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Restaurant review: The West House, Biddenden

PUBLISHED: 12:49 08 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:49 08 January 2019

The West House, Biddenden (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The West House, Biddenden (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Winner of Kent Life's Restaurant of the Year 2018, family run The West House in Biddenden has now extended its charms with the addition of four guest rooms

A couple of years have passed since I had the pleasure of eating at multi-award-winning The West House in Biddenden. I’m back to hug chef-patron Graham Garrett and congratulate him on winning Kent Life’s 2018 Restaurant of the Year award. And of course to sample his stunning cooking.

Graham is no stranger to awards, having the extraordinary record of receiving a Michelin Star every year since he and his wife Jackie relocated from Hackney to open here in 2002.

He also won Kent Life’s Chef of the Year in our inaugural Awards, scooping the title again in 2016.

The West House is housed in a 16th-century former weaver’s cottage in Biddenden (photo: Manu Palomeque)The West House is housed in a 16th-century former weaver’s cottage in Biddenden (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The couple are supported by their son Jake, who joined his mother running front of house nine years ago. It’s a proper family affair and the joyous thing is the complete lack of pretension.

The former rock musician is as down to earth as they come and what drives him is sourcing the finest ingredients, cooking seasonally and supporting local producers. Jake and Jackie look after diners who flock here from near and far with the same ease and friendliness for everyone.

Graham is accompanied in the newly re-fitted but still small kitchen by head chef Tony Parkin and pastry chef Paul Gray – and that’s it. In the past is was just the main man, doing it on his own. And he’s still in the kitchen, day and night, so you’ll always get that star quality, every time.

New since January 2018 is the addition of four individually designed guest rooms: Scandi, Art Deco, Serenity and Rock ‘N’ Roll. They’re in Graham’s formerly little-used garden behind this quaint 16th-century weaver’s cottage that can now call itself a ‘Restaurant with Rooms.’

Entrance to the unprentious dining room is straight from the street (photo: Manu Palomeque)Entrance to the unprentious dining room is straight from the street (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Despite three years of planning challenges and setbacks, Graham is delighted it’s finally happened.

As am I, especially as my room for the night is Rock ‘N’ Roll, which is every bit as brilliant as the picture here suggests. Dominated by a black four-poster and with original rock artworks on the walls by Keith Richards no less, plus a fab bathroom, there’s even a hot tub in the terrace garden outside the patio doors. It’s all very Californian, right in the heart of rural Biddenden.

Joined by My Blonde Mate for dinner, we settle at one of the 10 tables in the cosy beamed dining room, where Jake is lighting the wood-burning stove in the big open brick fireplace. A glass of Champagne arrives, together with fat, juicy Spanish olives and two sorts of home-made bread with both butter and beef dripping to spread on liberally.

We opt for the six-course tasting menu with matching wines selected by Jake (there’s an equivalent vegetarian menu with choices like miso-baked aubergine with red pepper ketchup and a salad of charcoal-baked beetroot with horseradish cream).

Photo: Manu PalomequePhoto: Manu Palomeque

But first a couple of delicious ‘extras:’ a Parmesan-filled, light-as-air choux pastry and then a tiny bowl of garlic-roasted langoustine in a bisque with vivid basil oil and juicy bits of confit fennel and orange to discover.

Tastebuds all lit up, we loved our next soothing combination of warm, oak-smoked haddock topped with a quail’s egg, bacon and micro herbs, paired with an unusual Montesierra Chardonay/Gewurztraminer Blanco 2016.

To follow came a crisp taco topped with confit duck leg and onion marmalade, the finishing touch a generous grating of frozen cured foie gras given at table by Jake. With his ‘permission’ to ‘pick it up and be messy’, we certainly did – and adored it even more. Delicious with another white wine; a rounded, almost buttery Vouvray Sec, Domaine Champalou 2016.

Next up was wild fillet of sea bass topped with a rich, creamy cauliflower and kaffir lime sauce, cut through by pickled cucumber, caviar and the bright acidity of a glass of Riesling Trocken, Weingut Donitoff 2016. Divine.

Photo: Manu PalomequePhoto: Manu Palomeque

Our first red wine, the juicy organic American Evolution Red, sixth edition, Sokol Blosser, made a fine accompaniment to roast loin of Chart Farm Sika deer served with an intense jus, quince, celeriac, confit potato and kale. Cooked to perfection, this was a stunning Kentish offering.

A wonderfully tart blackcurrant compote with yoghurt ice cream and fennel pollen meringue then preceded delicious dulce de leche custard tart with a Seville orange marmalade ice cream that was just made for a smidgen of Moscatel Dorada, Cesar Florido.

Coffee and goodnights to MBM done, I threw caution and clothes to the winds and braved a blustery wet night to bask in my private hot tub before nestling into my supremely comfortable rock n’roll-sized bed. And in the morning waiting outside my door was a very cool hamper filled with goodies like a banana muffin, granola and yogurt, fruit and even a smoked haddock quiche – most of which came home for that night’s supper. Even I have my limits.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of eating at The West House, put it immediately on your 2019 bucket list. Add in a stay in one of the funky new en suite bedrooms, and you may never tear yourself away.

A truly award-winning dessert from Kent Life's Restaurant of the Year (photo: Manu Palomeque)A truly award-winning dessert from Kent Life's Restaurant of the Year (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The essentials

What: Michelin-starred, family run restaurant with rooms

Where: The West House, 28 High St, Biddenden, Ashford TN27 8AH. 01580 291341

The team: Jake Garrett, Tony Parkin, Graham Garratt and pastry chef Paul Gray (who travels up from Salisbury: dedication!) (photo: Manu Palomeque)The team: Jake Garrett, Tony Parkin, Graham Garratt and pastry chef Paul Gray (who travels up from Salisbury: dedication!) (photo: Manu Palomeque)

When: Mon closed, Tue-Sat lunch 12pm-13.45, dinner 7pm-9.30pm, Sun lunch 12pm-2.30pm

How much: three-course lunch £29; dinner £48; tasting menu £65 pp, £100 including wine selection

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