In England, the “gastro-pub” has been one of the most exciting things on the local culinary landscape for quite some time. My excitement in what has happened in the dining scene in Britain generally over the past 20 years is nearly unmatched. The transformation of Britain from being one of the laughing stocks of the European food world to one of the most incredible places to dine out, is a marvel.
Part of it has been money. The UK has generally financially outperformed Europe since the inception of the Euro, and I would suspect that after a short adjustment period due to Brexit, this trend will accelerate.
The second part has been an efflorescence of culture. The EU had an enormously positive impact on net inbound migration, bringing with it cultures, flavours, and standards. This is also echoed in an openness to the Commonwealth nations, which has meant that if you want to eat “ethnic” food, there are few better places than in the UK. I have had better curry in Scotland in the middle of nowhere than I have had in India.
The Fordwich Arms is an exquisite expression of this flowering. Started by a young couple who cut out on their own from a restaurant in London, they secured a gorgeous old riverside pub, and have turned it into a temple of high gastronomy, relentlessly innovative, and oh-so British in every way. Farm to table, focus on local producers, local flavours, local techniques, it is a gorgeous expression of Britishness on a plate.
Fordwich itself is a gorgeous little town just outside of Canterbury. You can get here by boat, punting along the river from the heart of Canterbury. Tables are booked very far in advance, so it is recommended to plan accordingly. 6 months is prudent. If you manage to get a table, and it proves an inconvenient time, build your schedule around it. This is a destination restaurant.
On this particular day we ate beautiful local oysters from the Maldon salt flats, a confit of duck leg, pork belly, an array of delicious desserts, and fantasies with vegetables. Pictures are to die for. Imagine sitting out on their sun-dappled terrace, under the boughs of Wysteria, the river lolling by, a nice bottle of wine…you get the picture. Worth the trip. Expensive.