IT’S rare for a Brtish pub not to be packed to the rafters with a rich history. Tales of ghosts, old tyranical landlords, high-profile customers… even those whose upstairs rooms may have been put to another use.
There is, though, a new tale to be told at The Dove in Dargate. Chef patron Phill McGregor started his culinary journey at the rural pub years ago before heading to London to learn his trade under a number of top chefs.
His return to The Dove bred countless reports of great food in a great location… it was time to try it for myself. The Dove remains very much a village pub with its classical-looking bar, pictures of previous owners on the walls and a warm stove fire. The atmosphere is buzzy and the tables in the nooks and crannies merge the bar area and restaurant together seamlessly.
We were handed a couple of home-cooked breads and delicious butter before our starters, for which I chose smoked haddock and macaroni topped with Parmesan with poached duck egg.
Served in a mini cast-iron skillet, the delicate flavours were far lighter than a usual pasta. The strong taste of the haddock was delicious and worked well alongside the creamy macaroni. The egg had been cooked to perfection.
My guest, a chef, went for the chicken liver and fois gras parfait topped with pea shoots and served with sourdough toast and pineapple chutney. The dish was presented well, with the parfait arriving in a ball carved with an ice-cream scoop. It was a nice touch of individuality and a quick taste delivered the rich, creamy texture.
For mains I chose the eight-hour-braised ox-cheek with savoy cabbage, carrots and puree potato. The tender ox-cheek, cooked in red wine, fell apart enticingly on contact with the fork and was a real pleasure to eat.
It was amazing to devour two traditionally-heavy courses that included both pasta and potato and still feel comfortably full. My guest went for the confit duck leg served with puy lentils and a creamy potato gratin. He complimented both the seasoning and the south-west France influence, but it was the cleared plate that spoke of le magnifique flavours.
For dessert I opted for the chocolate fondant served with cardamom ice-cream. Our waiter informed us that all the ice-creams served at The Dove were made in-house, which was particularly impressive when my guest’s classic crème brûlée came out with plum-pudding ice-cream. It was another nice touch, with the pub situated on Plum Pudding Lane in Dargate.
Both desserts were very good. There was also a nice gap between courses in which to enjoy a great atmosphere. In short, this was one of the best meals I’ve had in some time.
The bill, including drinks and a service charge, came to £84.45. The whole evening seemed all very simple but with a touch of personality here and there to set it apart from the rest. Time really does fly when you’re having fun at The Dove.