We sent Shekha down to the historic Faversham, in Kent, to sample the recently awarded 2AA Rosette Red Sails Restaurant in the Faversham Creek Hotel. Exciting food served with a side of local history, village politics and a flooding creek made for an eventful trip!
Tourists wishing for a quintessentially British experience; young professionals seeking a break from city hustle, food enthusiasts looking for the best of Kent produce
Ramblers who would appreciate the wonderful natural scenery nearby, those with a passion for history, who would be entertained for hours (literally, we tried it) wandering the local museum, gunpowder trails and old book shops in town…
Pie fans – and yes, these people have a category to themselves as the pies really are that good
In a Word
‘Gunpowder, Treason and Plot’
While it is unknown where Guy Fawkes and his fellow co-conspirators sourced the fabled gunpowder which forms the lynchpin of the foiled “Gunpowder Plot” (the reason we get to set off fireworks every November), it is widely believed by Faversham-ites that the volatile substance which caused all that trouble was likely procured from their town.
Walking through the town towards the Faversham Creek Hotel, which is a mere hour from London, it is easy to transport oneself 400 years back in time when the explosives industry was booming, no pun intended. Many of the historic buildings that occupy the town centre appear perfectly preserved – a perfect backdrop for the kind of intrigue that becomes stuff of legend.
These same buildings provide a sombre yet tranquil silhouette as we amble through the deserted centre in a gathering Thursday twilight to the hotel, which languishes on the banks of the eponymous creek.
Like many parts of the town, which has had an established market for 900 years, the building that houses the hotel and restaurant is grade II-listed and thrums with character. Set alongside the 17th century sea cadets and boxing club buildings, the site has withstood centuries of sporadic flooding as the creek creeps over its banks a few times a year.
The former pub, painstakingly restored by David Selves, his wife Tracy, and their team, is both homely and beautiful. The Queen Matilda room (a nod to a historical visit to the town by the monarch) is an exemplar of luxury. Its pistachio, fuchsia and burgundy accents are both opulent and playful – with a giant four-poster bed set against statement wallpaper.
Exposed brickwork and two huge fireplaces add a boutique rough-luxe feel. The freestanding bath upon its black and white chequered platform gives a whimsical Lewis Carrol-esque note to the room, while period sash windows look out onto the hotel’s little courtyard, decked with fairylights. The bathroom is attractive, set out in a taupe marbled tile which adds a contemporary element.
Downstairs, the bar with its statement chairs and the cosy restaurant really is like being in someone’s home – with a testament to David’s eye for detail – particularly notable in the bird-themed curtains which he says originally came from his dining room. The Wes Anderson-style soundtrack (think, Nico and Peter Sarstedt) adds to the quirky vibe and sipping on Kentish gin (and tonic!) it is easy to get carried away by the spell of Faversham as David spends time with the guests and recounts anecdote, after hilarious anecdote about the place and its people.
The food is very much like the venue – British classics updated by its young and energetic kitchen team with modern flairs and twists. It is easy to see how the restaurant has just recently been awarded its 2AA Rosette, just weeks after being named a finalist for ‘Restaurant of the Year’ at the Kent Life Awards. Every dish we try is seasonal and as locally sourced as possible, with bold, ambitious flavours that are a testament to head chef Scott Pendry’s passion.
We whet our appetites with some fresh pillowy bread served with creamy butter and luxuriant dripping. I then start with a confit duck leg rillette, served with parsnip puree, cabbage slaw and a sourdough crouton (£6.95). This fabulous little dish bursts with flavour; the tender meatiness of the duck is perfectly tempered by the thin, crispy sourdough crouton and the sparky vinegary slaw, which adds crunch and zest to the plate. It is both indulgent and refreshing, paving the way for the main event.
My companion’s pigeon breast and liver parfait with spiced plum and hazelnuts (£7.50) is very interesting – the sweetness of the nut and tangy plum are a perfect foil to the gamey pigeon. The liver parfait is among the smoothest I have ever tasted, rich and silky but perhaps too much so to share a plate with the similarly boisterous pigeon. The sweet notes in the parfait tend to overpower the bird and I would prefer the two to be separated for a first course dish.
My companion opts for the roasted lamb rump with pomme anna, roasted salsify and red wine jus (£15.95). Again, the flavours in this dish roll around the palate in delicious harmony, the meatiness of the lamb, savoury potatoes and mushrooms and the jus rounding everything off with a velvety smoothness. But there are issues with the texture of the dish; the lamb is more medium than medium-rare and the pomme anna is slightly underdone in the middle. Despite these setbacks, we are not easily deterred and we polish off the rest anyway.
Saving the best for last, I order the chicken pie which is the special ‘Pie of the Day’(£12.95). I can count on one hand the times I have ordered chicken in a restaurant but, having heard about the standard of pie multiple times earlier in the evening, I feel this is an unmissable opportunity. When it arrives, golden and gleaming at the table, I think it should be accompanied by a fanfare or a choir. It is hands down the best pie I have ever eaten.
The golden brown pastry is perfectly cooked, flaky, buttery, crispy, and the filling is as bolshie as they come. Thick chunks of succulent chicken meat wallowing in a creamy sauce, redolent with tarragon, hit all the right notes. The sides are almost an afterthought but I am glad I try them; the creamy mash is perfect bed for the lashings of accompanying gravy and mange tout and baby carrots add a cheerful snap.
My only regret is that is too big to finish but I would happily have had another go the next day.
Despite being full to bursting we are cajoled into trying the maple pecan pie (£4.25) which is another triumph. Buttery pastry and a wonderfully caramelised filling are not too sweet, with the flavour of the nuts left to shine through unfettered.
The hotel breakfast is a variety of continental, pastries, cereals and fruits and dishes from the kitchen, with toast accompanied by local preserve. I opt for a poached eggs and haddock, while my companion goes for the full English (without eggs, owing to – what I personally feel – is a hilarious phobia).
Both are delicious; the full English precisely portioned so not to be overwhelming, with wonderfully executed grilled vegetables and a delicious local sausage and bacon rasher (though beans, to my disappointment, are conspicuously absent). The haddock and eggs is similarly good, the pungent smokiness of the fish is levelled by the creamy egg yolks. All in all, a more than satisfactory start to the day.
There is little to fault Faversham Creek Hotel and its small and dedicated team. The food is a cheering reflection of Scott’s passion and evolution and it will be exciting to see what he comes up with next. Despite the small inconsistencies, the restaurant is more than worthy of its recent accolade. The rooms are stunning and comfortable, all laid against a historical, ambient backdrop which seems a world away from the city smog.
But it is David’s effervescence and his multitude of stories that really make guests feel at home and get a feel for the place with its intriguing past and its remarkable community. Well worth a visit.
Conduit St, Faversham, Kent ME13 7DF