A Kentish-Italian Luncheon Celebrating 40 Years of Macknade Fine Foods
It’s funny, but my parents moving just 25 minutes around the Kent coast and up into the North Downs from where I grew up has opened up a whole new, foodie side to East Kent up to me. When before, something was just slightly too much of a drive to get to, it is now just an easy trip up the road. While my focus, at first, was getting to know a few more places to eat in Folkestone, now just down the road and where my train comes in from London now (I can’t wait to go back to Luben’s for another pizza, I’ve been meaning to go to Custom Folkestone and The Folkestone Wine Company for ages, and now there is Pick Up Pintxos on the harbour arm that everyone is raving about after that Giles Coren review) it took an invite to celebrate their 40th birthday for me to hot foot it over to Macknade Fine Foods, a gourmet food hall in Faversham, just outside of Canterbury that people have telling me that I simply must visit for years.
Macknade is a Kentish food hall with an Italian heart (thanks to an Italian marrying into the family) so to celebrate their birthday we enjoyed an Italian-style luncheon with the best of Italian-important and local Kentish ingredients. I’ve been a massive fan of Faversham-brand Mighty Fine Things since I stumbled across them at a local food festival in 2015, and Macknade is the place to get your hands on their products – I’m a particular fan of their honey chilli sauce and Faversham raspberry vinegar, and it was the liquors and shrubs from their sister brand, Coxy’s that helped made our cocktails and spritz we enjoyed as a little apero outside on the terrace before heading inside for lunch.
Lunch was hosted by Hannah, a local stylist and blogger who put together this beautiful table setting, ran a styling and floral wreath making workshop after lunch, and helped put together the whole event with a relaxed, calming atmosphere.
As I mentioned, lunch was a help your self affair from the best Kent produce and Italian ingredients – I was particularly enamoured by the orzo salad and different flavoured hummus dips from Wasted Kitchen, another branch of Mighty Fine Things that you can find downstairs in the deli fridge. They take leftover produce that would otherwise be thrown away from the food hall and turn it into something amazing. I recommend this salad, and the spiced hummus in particular!
Dessert was particularly on point for me, not a massive fan of over the top sweets, always choosing to go savoury first. Alongside a big bowl of Kent strawberries and cream I had a lot of Ellie’s Goats Cheese which I have seen in farm shops a plenty but have never actually tried (light, rich, creamy and appearing on way more of my cheese boards in future!) with some wonderfully zingy and punchy Italian mostarda – you also need to be getting your Italian watermelons from Macknade, too. Much smaller than their big beast counterparts appearing in supermarkets and on street markets around about now, their colour may not look like much, but they’re impossibly sweet and perfect for summer.
To drink with our meal we had a bottle of Biddenden’s classic Ortega. While the rest of their range has been given fancy new labels, my mother, who came along to lunch informs me that this is still the label they used when she worked there over 30 years ago. One of the older Kent vineyards a lot of people joke that they made all the mistakes everyone else learnt from I’ve not thought much of their wines over the years (except for this one bottle of pink sparkling Gribble Bridge with a beautiful raspberry finish I’ll never forget) but I can happily report that this Ortega is now light, refreshing and is worthy to be enjoyed alongside such a beautiful spread of Kentish and Italian ingredients.
Shall we explore the food hall a little? Not only is it a great way to shop local and cut down on supermarket plastic, I was blown over by the fantastic selection of local wines and spirits on offer – if you’re looking to get into Kentish drinks, this is the place to go. Of course I’ve zeroed in on the Coxy’s selection here, but on this shelf (across from all the English wines) I spy Chapel Down vodka and a few bottles of Greensand Ridge from the Weald – keep an eye on my Instagram to find out more about those as they sent me a selection box a while back I need to crack into this summer!
Needless to say the butchery (hard to get near because of the crowd) and the bakery are fantastic, but also take the time to explore some of the businesses located across from the food hall terrace. I’ll be giving the fishmongers a miss as the dressed crab we got from there was barely even fresh and we gave up eating it, but the wine merchant has a wonderful selection of French, world, and English wines from lots of smaller vineyards to try – yes, I did come home with a bottle!
If you live in East Kent on the other side of Canterbury and you feel that Faversham is a bit too far to go (me for god knows how many years) or if you think that it won’t be better than The Goods Shed (it is) take an afternoon drive out to Macknade Fine Foods before you do the weekly food shop, and I promise you you’ll be in a little slice of local food paradise.