1181, Howfield Manor Hotel reviewed
PUBLISHED: 14:05 25 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:56 20 February 2013
Howfield Manor's French restaurant, 1181, not only enjoys a delightful setting but with a young Parisian chef at the helm celebrating his first year here, it's definitely poised for greater things
When Howfield Manor opened its French restaurant, 1181, last October it was a chance to introduce not one but two new chefs classically trained Jerome Engramer and his brother Bruno, who have brought a definite sense of Parisian flair to Chartham Hatch.
Tucked away down a long and winding lane, if you are approaching from the west, as I was, its an occasion to trust your sat nav implicitly as at one point you leave the M2 entirely and appear to be heading home. Which can be a tad disconcerting.
Its worth the brief sense of panic, however, as Howfield Manor originally the dairy that supplied nearby Canterbury Cathedral is quite delightful and the restaurant, which has a 12th-century well (covered) and is situated in the original chapel, was once home to the Monks of St Gregory and oozes a sense of history.
Some 900 years later, 1181 is still providing good local produce to the citizens of Canterbury and further afield, as news of Jeromes talents in the kitchen spreads.
Its no surprise to learn that Howfield Manor Hotel is a member of Produced in Kent, reflecting the owners commitment to using locally-produced food from award-winning local producers, including the Butcher of Brogdale, Simply Ice Cream and Core Apple Juice.
Jeromes menu combines classic French cooking with the best of Kentish ingredients, offering a seasonally changing selection and a choice of five starters, nine starters (three designed to share, such as a cheese fondue or roast beef) and five desserts. The only thing not local is the staunchly French wine list, but its a very well put together selection with some interesting smaller vineyards represented.
A sucker for shellfish, I went straight for the king prawns, juicy and huge in their shells and served with a light salad in a refreshing citrus and ginger vinaigrette a delicious and satisfyingly messy way to begin.
My Work Colleague opted for that rustic French classic, a coarse terrine accompanied by toasted granary bread and a simply outstanding home-made onion marmalade that contrasted perfectly with the lovely rough texture of the pt.
Tempted by the pan-fried haddock, I eventually decided on the monkfish once I learnt that the monks of St Gregory who worshipped on this site used to fish for it in the nearby Stour.
Served with basmati rice and yummy deep-fried courgettes, the flavour of the firm white fish was beautifully enhanced by a subtle creamy red pepper sauce.
Clearly in carnivorous mood, MWC followed her terrine with another classic: ribeye steak with proper Barnaise sauce and chips that looked far too dark to be as tasty as they were.
I experienced the only wobble of the meal when I chose a chocolate and hazelnut dessert that was supposed to have a rich soft centre but was actually more like the batch of chocolate cupcakes Id made that week definitely not soft in the centre though the addition of Kentish pear compote was an appealing touch.
I should have remembered my obsession with lavender in food and gone for MWCs crme brule with the subtlest hint of that delicate flavour: amazing how just a touch can elevate a well-loved classic to new heights.
Jerome is clearly a young chef to watch and Id encourage you to make the trip and discover his talents in the kitchen: he says hes not interested in getting a Michelin Star (he wouldnt mind a Rosette), preferring to keep his cooking simple and nice, but I sense there will be plenty of awards ahead in the near future.
Where: Howfield Manor Hotel
Howfield Lane, Chartham
Hatch, nr Canterbury CT4 7HQ
What: French with a sense of history
Whats the damage: terrine maison 6.20, monkfish with red pepper sauce 17.20, entrecte with Barnaise sauce and fries 16, crme brule 5
When: Sun-Mon 12.30pm-2pm and 6.30pm-8.15pm (last orders)