Places To Eat In Deal: Updown Farmhouse

In July something really exciting opened up in the little back lanes where I grew up: Updown Farmhouse is a beautiful country house near Deal with both rooms and a fantastic outdoor restaurant focusing on very seasonal, slightly Italian dishes (think River Cafe but in Kent, reasonably priced and outdoors) so of course we had to snag a table for lunch (they’re only open at the weekend, at the moment) before it got too cold of alfresco dining!

Don’t worry about the weather too much though: you eat under cover, and you’ll be fine with just a jacket or thick cardigan over your jumper, yes we were sat near the open kitchen where they cook almost everything over an open fire, but I actually took my blazer off and rolled up my sleeves after the first course!

Regardless, do follow them on Instagram if you don’t have time to snag a table this year, as come spring you must join me in snapping up a table the moment it becomes warm enough again to enjoy a bite to eat outside.

To start we had some lovely bread with good butter scattered with flaky sea salt, and some drinks. The other two started on a really beautiful Sicilian red (which I joined with a glass of a bit later) but as I was driving I was pleasently surprised to see Crodino on a restaurant menu for the first time, which essentially tastes just like a virgin Aperol Spritz.

Next came the reason I’m going to be raving about Updown for weeks to come: the Autumn Minestrone, otherwise known as a masterclass in how good something can be if good ingredients are treated honestly and well. I can’t remember the last time I had soup this good. I’m not sure I ever have. We all ordered it, and luxuriated in it’s deep, savoury flavours, enjoyed the vegetables and elbow pasta shapes that still maintained their pleasing bite, and enjoyed swirling the delicious pesto and melting cheese, bite by bite, into our broth. Magic in a bowl.

We all went off in different directions for our main course, sampling the three courses on that day’s very small and ever changing menu. My dish was the roast pork loin served with cepes, wilted endives, toasted almonds, roasted potatoes and a silky smooth butternut squash puree. The pork was perfect with a deeply savoury flavour, the almonds being a curious touch, feeling a bit lost on the plate unless you got one in a perfect bite along with a bit of pork that was both caramelised fat and juicy meat. Literally the only disappointment here is that cepes are such a beautiful mushroom, but I think the other flavours of the dish somewhat drowned them out.

My mother, always one to go for the fish dish had the Petite Aioli. Le Grand Aioli is having a moment at the moment, so it was charming to see a plate sized version on the table, complete with warm poached salt cod, tomatoes, perfectly cooked eggs (and no, I have not photoshopped those yolks), fennel (which apparently could have done with being lightly poached), radicchio and pink fir potatoes, of course served along with a pitch perfect garlicky mayo. This was all pronounced as ‘lovely’ and ‘really enjoyable’.

In a move that surprised literally everyone at the table J progressed into an entirely vegetarian meal. I know. Just let that sink in for a moment. To be honest, if it were not for the cheese I would have ordered this simply stunningly presented plateful of braised borlotti beans, turnips, salsify, griolle mushrooms, roast squash and a cheesy fonduta sauce. From the bite I did try I can tell you it was rich and earthy, a real meat-free treat, though I think perhaps the beans could have been braised with a few more aromatics? (Though, as also needs to be caveated with dessert, this might be personal taste as I like to cook my borlotti beans with lots of tomato, garlic and herbs, season them with vinegar, and take them to the point of almost collapsing!)

Moving onto said pudding – which my mother paired with a beautifully refined Prosecco – that day it was a lovely, simple, toothsome and creamy rice pudding topped with a poached quince and a very delicate, cardamom-perfumed syrup. As I mentioned, for me the flavours were yes perfect, but I would have cooked the quince a little longer to concentrate the flavours a bit more. But then again, I like to cook mine low, slow and with lots of honey for a thick, rich, perfumed syrup.

If the pudding of the day is not really your thing, the cheese course is also an option, where you can pick from any three out of five of the cheeses which will be delivered with water biscuits, pickled walnuts and a delicious, crisp local apple cut into thick slices. J really enjoyed the cheeses, and I appreciated the apple (which he does not like) and the very simple presentation.

You can book at table at Updown and join their mailing list to hear about 2023 openings here.