Pssst, want a hot tip? If you can find a bookmaker who’ll offer you odds on ‘The Poet’ landing a Michelin star in the next 12 months, lump on. Anything better than even money and you should sell the children and mortgage the house because, quite honestly, the food is beyond superb.
Refugees from the late-lamented ‘Curlew’ in Bodiam who have been scouring the countryside for a substitute fine-dining venue, should put away their binoculars, pick up their credit cards and motor over to Matfield. Ooops, I forgot, they must book first, especially if hoping to go at the weekend when the place is usually full to its beamed ceiling. Reserve a table at least three weeks ahead, I was advised by a reliable source.
Success in converting a 16th century country pub into a gastronomic sensation has come about courtesy of a curious combination of the Czech Republic and South Africa. Andy brings immense Czech charm and efficiency to ensure the restaurant runs smoothly while his business partner Petrus is the creative genius in the kitchen who left the rainbow nation back in 2010 and came to Kent via the Savoy. Together these two have created a truly fabulous restaurant that looks certain to be the best thing that has happened to Matfield since Siegfried Sassoon; the famous World War One poet, author, hero and local resident is the inspiration behind the name.
The first tricky choice that will confront you after you’ve sat down, sipped your apéritif and chomped on an olive or two will be set menu or à la carte? Your wallet might suggest the former but have you really come all this way to ignore the likes of Local Venison Loin, Shoulder, Piccolo Parsnip, Red Cabbage and Apricot? Or, for that matter, Pork Belly, Loin, Black Pudding, Hispi, Shittake and Smoked Pommes Purée? If extravagance evokes guilt feelings, ignore the wine recommendation that accompanies each course and opt for a pint of Harveys instead.
Not since Andy Murray won Wimbledon have I seen my wife Rose as thrilled as she was when tucking into her Cep Velouté. Anxious to know what the fuss was about, I grabbed a spoon and dived in. Wow! It is quite possibly the most wondrous thing either of us has ever tasted Just to satisfy myself it was as good as I thought it was, I snatched one more spoonful before returning to my Yellowfin Tuna Tataki, a Japanese dish that combines delicate, gently-seared tuna with wasabi mayo, chestnut and Japanese pear. Although delicious, I felt as if I had dropped the opening set to Rose.
Although not vegans, we are not voracious carnivores either and are sympathetic to the idea of eating less meat and more vegetables. So I wasn’t entirely surprised when Rose chose the vegan option for the main course, Butternut and Feta Tortellini. I, too, eschewed meat and went for a hake fillet that came with all sorts of goodies including gnocchi, mussels and a glorious lobster bisque. Only after savouring every magnificent mouthful and reluctantly coming to the end did it dawn on me why I was surrounded by so many spoons. Had there been none, I might have felt obliged to pick up the plate and slurp down the sauce. Whereas you might think such behaviour would be unacceptable in a fine-dining restaurant, ‘The Poet’ is so refreshingly unstuffy I’m sure I would have got away with it.
Conscious that I’m running out of both space and superlatives, I’ll just tell you our desserts and leave the heavenly taste to your imagination; Dark Chocolate Tart, Honeycomb and Hazelnut Ice Cream (Rose) and Passionfruit Cremeux, Lemon Cake and Strawberry plus Lovage Sorbet (me).
Take my advice, save up and pop along to ‘The Poet’ and the sasooner the better.
Maidstone Rd, Matfield TN12 7JH Telephone 01892 722416.