In a converted pub down Beer Cart Lane a few streets away from Canterbury High Street you'll find The Ambrette, the award winning third location of Dev Biswal's India meets Kent dining concept that was born in Margate a couple of years ago. I'd visited The Ambrette before for their fantastic value (three courses and an amuse bouche for £20.95) pre and post theatre menu last Halloween which I included in my Canterbury food round up for Buzzfeed, but I had not yet got around to visiting to write a proper blog review. The team at The Ambrette spotted this, so last week they invited me along to try their new Summer tasting menu.
While we waited for the first course to arrive, we browsed the wine list and decided to go for a glass each of their house rose, a slightly sweet (but not too much that it did not go with everything we ate) wine from Chile which made a nice and refreshing change from the default French Cote de Provence that has been the wine of choice since things started to get nice, hot and sunny around May.
No matter what menu you're dining off at The Ambrette or if you're going a la carte you'll get a little amuse bouche brought to your table. I seem to remember a shot of some kind of soup when I first ate there last year, and last week we were presented with these delicately spiced (I loved the little hint of cardamom in the background) quenelles with a popadom crisp and a piece of wilted wild garlic.
For our first course, we were presented with a wild fennel lassi served with a chargrilled artichoke heart, stir fried (and locally foraged) wild garlic and a sprig of samphire. The lassi was curious; not sweet as you'd expect being used to mango versions, but pleasantly savoury and slightly fizzy. The artichoke was lovely and tender, in contrast slightly sweet fleshed to go with the slightly spicy Indian marinate. The whole dish was both delicious and interesting, and again, like the amuse bouche leaves you excited for the next course.
Next came the best bite of food in the whole meal. Baby octopus ceviche is served with orange, tomatoes, local herbs, and a shard of sea bass. The flavours were all good and it made a pretty plate, but what we were both blown away by (in case you have not noticed from the photos yet, this was another Mummy/ Daughter lunch date!) was how tender the octopus was. Octopus usually gets a bad rep for being chewy and rubbery, but this one practically melted in the mouth. Truly the sign of perfect execution.
The next course was one of contrast. A cold cumin and tomato gazpacho (so delicious and perfect for this time of year, one I'll be working on recreating at home) provided a lovely roll reversal with the still hot from the oven, soft and milky rolls topped with nigella seeds. The whole dish was finished off with a creamy slab of goats cheese each. I'm not a cheese eater, but I was assured by my lunch date that it was a rather delicious local cheese which pulled all of the flavours, textures and contrasts together perfectly.
The fifth plate to arrive at our table was English grain-fed beef striploin with Yukon Gold potatoes, poached beetroot and pickled pear from Goudhurst. The beef was lovely and tender, and while I could not quite put my finger on what they were flavoured by, the sauces were also delicious. The portion looks small, but it was actually perfectly sized as part of the tasting menu. A special shout out needs to go to the beetroot, something I usually don't like but I really enjoyed here, delicately spiced and beautifully tender.
Just one of those things with a seasonal tasting menu, some things won't always be available, so we ended up choosing from the main lunch dessert menu. I'd had the rose and vanilla creme brûlée served with mango and dried rose petal sugar shards before, so it is what I pushed my Mother towards. The delicate pink cream tastes of rose, but also nothing like Turkish delight; perfect for those who are sceptical about floral scented desserts.
I went for the lemon and pomegranate bavarois served with Kopra Pak, lemon verbena and white chocolate cream. It was a lovely, very different set cream, but what got me really, really excited (and yes, something else I want to add to my never ending list of things I want to try to recreate at home) was the Bombay style coconut and cardamom fudge pieces it was served with. Just the right balance of sweetness, coconut flavour and cardamom spicing, the pieces managed to be very more-ish without being too sickly. I'd really, really love the recipe.
I honestly could not fault a single thing on the entire tasting menu, and we both really enjoyed our lunch. All of the dishes were well thought out, and the portion sizes were just right so that we did not come away at all hungry or wanting more, but we did not feel overly stuffed either; the whole meal was very light, perfect for the scorching hot Summer we've been experiencing here in Kent. Also, the Summer tasting menu (remember to tell them that is what you'll have having ahead of time when you book) is only £32 per person. Now I'd like you to tell me where you can get all of this for that price in London!