SquareMeal Review of Stark
This tiny restaurant is the solo debut from chef Ben Crittenden (formerly of Biddenden’s Michelin-decorated West House). It’s a real family affair: Crittenden’s father helped him to fit out the dining room (think rustic wood panelling with the occasional whitewash relief, reclaimed pews and sprays of dainty flowers), while his wife, Sophie, manages front of house. The premises – formerly a sandwich shop – can seat just 12 diners at one time, so it’s a no-brainer for romantic dates or a small group takeover. On offer is a no-choice menu of three or six courses (£25/£45), featuring all the calling cards of modern European cuisine: little piles of food with drizzles of jus, familiar ideas trendily deconstructed, and epigrammatic dish descriptions such as ‘hake, seaweed, dashi’, ‘venison, salsify, quince, chestnut’ or ‘coconut, mango, chilli’. There’s also the option of matching wines with each course. Crittenden is a safe pair of hands, and his regularly changing, keenly seasonal food is already causing a stir among locals.