Officially the smallest town in Britain administered by a council, sleepy Fordwich (not far from Canterbury) got a wake-up call when a chef and sommelier from London’s Michelin-starred The Clove Club took over their spit-and-sawdust local boozer. The building itself is ridiculously photogenic, a 1930s redbrick classic with a dreamy setting next to the river Stour, and the pub still has its trademark fixtures (roaring fires, panelling, local ales on the handpumps). But while the location is pretty as a picture, these days it’s all about the food.
Taking The Sportsman at Seasalter as its blueprint, the Fordwich Arms offers inspired upscale food in seriously unfussy, easy-going surroundings – no fawning waiters or horrendous bills here. Instead, whizz-kid chef Dan Smith and co serve up obsessively local ingredients in clever combinations with no holds barred: hay-smoked confit trout with courgette, spiced butter and horseradish; roast lamb with black garlic, morels and crisp potato; ‘hen of the woods’ mushrooms with pickled walnuts, hispi cabbage and chickpea pannise; Fordwich ‘Snickers’.
There are home-cured meats, house pickles and rock oysters to nibble, while wine drinkers can pick from a nifty list courtesy of sommelier Guy Palmer Brown.
Prices, admittedly, are more restaurant than pub, but there’s a weekday set lunch menu offering three courses for £35. Really, though, this is no place to be abstemious, and we’d recommend going instead for the nine-course tasting menu for £95, with matched wines another £85; a vegetarian version is also available. If that sounds too formal, Sunday lunch brings roasts of middle white pork chop, rack of Black Faced lamb, rump of Hereford beef or roast Hereford cote de boeuf, with all the traditional trimmings.
“The quality is almost beyond compare”, enthuses one fan, while another chimes “this is a great place for a really special meal, with stunning food and amazing service.” One to watch, we think.