Richard Phillips' at Chapel Down, Tenterden
PUBLISHED: 14:01 19 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:55 20 February 2013
Entering its fourth year based at the home of English wine, would celebrity chef Richard Phillips' eponymous restaurant at Chapel Down still live up to its early promise? Kent Life went to find out
Grapes of success
Entering its fourth year based at the home of English wine, would celebrity chef Richard Phillips eponymous restaurant at Chapel Down still live up to its early promise? Kent Life went to find out
I first visited Richard Phillips then brand-new restaurant at Chapel Down in 2008 and while I loved the whole experience, had to take the Kent Wunderkind mildly to task for the lack of vegetarian options on offer for my dining chum.
No such problem this time round, both myself and My Talented Writer Friend being confirmed carnivores and there being a small but excellent choice of veggie offerings on a special separate menu.
Luckily we also both love our fish, because four out of eight starters and mains are seafood options and it was interesting to see that some of the dishes have remained on the menu since my last visit, including a crab and fennel risotto topped with pan-fried scallops that I still remember fondly.
But salmon fishcakes brimming with fresh dill and nicely contrasted by pickled cucumber proved just as enjoyable and MTWF loved her beetroot carpaccio, dark as velvet (said she was a writer) and prettily topped with goats cheese mousse and tiny poached quails eggs .
The menu helpfully pairs every dish with suggested wines, including a number from Chapel Down itself, the home of English wines well, it would be rude not to, since the converted barn restaurant literally looks down across the vineyards.
Its a modern, lively place, with a choice of long wooden tables (comfy banquette seating on one side makes this ideal for a large group) or chunky round tables for smaller numbers, wooden flooring, accent walls in grey and an open hatch to the kitchen where you can also perch on stools for drinks and nibbles and watch the chefs at work.
Seating about 60 and pretty full on our mid-week visit, we struggled a bit to hear each other and the mainly foreign waiting staff above the chatter around us and concluded it must be the acoustics/accents and definitely not an early onset of hearing problems.
But back to the important eating bit and a confession: I had been anticipating my main course ever since I saw Manus photographs of the Kentish beef in advance (pictured below).
I wasnt disappointed - the roast fillet under a crust of herbs and peppercorns was probably the finest Ive ever tasted; add potatoes sauted in duck fat, local runner beans and creamed celeriac and team it with a robust Argentinian Lagarde Malbec, and you have heaven on a plate.
MTWF also thought her line-caught sea bass under a crispy herb crust was the highlight of her meal, and admired the unusual but successful pairing with a tasty butter bean casserole studded with chunks of salty ham.
While it might sound as if weve already demolished enormous amounts of food, portions are such a perfect size its impossible to feel overwhelmed and the different and highly imaginative flavour combinations keep the tastebuds on the alert.
That was our justification, anyway, for ordering the sharing plate of desserts on the basis that we really wouldnt be eating any calories at all. So we nibbled and giggled our way through bits of Kentish apple crumble souffl, spiced Victoria plum cake, lemon sponge and ice cream that tasted of fudge and had a thoroughly lovely time.
One last point access is up a metal outside staircase and I did wonder how the restaurant coped with disabled, elderly or indeed very young visitors in buggies? I carry up! declared our lovely waiter for the evening.
So dont let a set of stairs put you off Attila (the Hungarian, naturally) will sort you out and whatever method you choose to get upstairs, you are guaranteed a wonderful experience and the seriously good cooking that Richard Phillips inspires in his young protoges throughout his culinary empire.
Where: Richard Phillips at Chapel Down, Tenterden Vineyard, Small Hythe, Tenterden, Kent, TN30 7NG
What: Stylishly modern, upmarket restaurant
Whats the damage: salon and dill fishcakes 5.95, roast fillet of Kentish beef 22
When: Tue-Sat 12-3pm, Thu-Sat 6.30-10.30pm, Sun Brunch 12-4pm, BH Mon 12-5pm