Well I certainly cannot vouch for the first two of this infamous statement – but the third one is pretty accurate when it comes to describing Jeff Kipp the chef patron of a cute little eaterie in Saltwood Green near Hythe. The Saltwood is his baby.
Jeff hails from the “Windy City” across the pond and spent time working with Charlie Trotter a much respected and alas now departed cook. He arrived in Saltwood Green having worked in some pucker establishments in London town and London’s loss is now this sleepy village’s gain on the outskirts of Hythe.
I came across Jeff slightly by accident having been introduced by a chef acquaintance and a few weeks ago I met him when I was helping Jules Serkin on her weekly radio show called Scoff Quaff that is broadcast from just down the road towards Dymchurch! It was a lively programme… you can listen again here
Why I waited so long for an excuse I do not know but I found myself there for a luncheon with my good lady and an old friend (he is definitely older than me – he he sorry Mario!) We had drooled over the menu on line and were looking forward to sampling the small but well balanced menu. Lunch is a simpler affair whilst dinner has a little bit more involved and complex dishes.
We settled into our luncheon with a celebratory welcome drink – a chilled glass of Prosecco that also contained some Kentish hop syrup – it went down rather well and certainly got the party started!
To get us going we chose a couple of their homemade breads – a soft American style pretzel served with a little ramekin of rarebit and then a Corn Bread with a dollop of tomato relish and goats curd… both were very good.
Having perused the menu my wife decided to go for one of the little plates for her main course… namely a smoked fish cake. Me and my considerably older friend decided to share a plate of Jeff’s Home-made gnocchi flavoured with wild garlic that was on the menu… I had taken Jeff a big bag of freshly foraged wild garlic and a large bunch of wild garlic flowers. These then duly appeared on the resultant starter and very pretty they looked too!
The little pillows of gnocchi had also been lightly fried to give them a slightly crunchy texture… it was an accomplished dish.
Mario chose as his main course a pan seared fillet of sea trout with petit pois, pea shoots, samphire and Jersey royals with a punchy tartare sauce… spring time personified on the plate with beautiful succulent sea trout perfectly cooked. I went for roasted shoulder of Romney Marsh lamb served with a romesco (red pepper, almond and olive oil) infused mashed potato plus grilled Mediterranean vegetables and a Salsa Verde/Gremolata sauce. The meat was lovely, cooked slightly pink it had a lovely sweet flavour that married well with the earthy mash and the vibrant herby green sauce. Overall another well accomplished dish.
We then decided to partake in a few of the puddings on offer… Mario went savoury with what was described as Stilton crumble with apple & rhubarb… it was a de-constructed affair of apple slices, rhubarb with apple foam little pieces of crumbled Stilton of great provenance and taste… garnished with assorted young shoots it looked a pretty picture on the plate.
My better half chose the home-made Cheesecake with orange and cardamom – it had good oaty biscuit base topped with a vanilla cheesecake glazed with an orange jelly. It was however my dessert that garnered the most compliments. A chocolate tart with a malted milk ice cream and a malted caramel. This was pure luxury and the simple de-constructed presentation made it even more enjoyable (the pastry biscuit base was perfectly buttery and crisp)
Well Jeff has won us over and we are now planning a return visit (hopefully a dinner) it was worthy of the seventy mile plus round trip for us and a perfect way to complete my birthday celebrations.
I do hope Jeff remains over here and well the first two statements in the title will not be an issue either.(Just kidding Jeff)
Go and try it, it’s well worth it!