Places To Eat In Kent: The Kings Arms, Elham
Good pubs I love in Kent are getting a bit thin on the ground, so I was obviously excited when the team behind The Tiger Inn in Stowting (which we loved!) took over one of my parent’s locals: The Kings Arms in Elham. So, once the initial buzz of their opening few weeks had died down, all four of us booked in for a mid-week lunch.
We left the boys trying to park somewhere in the village (be warned there is only a small area of public parking in front of the pub which was rammed then, so I shudder to think what it is like at weekends!) my mother and I went to find our table. We’d not been to the pub before so we had not idea what it looked like before the refurbishment, but whilst we loved the courtyard (it will be a great place to go for a drink in summer!) and the bar, we were given a table in the annex barn which we thought was a little over-decorated, like we were visiting a pub in central London trying to be a countryside pub, rather than a historic pub in an actual rural setting.
Soon the boys caught up with us, and we settled down to an excellent bottle of Cote du Rhone and our starters. I think I had the must-order if you visit, a true pub classic: a frankly excellent, rich duck liver parfait served with a good, interesting kumquat chutney, a warm duck fat brioche roll and plenty of toasted hazelnuts. Literally my only complaint was there was not enough bread to go with the amount of pate served, but name me a pub or restaurant where I’ve not made the exact same complaint over the years??
J had the grilled tiger prawns with chilli, garlic butter and lemon aioli. The prawns were fresh, fat, plump and had a fantastic flavour. Don’t order these though if it is the lemon aioli that is tempting you however: it tasted very similar to the kosher mayonnaise my grandfather used to buy and which always tastes of plastic whatever you mix it with.
My mother went for the vegan option which was seasonal, unique and absolutely lovely: King oyster mushroom served with charred ciabatta, monks beard (according to the menu but looking back it might have been subbed for samphire?), and a truffle gremolata. It had beautiful, light flavours, though it came served chilled without warning: it did not bother her, but the boys were horrified, as they’d been tempted to order and would have only eaten it if it had arrived warm!
My father’s pulled pork scotch egg was the real let down of the first course however: he said the flavour was flat, and the yolk was solid, rather than runny when it was cut into. The piccalilli base was good though!
The mains were quite good, even if they were rather expensive (and this is comparing it to other local prices in eateries of at least the same standard where the same care has gone into sourcing local ingredients). My father’s rump of lamb was well cooked, served with a good rosemary jus, tenderstem broccoli, and a bagna cauda sauce to give things a bit of a lift. He did however say he came away hungry.
My mother and I ordered two different fish dishes that had taken our fancy and swapped halfway through. First, from the specials we had the cod served with a seafood bisque and a ‘nduja rosti. It was very, very good, with the only wrong note being the tricky tangle of out of season and rather outdated pea shoots which seemed to crown most of the dishes at the pub. The other is one of my other picks to order at The Kings Arms: the Hythe Bay Plaice schnitzel served in a buttery sauce on a very generous bed of capers and samphire. I’d order a portion of skin on fries though to go with!
J had the steak, which he reported was simply ‘fine’. I did dip some of his chips in the beef fat bernaise which was excellent, but to be honest even with prices being what they are at the moment you want a £32 rib eye to be more than just ‘fine’. For example, the sharing steak we love to share at Boys Hall is roughly £80 (the weights vary on the day) for more than enough for both of us, coming with a choice of two exceptional sides and excellent sauces. This apparently tasted a lot more than just £8 cheaper.
Those of us who had dessert all opted for the dark chocolate “Marquis of Granby” (a marquise named after one of their other pubs) which came with a good orange sorbet and a slightly burnt homemade honeycomb. Whilst the flavours were good at first bite, as we ate it became obvious the dessert was far too sweet with no sense of balance between the different elements.
As you can probably tell from this review after we had such a lovely meal together at The Tiger Inn (and I have friends who go there often) we were rather let down by The Kings Arms. Whilst some elements of our experience really hit the mark, others felt overdone, or like not enough care had gone into them. Dare I stay they’ve fallen into the style over substance trap? It’s such a shame as it is so local (even if you can’t park!) but as eating out these days costs so much, we’d rather spend the money somewhere that we know we’re going to have a fantastic experience at every time, so I’m not sure any of us will be back.