Places To Eat In Kent: Boys Hall, Ashford
It is very rare that I come back from lunch at somewhere new which I enjoyed so much I sit right down to edit my pictures and write about it because I can’t wait to share it. The last time I was this excited was the sweltering summer day I first had lunch at Water Lane in Hawkhurst. Today? Today I’ve just come back from lunch at the newly renovated and opened Boys Hall in Ashford.
Now when I say in Ashford I really do mean in Ashford. Believe it or not this stunning country house is tucked away in the middle of Willsborough, just a stones throw away from where terrible road works has only just stopped making it a nightmare to get around the town for the last couple of years. Since Macknade closed up and Unita 4 for pizza became events only my answer to people where they should eat in the middle of Ashford was don’t eat in Ashford. I’m sorry, but there was literally nowhere I rated, until now. Now I’m already planning multiple trips back to Boys Hall.
They’ve got rooms for people planning a trip down (it is conveniently close to the International station) but for us locals the big draw is the high beamed, glass filled dining room and bar, the terrace, and the traditional, old fashioned pub that is open at the weekend with overflow out into this lovely herb garden that serves the kitchen.
Another reason I think lunch was so good is that the staff are so lovely, friendly and accommodating. Silly me I forgot to mention on the booking we needed pram space (after 20 years of friendship it is slightly terrifying when your childhood best friend is toting around a 12 week old!) but they easily changed our table to make space for her. We also spied a children’s menu on the way in, and the sausage and mash a little girl on the next table had looked excellent.
Anyway, at Boys Hall they have an extensive wine list of Kent and international wines, plus cocktails. On the left we have the boozy Hedgerow which was apparently lovely, and we both really enjoyed a virgin version of Apples and Pears: a slightly fizzy blend of apple, pear juice, vanilla, nutmeg, lime and bitters. We were discussing how these days where you have to drive everywhere a goods mocktail is essential, and this really fit the bill.
After some good complimentary sourdough with an excellent miso whipped butter and a lovely cowslip number, we got down to the business of starters. For me, charred Wye valley asparagus with a rich, delicious truffle hollandaise and a poached egg, finished with a clever little lift of what I think was a variety of lemon balm. Indulgent, luxurious, but still giving good English asparagus it’s due. Get this.
Kathryn chose from the menu of the day, where you can get 2 courses for £25, and 3 for £35, which we both thought was excellent value especially as you can still do what she did and choose a pudding from the longer main menu. She really enjoyed her pork, endive, citrus, chard and apple salad: rich, tart and full of interest.
Our mains again, were both excellent. From the main menu I had a frankly perfectly cooked chop of local Romney marsh lamb served on a tomato fondu with rosemary potatoes and tarragon. The meat has beautifully charred fat and a plump pink middle, the veg was as interesting as the meat, and literally my only complaint is it came with tasty pieces of Jerusalem artichoke instead of the menu promised pickled morels.
From the daily set menu if I were not so into my lamb I would have been very jealous I did not get a bite of the za’atar roasted cod with an olive relish, samphire and tomato jus. Judging by the speed it vanished at, I’m assuming it tasted as good as it looked!
From the wine list, I’m a massive fan of Chapel Down’s single estate oak aged Kit’s Coty Chardonnay (and I usually avoid chardonnay at all costs) but it very rarely appears by the glass so once I spied it I did not bother even reading the rest of the wine list. Rich and complex, it has been something you’d not expect from English wine since it was first released in 2016. Even if you don’t think you like English wine, try a glass of this.
Finally for pudding whilst I flirted for just a second with the concept of the coconut rice pudding with mango and lemongrass, for both of us there could be no other choice but the rhubarb soufflé – perfect flavour and texture – with a scoop of blood orange yogurt sorbet and a cucumber and rhubarb salsa on the side. Refreshing, yet indulgent and the perfect end to the meal.
Open for lunch and dinner Wednesday to Sunday, you can book a table at Boys Hall here.