Restaurant review: Verdigris in Tonbridge
PUBLISHED: 16:56 29 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:56 29 July 2019
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
New kid in town Verdigris is making a real impact on Tonbridge’s burgeoning foodie scene
Perched a few steps down from Big Bridge, with its own river terrace overlooking the Medway and the ancient castle opposite, Verdigris enjoys what must be the best location in town for a glass of wine, cocktail or food.
Formerly Graze and before that The Castle pub, the creation of chef-patron Scott Goss has been open eight months now. However, if, like me, you've only so far popped in for drinks with your besties - it's very girl friendly and we love sitting up at the bar watching the 'mixologists' work their magic - next time, stay for dinner. Or lunch, or breakfast.
Because food is at the heart of everything Scott does, and nothing but the very best will do for this perfectionist with surely the best beard in the business.
So, to begin our Verdigris adventure, where better to meet my dining chum on a fine summer's evening than at the new river terrace bar for a cocktail. We both opt for a 'molecular' version, hers a vodka Hitchhikers that's a gorgeous blue, mine even more exciting: a Houdini Martini starts off blue and when you pour in the 'magic' acid element, it changes to pink. Kings of cocktails Jim Harrison and Isaac Eaglestone will explain the science properly.
Suitably wowed, we walk through the cosy, sophisticated bar to the dining room beyond; all muted creams and greys, wooden floorboards, arched windows and soft lighting that's increasingly flattering as the evening draws in.
We both opt for the nine-course taster menu, determined to test Scott's prowess to the max, adding in sommelier Marco Brivio's choice of six carefully selected wines designed to both complement the dishes and educate the palate.
And how well the crisp freshness of a glass of English fizz (sadly not Kentish) cuts through the delicious smokiness of our first dish: char-grilled fresh peas and asparagus, smoked egg yolk and anchovy. These are big, bold, uncompromising flavours that really gain from that hit of bubbles.
Next up, two oysters arrive on a bed of seeds and black rice, as if sunning themselves on their own little private beach.
A cumin milk froth conceals the salty treat beneath, which is matched by a hit of chorizo and dill. Down in one, we feel both brave and sophisticated.
There's more taste of the sea to come, and the meatiness of super-fresh, Kent coast mackerel garnished with pickled and fresh radish is matched by a chilled ruby red Cerasuolo di Vittoria with a whiff of cherry and sun-warmed pebbles about it. Once tried, it's hard to imagine a white wine coping with such strong flavours.
One of our favourite dishes of the evening follows - a bowl of clear mushroom broth in which are suspended two small but perfectly formed gnocchi. A strong umami flavour ignites first the sense of smell then there's an explosion of taste that's salt first, followed by a punch of sweetness. Visually, it's a green delight too.
Scott grins when we later try to sum up how something so small could see us practically licking our bowls clean we love it so much: "The brain doesn't quite know what's going on, does it?"
Next up, ham hock, braised long and slow then topped lavishly with cured, frozen and finely grated foie gras; it's one of the juiciest, pinkest cuts of this particular meat I've ever tasted.
Then there's a dish that really sums up Scott's ethos of using the whole animal, nose to tail - well, when did you last get faggot of Welsh lamb on the same plate as your lamb loin? With aubergine purée and charred gem lettuce, it's an (unexpected) taste triumph. A big, fat Argentinian Malbec is the magnificent accompaniment.
Sweetness then descends in the shape of a meringue with passionfruit and lemon that's been a favourite since Verdigris opened - and a distinctly Caribbean combo of fresh pineapple, coconut sorbet and chill rum that's pure summer. We even polish off the fudge and chocolates, temptingly presented in a little wooden box.
Scott joins us and I share an overheard remark from the next table: "Well, this is unexpected for Tonbridge!" Not the Tonbridge of 2019, I nearly retorted, but you can certainly expect the unexpected from this tattooed genius, who bears the inscription on one arm and indeed on the front of his menu: "To feed you is to love you."
It's an ethos his brilliant team all share too. We left into the night, Verdigris' outdoor lights twinkling in the river, feeling very loved.
What: Restaurant, wine and cocktail bar with a riverside setting
Where: Verdigris, 89 High St, Tonbridge TN9 1DR, 01732 366634, email@example.com
When: Mon-Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 9am-10pm
How much: Taster menu £60pp, add wine flight £35pp; chilled pea and mint soup £6.50; beef, Marmite butter, blue cheese, confit mushroom gratin £23; sweets £7
Meet Scott Goss, head chef
A bit of background
Scott Goss was previously executive chef and creative director of Pete Cornwell's I'll Be Mother group of businesses, which includes the Twenty Six restaurant (where he was based), The Beacon and The Swan. Scott also took part in last year's Great British Menu competition on BBC Two. Verdigris is his first solo restaurant: "I enjoy the cooking bit."
Who are your main suppliers?
Oliver Greens Produce in Rusthall for vegetables, Sankeys and Chapmans for fish and seafood, Longcroft & Old for meat and Penshurst Fine Foods for all our dried goods.
Your favourite dish on the menu?
At the moment it's the pea soup - it totally embraces classical cookery done well.
Top cookery tip for our readers?
Support your local fishmongers, butchers and greengrocers and always use the best quality ingredients you can find.
Who has influenced your career?
From the start of my career I've been influenced by Gary Rhodes, The Roux Brothers, Marco Pierre White - to name but a few.
Who would you like to cook for?
Nothing makes me happier than when I'm cooking for family and friends.
Your essential kitchen gadget?
My Vitamix - and always have a good sharp knife.
Your breakfast this morning?
Double espresso and a Gregg's sausage roll!