Places To Eat In Kent: The Squerryes Winery Restaurant, Westerham
I was invited along to review something of a hidden gem for you all over the weekend, a winery restaurant you really need to know about tucked away at the very gateway of Kent: The Squerryes Winery Restaurant. Of course I visited Squerryes when they very first opened up for food in 2019, but of course lots of eateries had to adapt with the challenges of the pandemic, so even if you think you’ve already been, now is the time to visit their glamorous yet cosy dining room overlooking the vines for an afternoon or evening of English classics (the good news is they’re still sourcing as many ingredients as possible from their own estate): and of course a glass or two of what I’ve long since considered as one of the best English Sparkling Wines out there.
Whilst I was planning on going straight for their fizz as we sat down to lunch, their cocktail menu caught my eye (worth noting at this point they also have a 5-6:30pm happy hour Thursday to Saturday), a carefully curated collection of classics with their sparkling wine at its heart. I know a good champagne cocktail is a personal favourite and they’ve got one at the top of the list, but I’ve spent too much time in France not to go for the Kir Royal before a meal: this one was excellent, made with local Cassis and a kirsch-soaked cherry in the bottom of the glass it was balanced to still really show off the flavour of the wine. Highly recommended.
On arriving you’ll notice that the restaurant is located on top of a space for Westerham Brewery, whose beers are served exclusively in the restaurant. I think initially this might have caused J’s heart to sink: I think he’s found a lot of local breweries overdo their beers a bit, and why on earth must restaurants insist on just serving Curious Brew? Neither of us like it very much. Anyway, I digress: he ordered Westerham’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a Czech-style pilsner that we both liked as light, well balanced a refreshing. A really good beer for both sipping and enjoying with food.
With your drinks, there is the option to have olives (harissa-marinated Gordal olives to be specific, lovely and plump with a good kick) or bread, or both! The mix of plain white and seeded bread comes with a good whipped butter, and a fantastically smooth and smoky baba ghanoush which I honestly think is worth ordering the bread alone for.
Both were lovely, but I think J ordered the better starter: glazed pork cheek with a light and earthy potato and celeriac hash, Black pudding crumble, and an apple jus. Rich, but not too cloying, and overall a lovely dish for when autumn is rapidly turning to winter. I, however, was very happy with my excellent few slices of cured salmon with a good, simple, clean beetroot and dill mayo side garnish. Simple flavours done well, and beautifully presented.
I think the thing that comments the restaurant at Squerryes the most is their excellently curated wine list. Yes they’re a winery: all the sparkling wine is their excellent vintages, but otherwise they’re not telling you what you must like, and what you must drink. Of course they have an extensive English wine selection (and you can tell it was built by taste, not just by locality) but with an equally as carefully chosen world wines list, as well as a specials page with wines from around the world, I did not feel pushed towards the English: I wanted red, and already knowing the one English vintage they had by the glass was one I’m not a fan of I instead was steered towards a frankly divine Lebanese number full of boldy fruity flavours and oaky richness. Their Italian by-the-glass rose was also unexpected: rich and fruity, it had an acidity that went well with food and made it highly drinkable.
So what was that main, you ask, that I was so insistant I had to have red with? Well who could say no to the slow cooked beef cheek, served with fondant potato, celeriac puree, kale, mushrooms and a red wine jus? I can report that yes, it did taste as good as it looks, all perfectly cooked; I also came away a little obsessed with those mushrooms. However, I did feel, shockingly, I had a bit too much meat on the plate and there was not enough jus for it all to be properly balanced. But, that is splitting hairs. It was excellent, and you must order it whilst it is still on.
We actually got into a bit of an argument over whose main was better. I maintain that they’re different dishes for different moods, because his Fish of the Day (bream in this case, perfectly cooked with crispy skin and tender flesh) was wonderful, served over a rich bed of creamed leeks and with saffron potatoes, he even ate the confit baby turnips, even though he was in agreement with me that turnips as a vegetable range from inedible to pointless in most contexts.
Dessert, I think, was the only thing that let lunch down: visiting again, I’d just get another cocktail to round the meal off. The chocolate sphere with blackberry compote, chocolate mousse, blackberry sorbet and topped with an almond crumb was perfectly pleasant, well balanced with a memory of a traditional English crumble, but it was simply nice; it missed the pizazz that made the savouries oh so very excellent.
You can book a table at Squerryes here. Don’t worry about the slightly out the way location; they’ve got ample parking, and after lunch / before dinner I recommend you plan in a bit of time to visit their deli on site and of course the bottle shop: I’ve got a lovely 2019 bottle of their sparkling pink ready to pop over Christmas as it is one that is a little harder to find if you don’t shop directly from the vineyard! Thanks once again to the team for making us feel so welcome and for inviting us along for lunch!