Places To Eat In Kent: The West House, Biddenden
My Mum and I love a good tasting menu for our girls lunches out, so when I heard that The West House, situated in the pretty little historic village of Biddenden (which I usually only visit to pick up some wine at the vineyard shop) had an all day tasting menu that was supposed to be rather good, we booked a table last Thursday lunchtime and hopped in the car to go and see what all the fuss was about.
Once we’d sat down and ordered some wine and water, the snacks started to arrive. The soughdough and accompanying butter were good and the marinated olives were fantastic, but I was a bit disappointed on tasting the whipped pork fat that I’d been excited by when it arrived – I’d had fantastic versions at both The Compasses Inn and The Duck Inn – but it was made from pork fat that was a little past it’s best.
Oh, and you’ll notice in this post there are no photos of wine. That is totally my fault; to be perfectly honest it was so good I forgot to take any pictures of it! I was really, really impressed with the wine list: a good mixture of local wines clearly picked for their quality rather than their geography, and a very extensive list of European wines – if one of us were not driving we would probably have gone for the wine pairing that went with our menu too. I was pleased to see 500ml carafes which are good at lunchtime and we shared a simply stunning one of Sancerre – fresh, bright, drinkable and complex that I can 110% recommend. I also had a lovely glass of Cremant which was wonderfully smooth with dessert that rounded off the meal nicely – something else from the wine list I can highly recommend!
Next came a beautiful pair of nibbles from the chef, Smoked Haddock Croquettes with a little crown of caviar. Rich, creamy and a little taster of what was to come.
Our first dish from the extended tasting menu was one of the lightest, most stunning dishes I’ve had in, well, since the last time we did a proper tasting menu: raw Orkney scallop, delicately sliced before being crowned with ajo blanco, dill marinated green grapes and parsley oil. It was light, bright and sweet, the chilled almond soup the perfect partner in gentle sweetness and creaminess to the scallops. It was a truly beautiful dish, stunning ands flavourful, the very best thing we ate at The West House.
Next came the Egg Florentine: a slow cooked egg and creamed spinach, served under a delicate blanket by way of a parmesan mousse with crispy onion pieces. It was rich, clean and very delicious, my literal only criticism being the yolks were slightly overcooked (unless that is how chef intended them to be, but why would you?)
Obviously I did not try one because I’d had enough cheese what with the parmesan mousse, but the egg came with a little cheese and onion muffin which looked really sweet, that I was told had a good flavour even if it could be a bit lighter.
More lovely flavours in our next dish: a fillet of Cornish hake (well, a piece of a fillet anyway) crowned with deliciously salty samphire, sitting atop a rich, but still light, rather clever cuttlefish bolognese. I would have been totally happy with this as a full size portion with my white wine for dinner one night.
For our final savoury course arrived a beautifully presented dish I was very excited by when I saw it on the menu: roast middle white loin of pork, served with braised borlotti beans and a sungold tomato salsa. Well I love pork, my new and very sudden obsession with slow braised borlotti beans is well documented, and sungolds are my favourite tomatoes to grow because of their sunny colour and stunningly bright flavour. The salsa and the beans were lovely (though there was not enough of them!) though the pork was a bit of a let down, slightly over cooked and the crackling was still a bit too chewy. Perhaps the meat had not been brined before roasting? Anyway, it left me disappointed.
All of the elements of pudding were lovely, delicious and made for the perfect end to the meal, even if they were slightly disjointed on the plate: a slice of rich, moist but still wonderfully light lemon and olive oil topped with glazed raspberries, a raspberry sorbet and a good dollop of creme fraiche.
The chocolate fudge that came with the bill was lovely and nicely presented, and the madeleines that came with the receipt were light, buttery and had everything the cheese muffins did not: I’d have been proud to have baked these!
So, a slightly mixed review of The West House, but I need to say both really enjoyed our lunch, we had a lovely time, and while I’ve got other, better locations to recommend if you’re traveling to eat (The Small Holding, for example, is only 20 minutes away) if you’re staying or live nearby I don’t think you’ll regret going for a meal. It was rather busy for a Thursday lunchtime with locals which is telling: our biggest conclusion was that it was like eating out in the late 2000’s or early 2010’s, as The West House seems to have no problems filling the dining room, it has not had to move with the times as much and can get away with things simply being really rather good, rather than extraordinary.