While I get on editing the next batch of photos from my French trip, I thought I'd share where we went for a very late lunch on Saturday. The Duck Inn at Pett Bottom, near Canterbury, is a very small country pub in the middle of nowhere with a lovely pub garden, wonderful sounding bar snacks (pints of prawns, homemade scotch eggs or Whitstable oysters anyone?) and classic pub food that is both fantastic value, and made to a very high standard. What is there not to like when the sun is shining at the beginning of the long weekend?
The Duck Inn is full of history. It was Ian Flemming's favourite pub, and it was here that he supposedly wrote You Only Live Twice. When Bond supposedly dies in the book and 'M' writes his obituary for The Times, she notes that the young James Bond grew up in Pett Bottom. The Duck was also the first pub to be awarded a Michelin star, before they even awarded them to pubs.
Saturday marked the beginning of English Wine Week, so we kicked off with a bottle of one of the very first wines that was produced by a commercial vineyard here in Kent: Gribble Bridge Ortega Dry from Biddenden Vineyard. It is not my favourite of theirs (I'm partial to their sparking pink, which has a wonderful raspberry flavour), but it is wonderful and crisp both for in the garden and with food.
We started light. There was bread and olives for the table (and those of us who don't do starters). The chicken liver pate was divine; silky smooth and wonderfully rich thanks to a secret ingredient I guessed, but I'm going to do the kitchen a favour and don't tell. You'll just have to go and try it for yourself. It is honestly one of the best chicken liver pates I've ever had, and that is before I'd tasted the pitch perfect and wonderfully tangy homemade piccalilli on the side.
Also in the 'best I've ever had' category falls my prawn cocktail. It was just standard, with prawns at the top, the right amount of marie rose sauce and shredded lettuce and crunchy cubed apple at the bottom, but the sauce had a beautiful, classic flavour with just the right amount of spice.
We all went in different directions for our mains. This was the hay baked ham, egg and chips. With more piccalilli on the side, it showed how something so simple could be made so great using the best ingredients.
The fish pie also looked pretty great; bubbling over with wholegrain mustard and full of great hunks of fish, served up as a single serving with a simple side dish of spring greens.
However, I think the star of the show was my dish, the ricotta and parmesan gnocchi with tender stem broccoli, asparagus, spring peas, pesto, watercress, cucumber, and both fresh and sun dried cherry tomatoes. I saw someone else tucking into it as we headed out into the garden, and I just knew it had to be my order, even with the risk the cheese would leave me feeling a little off for the rest of the day (there must have not been much in it, though, as I was fine!) It was basically spring on a plate; so wonderfully fresh and bright, and the gnocchi was more than light; it was like biting into clouds with the added slight stringiness from the cheese. One of the stand out dishes I've had recently for sure.
Along with an English Breakfast tea, we went for two of the desserts on the small, but rather seductive menu of English classics made with little twists. There was tiramisu, spiked with booze soaked French cherries and topped with a generous amount of grated chocolate, and my frankly perfect bread and butter pudding, served with vanilla ice cream and with pieces of English rhubarb hidden between each layer.
After Eights came with our bill, and we all left feeling very satisfied with our meal, and pledging to stop by again, both for a proper meal, and to get our teeth into some of those bar snacks and a big bowl of chips in the garden. There are so many lovely country pubs here in East Kent, but it is rare to find one that is still so rural, quiet and tranquil.