Places To Eat In Kent: The Ferry House, Sheppey

It’s a little out the way, hidden on the wild shores of the Isle of Sheppey, but if you’re looking for a quiet little hideaway for lunch (or to stay, there are rooms!) with a bunch of delicious sharing plates from the unusual kitchen garden and a delicious drinks list, I was invited to the press launch of the new menu at The Ferry House earlier in the month, and I simply have to tell you about everything we saw, ate and drank, as there are some absolute gems in there!

I know usually it is in fancy bars and restaurants I bang on about the cocktails, but visiting The Ferry House perhaps choosing the wine might be a mistake, because the other drinks are that excellent. Before taking a turn around the kitchen garden, we grabbed an Apple Refresher, made with Kent apple juice, lime, their homemade elderflower cordial and plenty of mint: the perfect summer sip if you’re driving (by the way, take your hardiest vehicle, because while it is worth it, The Ferry House is down quite a rural country lane!)

We started in the polytunnel, checking out the varieties being grown, quite exciting for a keen tomato cultivator like me (they have around 20 different varieties, most of them heirloom on the go in any given year!) Unlike many other restaurants who grow their own, the ethos at The Ferry House is a little different: rather than trying to grow everything and be self sufficient, Head Chef James Pilcher instead has made the focus on growing rare and unusual ingredients and varieties, things that are usually too expensive to put on a restaurant menu, or that usually don’t travel well so don’t usually end up on menus outside of London.

The fruit cage was also very exciting for me also, not only seeing the wild strawberries I’ve already started cultivating in pots at home being done on a much larger scale (they’re delicious and not what you’d expect: perfect for a fruit operation like this focusing on flavour rather than yield) and I simply fell in love with some white alpine strawberries that have a fresh, almost pineapple-like flavour (and once you see how we enjoyed the strawberries for dessert, you’ll see why!)

Another variety of veg we saw before heading back through their small orchard (with an entirely edible hedgerow) to lunch were these Egyptian Walking Onions, a fascinating variety I’d never encountered before that grow little onions at the top of their greens, that you can either eat, or allow to fall and ‘walk’ down the plant ready to start again in nearby soil.

We ate in their events barn as there were too many of us to fit into the lovely, traditional pub dining room as it was one of this cloudy, slightly drizzly summer days we’re used to being British, and started both with some great fresh bread served with a butter whipped up with delicious lemon verbena, chives and mint from the gardens, and what came to be the very best thing I encountered at The Ferry House: The Bloody ‘Michael’.

Names after one of their gardeners (who grew 90% of the ingredients!) it is a stunning blend of polytunnel tomato juice (well, more like a tomato water, light, refreshing and without the bits), lime basil, lovage, fermented chive flower, smoked garden chilli, local vodka made from grain that came from the family fields, and with a rim of chive salt and an edible nasturtium flower. Bright, fresh, complex, and I had many of these, ditching the vodka after the first glass. Honestly, I don’t often say this about drinks, but it was the best thing I had at The Ferry House.

Moving onto the dishes proper, from their new lunchtime sharing plates menu my standout favourite was the vibrant, crunchy and verdant salad of garden legumes in a light homemade elderflower dressing. Such a great example of good ingredients done simply and done well – I know I’m saying this a lot at the moment, but it is what separates a good meal from a great one.

On the meat front we had some lovely and unusual partridge nuggets that are worth getting for the fruity, tangy ‘hedgerow’ ketchup made from everything growing in the hedgerows around the orchard. Also worth a shout as the summer progresses is their delicious smoked such with pickled cherries and a sweet crumb, which manages to be both simple and unusual at the same time.

On the veggie side, whilst I thought the parmesan scattered chips a bit of a let down and the beetroot with goats cheese, while tasty and beautifully presented had been played around with a bit too much, the garden veggie tempura is a must-order. Fantastically crisp and flavourful, the random mix is served with an exceptional smoked chilli aioli for dipping and dunking – honestly, even if you’ve just stopped by for drinks get a plate to snack on while you rest your feet a bit.

We finished the meal with another one of this simply excellent meals that I’m again still thinking about, almost two weeks on. Strawberries from the fruit cage – a mix of varieties, including those little wild ones and the pineapple little white alpine ones – simply served with a light strawberry sauce, marjoram cream (because why import vanilla when this is just as delicious) and a light scattering of shisho leaves. Beautiful. Simple. Mouthwatering. Honestly, this was one of those memorable desserts that words just don’t do justice to.

Thank you so much to The Ferry House for having me! You can check out their full lunch menu and book a table here.