6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Kent Life today CLICK HERE

The Five Bells at Brabourne

PUBLISHED: 15:28 26 January 2014 | UPDATED: 12:01 11 February 2014

The team in the kitchen at The FiveBells

The team in the kitchen at The FiveBells

Rikard Osterlund

Sunday lunch at Kent Life and Kent on Sunday's 'Pub of the Year' 2013

Once upon a time it would have been only pilgrims and travellers who stumbled across this appealing 16th-century country inn at the foot of the North Downs.

The lucky locals would have been already snugly inside – as indeed are their 21st-century counterparts on our Sunday lunch visit to The Five Bells in East Brabourne. Today’s visitors have the benefit of technology to help them sniff out this rural gem, which has remained true to its original principles of offering warmth, food and drink and a bed for the night.

It’s not even that remote anymore: 35 minutes by train from London, 15 from 
the Kent coast, Ashford and Canterbury.

But if you arrive by accident or design, once found, Kent Life and Kent on Sunday’s 2013 ‘Pub of the Year’ is impossible to forget and, as one of our 
trio later summarised: “It’s like being on holiday here – you just don’t want to leave.”

Why would you? There’s a blazing wood fire in the main bar, the gleaming copper bar has an array of local ales on tap, hops garland ancient beams, old photos and prints hang on the walls and wooden benches are strewn with rugs and cushions.

It’s a place where muddy boots and dogs are welcome and where the atmosphere is buzzy without being raucous. My Gorgeous Daughter, Her Lovely Fiancé and I were very happy. The warm glow was aided by a glass of Biddenden’s cider and its Ortega Dry, plus a manly tankard of Brabourne stout from a pleasingly Kentish list.

This local bias is also reflected in the producers our host John Bishop and 
his team use for their ever-changing menus: Griggs of Hythe, the Butcher of Brogdale at Faversham, The Wye Bakery and Watts Farm for fruit and vegetables.

These partners stock the pub’s in-house shop too, so you can take home just about anything that is served to the table; we even saw one woman buying a box of the lovely glasses she’d enjoyed her wine in.

Appetites sharpened by the country 
air and the sight of neighbouring tables tucking into huge sharing dishes of slow-cooked, beer-braised brisket served with crispy roast potatoes and fat Yorkshire puddings, we turned our attention to 
the handwritten menus. Vegetarians outnumbered carnivores, so our Sunday lunch wasn’t particularly traditional – but we notched up several highlights.

My huge portion of game terrine was enhanced by a spicy orchard chutney, while HLF’s tasty winter broth made 
with pan-fried field mushrooms and accompanied by a wedge of crusty home-made bread could have served as a main course, it was so generously served.

Among the mains, MGD’s Portobello mushroom burger (with home-made mayonnaise and tomato relish in cute little kilner jars) was a stand-out version of that classic, while my ‘whole leaping trout’ – served in an earthenware dish big enough for a small family – was roasted over chestnut embers, coated in a herby oat crust and peppered with pecans. Delicious.

Other choices ranged from steaks and wood-fired pizzas to pork ribs, liver and bacon and a fab-looking fish pie.

Extremely full, we asked for three spoons to share an unusual chocolate brownie pot topped with pear and Stilton. The jury is still out on that combo and 
next time I think we’d go for a slightly less wacky plum duff with Taywell ice cream or a damson, apple and sticky toffee pudding.

Utterly replete, warm as toast from the log fire, our only regret was that we weren’t staying the night. There are five gorgeously individual bedrooms and breakfasts here are reputedly very popular, not to mention the morning coffee, tea and cakes…

This is a ‘proper’ pub, the sort every village deserves to have, with good, 
hearty food and warm hospitality at its heart. A true winner. n

More from Food & Drink

Friday, August 30, 2019

No Sunday is complete without a roast dinner, and in the glorious county of Kent you'll be spoilt for choice with fantastic places to go. We have picked 12 great places where you can indulge in a roast with all the trimmings

Read more

Visit The White Horse in Dover for a slice of ancient and contemporary history, a huge welcome and hearty, homely cooking without any airs and graces

Read more
Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Win one of five pairs of tickets to Bluewater Gin Festival on 27-29 September 2019 and one of five bottles of Anno B3rry Pink Gin, courtesy of Anno Distillers

Read more
Tuesday, August 27, 2019

From the classic battered cod and chips to vegan 'fish' and deep fried gherkins, everybody loves a good fish and chip shop. We have picked 10 of the best places for fish and chips in Kent

Read more
Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Recipe by Mike Janey from Mickey's Plaice, fishmonger at Shipbourne and Hildenborough Farmers' Markets

Read more
Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Working with Kent Farmers' Market Association, we put a different market in the spotlight

Read more
Thursday, August 8, 2019

If sipping a tipple in the sun is your idea of a great summer's afternoon, these pretty pub gardens will be heaven

Read more
Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Christmas Day is about celebrating with loved ones over good food and conversation, so head to one of these fantastic restaurants or cosy pubs and have a festive feast

Read more

New kid in town Verdigris is making a real impact on Tonbridge's burgeoning foodie scene

Read more
Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Drink in the sight and smell of our native blooms on one of these wonderful wildflower walks

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life