Well it was a Friday lunchtime and a sunny day. I had a rendezvous with an old college mate at his new pad and quick show round. This was duly done and we then decided to shoot off somewhere for a pint and bite to eat.
We decided to head down the road to The Poet. The pub is a grade II listed building in the village of Matfield (blessed with several vibrant pubs) and they state the Pub is so called because one Siegfried Sassoon a war poet was born nearby.
The pub was once the village bakery and was previously known as the Standing Cross and also used to boast possibly the best chef in Kent (it used to make me smile but did little to tempt me in!) It opened in it’s current format about 18 months ago.
Now the mate is also in the hospitality business in the big smoke and is like myself always one happy to try a new place. I had heard mixed reviews on the place but thought lets give it a go.
The bar snacks ranged from a Burger with House Chips (however the hand scripted blackboard menu made them look more like topical “horse chips”) at what we thought was a bit pricey £14.50 to a deli board at under a tenner, Ham Hock Croquettes to a bowl of smoked sausages.
We decided to share the Deli Board, Sausages and Croquettes and then about twenty minutes later (they were busy) our snacks duly arrived.
The deli board was a wooden board consisting of a smooth chicken liver parfait and some toasted brioche, some slices of Coppa ham and then a little paper parcel of baked Camembert. On another board a couple of moist but crispy Panko crumbed ham hock croquettes were delivered along with a bowl of some smoky little sausages. The sausages were a Toulouse and a spicy little Chorizo varieties that were perfect with the Old Dairy Top beer they serve on draught.
A couple of bread rolls appeared alongside and all in all this was some pretty good sophisticated pub grub that was perfect for our Friday lunchtime catch up.
It left me feeling I wanted to return and sample the main menu and overall with some unobtrusive and friendly service this is a place was now well and truly on my radar and worthy of a return visit!
Another return visit for a bar snack and pint with the self same friend got me thinking why had I not been back for dinner so with Mrs HC we decided on a child free night to take the plunge and head out for dinner.
Booking could not have been simpler. They use an online booking system I presume for some of their tables (Top Table) and so online I went to secure my table… two minutes later confirmation email came through. Sorted.
The night arrived and off we set, Mrs HC was unaware where we were headed and so there was a good air of excitement and expectation.
The bar was busy with a party of drinkers in full swing but we were quickly guided to our table to the rear and it was much quieter and relaxed as we perused our menus.
The a la carte menu offers a simple 5/5/5 choice of dishes – we were tempted by most but Mrs HC plumped for the chicken liver parfait, one of her favourites, whilst I chose a crispy egg, something I am led to believe is a signature dish.
The parfait was a generous slab, slightly greying with a quenelle of insipid onion relish and some vibrant pickled vegetables. It was well constructed but did woefully lack seasoning as Mrs HC kept reminding me… Overall it was OK but did not sing out as spectacular, or live up to it’s price tag.
My choice was a poached egg that had been crumb coated and fried to crisp the exterior served on a bed of pea shoots, broad beans and then a pea veloute was served poured by the waitress. Now if the egg was crispy I cannot say as she duly flooded the egg with the veloute so making it all soggy and the egg was more hard boiled than soft poached. Again a lack of seasoning meant it was OK but nothing more. Looked good, with vibrant colours but for the price of £6 did lack something!
Main course dishes next was a Smoked Haddock, Spinach, Samphire, Poached Egg and Hollandaise. Now Mrs HC is stickler for wanting her plate of food to be served hot. It was rather tepid so back it went. Fresh plates when delivered a short while later were good , good plump fish, generous mound of mashed potato, spinach and samphire. A good soft!!! poached egg and well made hollandaise. A classic combination.
The other main course was Roasted Duck with carrot, spinach and a confit duck roll and orange. The duck was perfectly cooked and very tender, a carrot puree and some baby carrots and wilted spinach were good, no discernable orange flavour and the confit duck roll was confit duck wrapped in a filo style pastry and crispy fried. Overall was a good dish but again it lacked something in terms of seasoning and flavour. The baby carrots were the best flavour of all!
To complete the meal we shared a Peanut Parfait, with as the menu stated, textures of Blackberries. A pretty concoction was presented a creamy parfait with a peanut brittle crumb a few scattered blackberries, blackberry coulis and well made sorbet of said same fruit was good.
As we headed home Mrs HC and I reflected on what had been an enjoyable night out but a meal that alas had not really lived up to expectations. The Blackboard bar snack menu I have to say seemed far more appealing and interesting so the title of Rhyme nor reason sort of sums it all up! It makes no sense that they offer two very different styles of menu and not really deliver on the one they seem to feel is their main offering. We will go back but only for a bar snack!