Places To Eat In Canterbury: Chez Joël (Now Closed)
Yesterday I headed into Canterbury for a very exciting lunch at the cities newest opening: Chez Joël. It’s a modern, family run French bistro serving up French cafe classics, fresh seafood and by the glass wine from their extensive list. They’re only running a limited menu at the moment (they’re having some problems with the council so they can’t serve cooked food yet, but you’ll honestly not really notice), but we had a delicious sharing lunch of some French classics made with wonderfully fresh ingredients.
To start, I love their bar. I was thinking just the other day that there was not anywhere in the city centre where I could just go for a glass of wine and a few nibbles at the bar. They have a small selection of bar snacks, and you can order every wine and champagne on their fantastic looking wine list (I’m on the last few days of dry January, I have plans to return next week for a glass or two!) Also, a massive gold star for putting hooks for ladies handbags by each bar stool, as well as plug sockets that take USB for phone charging!
Chez Joël specialises in shellfish and charcuterie. I’ll be trying some of their cured meats they slice in the cafe window to order on my next visit, but yesterday I was just seduced by their beautiful seafood bar. I toyed with ordering a pair of crab claws, but instead we opted for a bowl of beautifully sweet brown shrimp (served with a side of mayo, there is already bread which they plan to bake themselves when they have got the ovens going) to share. I’d say these would make a great bar snack with a nice chilled glass of white, if you’re planning on sitting there for a while; they take a lot of peeling!
We also went for the terrine, which we were informed was pigeon as it was set down at our table. It was delicious, meaty and all the accompaniments such as dressed leaves, gherkins and a (boozy, I think?) preserved cherry went beautifully with it. I must also note that my mother does not eat terrine, unless she does not really have much of a choice when it comes as part of a plat du jour when we’re dining locally at our French house. However, she was fighting me for my slice. I’d call this a good, solid lunchtime staple.
Finally, because we wanted to go for something that could be considered a lunch on its own (for future reference) we chose to share the house salad of vinaigrette dressed leaves, chicken, bacon, avocado and sunflower seeds. I can’t think of anywhere, from London to Los Angeles I’ve dined and had a salad where I can say it had the perfect balance of textures, from the creamy avocado, to the sharp dressing, fatty bacon and crunchy seeds, but there you are. I’d happily eat this for lunch again many times over, and I don’t think my results are going to be as well turned out, however hard I try when I work on recreating this at home. Also, the avocado was perfectly ripe and not at all brown in places; something that can’t be said for a couple of other places I’ve eaten recently. Even my mother ate it. She’s also not an avocado fan, you see.
Shall we move onto this dessert that has been getting a lot of love over on my Instagram? If you hand us both a dessert menu that lists both profiteroles and creme brûlée, it is pretty much a guarantee that we’ll order both to share. We were in for a pleasant surprise when our pastries came filled with perfect little scoops of vanilla ice cream. The warm hot chocolate sauce was not too sweet, and all paired together well. You just know that this is one of those desserts which everyone will photograph to share on social media.
Their creme brûlée was pretty solid too, with the perfect crispy top, and soft, almost runny (but still set enough to spoon) vanilla bean custard beneath. I honestly can’t wait to see the full dessert menu here; even if you’re heading in for a light lunch, it is not to be missed on any count. And to top that, everything was fantastic value. Along with a bottle of Evian to share, our meal came to about £35.
If you’re either local or visiting, I promise you you won’t regret popping by for a glass of wine and a bite to eat to support this great new local business. It is just what Canterbury needed, and Chez Joël makes a really welcome addition. And if you are visiting, be sure to check out some of the places in my Canterbury restaurant review section, and in my piece on the best dishes to eat in Canterbury I put together earlier in the month for Buzzfeed.