ABode in Canterbury - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 16:09 27 July 2010 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013
Trying to stick to a budget but still crave a bit of luxury? Then head for ABode in Canterbury and enjoy a three-course feast at less than a tenner
We're all time poor and, well, perhaps generally a little poorer than we used to be, so satisfying our need for quality while sticking to a budget is challenging. It's awareness of this that has led ABode Canterbury's executive chef, Mark Rossi, to create an extremely clever new lunch menu at the hotel's prestigious Michael Caines restaurant.
Called Amazing Grace, it offers three courses for just 9.95, or 16 with the sommelier's choice of wine by the glass. And for that bargain price you also get the pleasure of being waited on in an elegantly airy, modern dining room, decorated with tasteful prints, fresh flowers and terracotta artwork.
Mark explains: "We like to leave the mouth wanting one more bite, but as the cooking is so rich and intense, you don't need much on the plate.
"It's very cute cooking - we scale it back to its bare bones, making it ideal for people who need to be in and out in under an hour."
Lingering, however, is definitely encouraged if you have no time constraints, and many of our fellow diners were doing just that. Seating 70 at round or square tables, seats are comfortable leather, there's a nice wooden floor and the lighting is spot on. The short lunch menu - just three choices per course - changes daily or weekly, depending on what is available and in season, and gives a real taste of the kitchen's high-quality cuisine.
Mark Rossi has worked at the restaurant since ABode Canterbury opened, training under TV chef Michael Caines. He's forged strong relationships with local and regional suppliers, making good use of fish and shellfish from ports such as Dover and Rye, as well as Kent beef and Romney Marsh lamb, game in season and seasonal fruit and vegetables.
If budget permits, I'd really advise getting sommelier Leighton Roberts involved, as he's a master at matching food and wine - and he had a few surprises up his sleeve for us, too.
But the proof is in the eating and, more to the point, would The Hungry One be satisfied by a 'grazing' menu? The way he was devouring the admittedly delicious home-made bread definitely had me a bit worried.
Leaving me to enjoy my small but perfectly formed glazed goat's cheese salad surrounded by artistic swirls of colourful dressing, THO plumped for the spring vegetable and herb soup, which really did look like spring in a bowl and was deemed "very nice and creamy, despite the tomato. I'm being very brave about the tomato." Honestly, how brave do you need to be to tackle tiny pieces of tomato?
That hurdle aside, THO's eyes lit up at the sight of his next course, a veritable mini-tower of pork belly, meltingly tender and with the taste of the honey it was glazed in really shining through. Served on a bed of wilted spinach with fondant potato and apple pure, this was a dish that combined eye appeal with great flavours and was well matched by Leighton's choice of a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.
I naturally went for the pan-fried sea bass for my main, which Mark had paired with Thai pure, as well as Shitake mushroom and a little bit of stir fry as well, which was an unusual approach but one that appealed to my tastebuds and was complemented by a glass of Grenache Ros. And the presentation - it was almost a shame to have to disturb such artistry!
THO had 'bagged' the chocolate brownie as soon as we sat down, so I let him lap up the added calories presented by the accompanying white chocolate and Grand Marnier cream and white chocolate and Mascarpone ice cream. Didn't even get a taste, but the extremely clean plate and satisfied smile told its own tale. He was a little startled to be offered an almost treacly sherry as his pudding wine, but declared it a "perfect match."
I had the apple crumble with vanilla ice cream, which was nicely spicy but a little on the cool side, and I found the butterscotch sauce served in a dinky little jug just too sweet for my palate. A Chenin Blanc dessert wine deftly picked up the taste of the fruit.
So what was the verdict? If you appreciate quality and service, plus the finer things in life, even during your lunch hour, you've definitely come to the right place - but if you're expecting a hearty feast for this price, I'd head for the local chippie.
Michael Caines Restaurant
30-33 High Street
Canterbury CT1 2RX
Tel: 01227 766266