The West House Biddenden - Restaurant Review
PUBLISHED: 15:59 14 December 2010 | UPDATED: 17:42 20 February 2013
The West House Biddenden – restaurant review....
The West House Biddenden restaurant review
Bread and dripping is not something one usually associates with Michelin Star dining, but when its home-made bread served warm in a little cloth bag with the lightest of thyme and farmhouse butter-laced pork dripping to spread on it, then it becomes something else entirely.
Its the first of many surprises at The West House on Biddendens pretty high street. Set in a 15th-century Flemish weavers cottage, a Grade II listed building, the family-run restaurant is tiny, seating up to just32 at dark oak round or square tables.A big recessed fireplace houses a woodburning stove and beams cover the ceiling and plain white walls, which are hung with modern prints of radishes a quirky but typical touch.Then theres the chef-owner himself. Graham Garrett is still a real East End boy, utterly unpretentious and down to earth. I am not convinced he knows how good he is, despite gaining his Michelin Star six years ago (after just two years here) and having won many awards over the same period.His welcoming wife Jackie looks after the front of house and the couple are now getting help from their teenage son and daughter, so its a real family affair.
Out in the kitchen Graham, who learned his craft in London with Nico Ladenis and Richard Corrigan, is assisted by Ben Crittenden, from Ramsgate who,we agree, really should move to Frittenden for the sheer rhyming fun.The short dinner menu completely reflects Grahams style concise dish names hiding a great deal of skill and impeccable judgement of flavours. Thus tomato is actually tomato tartare with a fried courgette flower, feta cheese and black olive salt,pork is slow-cooked pigs cheeks with carrots, turnips and chorizo cream while custard is vanilla crme brle with cherries and a brandy snap.You get the picture.
The passion is all in the cooking, which relies heavily on the best of local produce fish from Chapmans of Sevenoaks, game and partridge from Necci Game of Staplehurst, fruit and veg from Friday Street Farm, all complemented by a carefully chosen wine list of about 80 wines (the new list will include some local Chapel Down favourites, we are assured).
Suitably intrigued, My Double-Barrelled Friend and I made our choices from a sensibly short selection of five starters and five mains. MDBF opted for ham and eggs, which turned about to be jellied ham hock, black pudding, a small but perfectly formed warm Scotch egg and the most delicious home-made piccalilli.It tastes like proper ham should do! he said, with a note of surprise and there was a similar response to his roast Temple Farm chicken main, which had the subtlest and softest of flavours that only comes with a really fresh, perfectly cooked bird. Served with potato gnocchi, artichokes and girolles (and a glass of French Caves de Gaillac Sauvignon Privilege), this was a winning plateful.
Meanwhile, I kick-started my tastebuds into touch with a zingy selection of marinated fillet of mackerel and beetroot, accompanied by frozen horseradish and a shot of cucumber jelly a great palate cleanser before my meltingly tender roast fillet of venison served with Brogdale Farm cherries, the evenings special. Richly red and robustly flavoursome, this was the star turnfor me and worked especially well with a glass of Spanish red, Bodegas Pittacum Bierzo Tinto 2005.My pudding transported me straight back to childhood: crunchie turns out to be white chocolate honeycomb parfait with dark chocolate sorbet (heaven for chocoholics),while MDBF loved his strawberries and cream, an elegantly delicious combination of crme fraiche, pannacotta, local strawberries and rose water meringue with frosted tarragon.
The final word comes from Graham, who looks visibly more relaxed at the end of the evening. If I got fed up cooking, Id do something else but I still get excited by it! And long may that excitement and sheer inventiveness last.
The West House Restaurant
28 High Street,
Typical prices: 35 for three coursesat dinner, lunch 25 for three coursesor 22 for two, Sun lunch 35 (three courses) or 29 (two courses).
Restaurant open: Tue-Fri 12pm-1.45pm, Sun 12pm-2.30pm, dinner: Tue-Sat 7pm- 9.30pm