwarted by driving wind and rain, so we explored our quarters instead. I was in the heavily beamed Blenheim Suite in the oast house, which had its own reception area and entrance and upstairs a grand four-poster, cleverly designed roundel bathroom with a lovely custom-made round bath and a second bathroom with shower.

Pan-roasted cod with mussel chowder and pancetta (photo: Manu Palomeque)Pan-roasted cod with mussel chowder and pancetta (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The Tiny One, appropriately, was in cute Pippin (all rooms are named after apple varieities) in one of three suites at Pond Cottage, the former stable block housing in the grounds of the main farmhouse.

Dinner later was courtesy of one of Her Majesty’s former chefs, so we felt highly privileged and wondered as we crunched across the gravel if we should have packed tiaras.

We needn’t have worried. Service in the two AA Rosette restaurant was warm and friendly, led by young mananger Ben Jeffreys, and we were soon tucking into Kevin’s seasonal seven-course taster menu using produce mainly grown, shot and sourced on the farm.

My Petite Friend doesn’t eat meat so her side of the table was more fish than fowl, but we both particularly enjoyed the pan-roasted cod with mussel chowder, mine served with pancetta, MPF’s with spinach. The crisp yet floral Chapel Down English Rose was an inspired accompaniment.

Kevin Bennett head chef (photo: Manu Palomeque)Kevin Bennett head chef (photo: Manu Palomeque)

A deep red Ruffino Chianti complemented the richness of the damson sauce served with my estate partridge, while a glass of El Monturo Tempranillo went down a treat with MPF’s equivalent main of crispy skinned sea bass with confit potato, capers and courgette.

Biddenden cider sorbet then gave us a clever, local, refreshing pause before a classic pear belle Hélène and Kentish cheeseboard finale.

In the morning, after peaceful sleeps with only the sound of birdsong to wake you, the sun finally decided to appear and gave a lovely warm glow to the barn’s central breakfast buffet spread. Fruit was followed by two perfectly poached eggs on good crunchy wholemeal toast and lots of tea.

A relaxing, restorative visit – and hopefully next time we’ll also get to expore the wider estate.

The essentials

What: Rural restaurant with rooms

Where: Coldharbour Farm, Barham’s Mill Road, Egerton, near Ashford TN27 9DD, 01233 756122

When: Breakfast 8.30-10am, lunch 12.30-3pm, afternoon tea 1.30-5.30pm, dinner 6.30-9pm

How much: à la carte , £29.95 for two courses, £35 for three, Christmas lunch £26.50 for two courses, £32.50 for three

Meet the chef

Kevin Bennett, head chef

Tell us a bit about you

I’m married to Hayley and we have two lovely daughters Matilda and Elodie. I grew up 20 minutes away in Ashford and started my formal training at Eastwell Manor. At 19, I went to work under The Roux Brothers at the Waterside Inn at Bray. After 18 months I moved to London to be one of The Queen’s personal chefs. I then went to The Dorchester to work under the renowned chef Alain Ducasse. I have been the head chef at Frasers now for a year.

Your principal local suppliers?

South Coast fish, Hinxden Farm Dairy, Sandhurst, David Catt and Sons Vegetable Purveyors, Chart Sutton and The Village Green Butchery, Bethersden.

Your current favourite dish?

The duck with Victoria plum and mushroom; it represents the ethos of Frasers on a plate. The duck is sourced from the estate by the owners’ son William, plucked by Hedgerow Game, a small independent local business, smoked in a home-made smoker with hay from our farm – and to top it off the plums are gifted from a neighbour!

Your top cookery tip?

Source the finest quality local ingredients – don’t scrimp.

Who has influenced you most?

Neil Wiggins from Eastwell Manor and The Queen’s Chef Mark Flanagan. Both invested in me and dedicated their time to ensure that my career proceeded on the right path.

Your breakfast this morning?

Three Wheatabix and half a punnet of blueberries.

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