When I worked at Reads in Faversham during the late 1980’s and 1990’s Kent was a culinary desert. We were the only restaurant to have a Michelin star and to be honest I always had to go to London to eat (with the exception on Thackerays under Bruce Wass). How things have changed. Kent is now filled with fantastic places to eat and this site will now have a positive focus on Kent, the county I have always lived in.
I was keen to visit the Kings Head in Wye having heard that it was placed at No 25 in the 2017 Gastro Pubs of the Year (www.top50gastropubs.com) which is no small achievement. Wye is one of those villages that lies a short and very pleasant drive through the Kent countryside from the M20 (J10) at the foot of the North Downs. Wye was named the 3rd best place to live in the UK by the Sunday Times in 2013 and it is easy to see why. Popular with walkers due to it’s great pubs and easy access to the Pilgrims Way it is an idyllic village and a walk along the River Stour after lunch is a fine way to deplete some of the calories you have put on.
I met with Scott, one of the directors who told me about his fascinating history in the music industry over lunch. I am not the biggest fan of tied houses being a craft ale lover (I like to sample a wide range) but as The Kings Heads is tied to Shepard Neame, who not only make a great selection of regular beers but also offer a decent variety of seasonal brews this was no issue at all.
I really like the ethos here – it was designed to appeal to everyone including ladies who might feel uncomfortable sitting in a pub by themselves to enjoy a good coffee. This point was proved as indeed there was a lady enjoying the daily paper and latte by herself. There was a constant flow of people which is always a good sign and made it feel European in a way, in that some would pop in for a quick espresso and then get back to their working lives. The food here though is the star.
It begins with breakfast (they have 7 rooms so it only makes sense to offer breakfast to non residents) which is proving very popular. Of course there is the full English for £8 but Scott told me the vegetarian is equally as popular due to the inclusion of bubble and squeak. Lighter options are plentiful such as Eggs Benedict or French Toast, avocado, bacon and maple syrup. Alternatively you could simply opt for a croissant with Wooden Spoon jam for just £1.50 or muesli/granola for just £2. It sounds perfect to me!
The menu has the right amount of choice without being too expansive. The dishes are inventive and at times reference classic pub bar snacks (picked eggs and crisps) alongside classics such as pies and Whitstable fish and chips (good honest pub food that should be on the menu). There are also a variety of modern dishes such as Scotch Eggs with venison, pork and black pudding. I opened for Canterbury Chaucer Cheese Fondue which has been a staple since the pubs inception. A very generous amount of cheese was served with succulent and sweet ham from the Weald Smokery, celery, carrot batons and toast from real bread baked on the premise. It was delicious and filling. To follow I chose the Kentish Pork Belly with champ mash and cider gravy. I have been disappointed far too many times with pork belly. I want crispy crackling and this delivered just that. I really do think this is the perfect comforting dish on a winters day. It was delicious.
The Kings Arms