The Old Brewery Tavern in Canterbury was not somewhere I had ever thought about when considering my next dining option. It was more a place to go for a drink and an attempted dance. But after a little research and the promise of a double-Michelin-starred chef’s influence behind the menu, it had to be worth a try.
Along the city backstreet from its sister restaurant at Michael Caines’s ABode, the tavern offers a stylish dining room and large bar area modern enough in décor to play both restaurant and late-night party venue in turn.
The tables are simply laid out and the specials are on the trendy chalkboard. The main menu is not over-complicated and the dishes promised far more than your average pub grub.
To start, I went for a special. Along came a tian of smoked halibut. The fish was stuffed with prawns and cream cheese served with a salad and pickled carrots. It was delicious.
The cheese and prawns were fresh to taste and complemented the strong halibut flavours. The salad was an after-thought, but the pickled carrots were a nice touch and presented very well. The dish was a perfect size, leaving you neither bloated nor desperate for more.
My guest opted for the chicken and pancetta croquettes. Now, croquettes don’t always look too appealing on the plate, but their taste made up for it – hot and creamy, they went down well across the table.
For the main course I went for the minted Romney Marsh lamb steak. The menu informs diners that all meat used in the menu is from Brogdale Butchers in Faversham and supplied on a daily basis.
The cut of lamb was spectacular without a hint of dryness. The mint wasn’t overbearing and the succulent meat’s own juices were enough without the peppercorn or other sauces on offer.
It was served with roasted tomatoes, grilled field mushrooms, two home-battered onion rings that were tasty if a little greasy and a carriage of chips, which were crunchy and delicious.
My guest stayed on the grill menu and went for the beefburger with chips and coleslaw.
Again the meat was succulent and cooked well with a slight pink in the middle, but the bun was hard and didn’t taste as fresh as it might and so was left. The home-made coleslaw was nothing to shout about.
We almost shied away from the dessert due to a lack of space, but, as tipped by the waitress, I ended up with a delicious sticky-toffee pudding, butterscotch sauce and caramel ice-cream.
The staff were friendly and attentive – all you need, really. The bill, including a couple of drinks and slightly excessive 12 per cent service charge, came to a mere £61.40. A very decent price for a very decent meal. The website says the tavern is not a ‘gastro pub’, instead just ‘gastro cool’. I don’t know what that means, but I liked it a lot.