Tag Archives: Kent

The Small Holding… a review

I was recently treated to a meal at this restaurant by a friend which was very generous of them, especially as they also had to be my taxi service as well.

The Small Holding had been on my radar for some time as its chef patron Will Devlin had for a period before hand been running a series of pop ups in the area as “No Fixed Abode” and I had heard good things and been impressed by their Instagram feed with some imaginative and stylish modern British food.

Well as the rain tipped down on our way to the place located out in the countryside just south of  Tunbridge Wells in the village of Kilndown with lovely views (on a less inclement day) across the Weald this former pub (the Globe & Rainbow) offers some serious cooking with a great deal of produce grown on site or foraged locally and the rest resourced from local farms nearby.

The menus are divided between what they term ½ Acre or Full Acre the former is five courses and the latter nine courses of tasting plates. Both menus can be paired with wines or craft beers at an extra cost.

The menus offered are a no choice affair that highlights what is in season and at their best from the poly tunnels and working small holding in their back yard and what the hedgerows have to offer. It is imaginative and in places quirky where they use a range of techniques or flavour combinations to test and excite your palate.

We settled at our table in a cosy dining area with wood burning stove for those chilly winter days, wooden tables and chairs and a kitchen that is open to view all adding to the charm of the place. We opted for the ½ Acre Menu as it was lunch time. Some nibbles delivered to us highlighted courgettes, a bhaji style fritter, a batter encrusted flower, and a little filo tartlette filled with a creamy pungent puree certainly whetted the appetite.

Our first course was home cured Bresola that was served with assorted textures of beetroot and some creamy soft burrata cheese, great simple presentation with a balance of flavours and textures.

Next came some bread along with the next course, the bread – sour dough with some local rapeseed oil and basalmic vinegar and a big dollop of local butter. The course it accompanied was a home grown courgette stuffed with some Kentish Blue cheese topped with some puffed bulgar wheat – a really unctuous and full flavoured dish.

We then had a fish course that was a little morsel of freshly salt cured mackerel served on top of shredded mackerel mixed with a horseradish cream sandwiched between two discs of home-grown pickled kohlrabi dusted with some Lovage salt. It looked and tasted very good – just wish it had been twice the size as it was exceedingly moreish.

For the main course we then had some roasted old spot pork literally from the neighbour (the other side of the hedge from them) a couple of slices of a perfectly roasted loin and a crispy morsel of soft pork belly it was garnished with a tasty home- grown carrot topped with a nutty sesame crumb – very accomplished and balanced with their flavour combinations.

For the dessert course we had locally foraged wild blackberries that were with a lovely tart coulis of said same fruit topped with a “rocher” of fennel ice cream topped with foraged wood sorrel – some biscuit crumb added a textural compliment. It certainly hardly touched the sides!

We completed the meal with the cheese a Burwash Rose an unpasteurized cows milk cheese from nearby Stonegate in East Sussex – served with some oat biscuits and thin homemade crackers and a courgette pickle the cheese is washed in rose water so it has a distinctive flavoured rind a perfect finish to the meal.

I was impressed and so glad I had finally made it to try Will’s food – I am now looking forward to quizzing him on the September 4th Scoff Quaff show on Channel Radio and digging deeper into how the venture came about and what the plan is for the future. I will be back and I hope you will tune in at 11-12 on the 4th to hear more about it all. If nothing else try the place out as it is certainly one to watch for the future…

The Small Holding – Kilndown Tel: 01892 890105

https://thesmallholding.restaurant/

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Happy Friday the 13th…

UPDATE: Due to an unlucky accident on June 12th and ending up hospitalised for ten days and a broken femur this event is now cancelled. Will update in due course on future events


Paraskevidekatriaphobia sufferers need not attend…

Well for our July event it will take place on Friday 13th July – we are not superstitious and hope you aren’t either!  We are planning weather permitting to make it an alfresco meal down the bottom of our garden – please note if weather is too unsettled it will be done indoors.

We felt for this dinner we would make it a memorable four course meal that showcased some interesting techniques and flavour combinations. (Not that all are dinners are not so intended!)

We will kick the meal off with a welcome dink and nibbles of a seasonal nature and then serve as a first course a homemade coarse terrine that will incorporate pork and chicken… I love making a terrine as there is a skill to keeping it moist and full of flavour and it always excites me when I cut into it for the first time. I will serve it with a homemade butternut squash & cranberry chutney that has been maturing now for a good while!

Next a challenging dish for some will be a Ceviche of sea bass and salmon. This is raw marinated fish served with a thinly sliced salad of fennel. The addition of mint in the Ceviche also adds a zing to the citric marinade that cooks the fish. Perfect for a summer evening.

The main course will be roasted beef fillet served with a “Pepper Club” sauce – this is a piquant green peppercorn and port soaked raisin cream sauce – we will serve some fresh green beans (as always) and pommes dauphine little deep fried mashed potato and choux pastry pillows… perfect to mop up the sauce.

Finally we will basically serve a jelly & ice cream dessert that will showcase Marden based cider makers Phil & May Turner and specifically their elderflower cider – we will also stud it with fresh local raspberries and when we serve it some homemade strawberry parfait and warm butter shortbread biscuits.

Dates: Friday 13th July

Time : 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm prompt

Price: £40 Per Person (service not included)

Menu

Welcome Drink & Seasonal Nibbles

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Homemade Pork & Chicken Terrine served with a homemade Butternut Squash & Cranberry Chutney

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Sea Bass & Salmon Ceviche with a fennel salad

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Roasted Fillet of Beef served with a Pepper Club Sauce

Pommes Dauphine,  Haricot Vert

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Turners Elderflower Cider Jelly with Local Raspberries,

Strawberry Parfait and Warm Butter Shortbread

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Coffee or Tea, Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases & Ingredient Availability 

 

Paella comes to the “pequeño toro”

For our June events we are excited to announce we will be returning to the village of Brenchley and in particular we are preparing two nights of Paella at the “Little Bull” Cafe & Bar in this picturesque village.

We will be cooking alfresco a large pan of classic mixed Paella at 6pm and 8pm on the two nights and this can be reserved directly with The Little Bull by calling them on 01892 724985 or you can complete the booking form below and someone will call you back to confirm your reservation.

We are also subject to availability offering the Paella for takeaway for those wishing to experience a freshly cooked Spanish classic in the comfort of their own home.

We will be serving at 6pm and again at 8pm so why not reserve your places now to ensure you get your Spanish fix and come on down to the “pequeño toro” and say hola!!!

Dates: 8th & 9th June

Times:19:00

Price:  £15 per Adult £9.50 for Children (under 10)

Takeaway £10 per Adult £6.00 per child (subject to availability)

Menu: 

Table Snack: Pipas al Punto de Sal

Freshly Cooked Paella – Chicken, Chorizo, Prawn, Squid with Peppers, Green Beans and Peas 

Vegetarian Option available (please request when booking)  

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Fresh Local Strawberries & Cream 

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Time for Tea (and Cake)…

Well we are always keen to provide our supper club attendees with a unique covert experience with our events.

For our April event we are pleased to announce something very different and quite unique.

We are linking up with a Master Tea Blender – Alex Probyn – he is brains behind a highly successful company called Blends for Friends and his HQ is located on the edge of the North Downs in a purpose built Kentish Barn that now is a very busy operation.
Alex blends many teas for assorted companies worldwide, they will produce on average one million plus tea bags per week as well as loose leaf tea blends shipped to locations throughout the world.

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Who’d have thought we have such a company within our midst…
Part of the barn has been turned into a swish state of the art bespoke tasting room which is known as the “Blendatorium” where Alex will tutor you through the many vagaries of tea blending – he has a wall of some 500 plus infusions that can create a unique blend.
He will provide attendees with a tutored tasting and this will then be followed by you being able to create your own very unique blend to take home with you.

Finally once this is all completed his in house catering team with some assistance from yours truly we will then serve you with a delightful afternoon tea at their in house café, this will include a selection of sandwiches, homemade cake, biscuits and pastries.

We have also invited Pastry tutor Jonathan Deddis who was a contestant on the last series of the BBC series “Bake Off Crème de la Crème” to also produce some unique high end patisserie where his artistry and skills will also encompass some of Alex’s teas.

This will be a truly perfect way to finish off this event. The café is not open to the public so it will be a truly exclusive and must not miss event. This is a unique way to learn more about the world of tea in a fun and informative way.

The event is a one off we have secured an exclusive all in discounted price for this event of £65 per person that is a saving of £10 per person on their normal tea tasting prices. There are just 12 spaces available on a first come first served basis and the event will only take place if all places are sold so why not get a group of tea enthusiasts together and let’s make a party of it!

To book your places we request you complete the booking form below and we will then invoice you with an online credit/debit card payment link and this will be fully refunded should we not get sufficient numbers for the event.

We request the full payment up front and cancellation by attendees seven days before the event will garner a full refund but thereafter no refunds can be offered unless we can find replacement attendees.

Date: Friday 20th April 2018

Venue: The Barn, Coney Shaw Farm, Kemsing Road, Kemsing, TN15 6NN

Start: 14:00

Tutored Tea Tasting :  with Alex Probyn – a Master Tea Blender followed by your chance to create your own bespoke blend from over 500 assorted infusions…finally you get to sit down to a sumptuous set tea that will include freshly made sandwiches, homemade cakes, biscuits and tea inspired pastries by pastry supremo Jonathan Deddis.

Finish:  5:30pm

Price:  £65.00 per person inclusive of your own tea blend to take home & set afternoon tea.

Please do let us know of any allergies or dietary requirements when booking.

Covert Secrets Revealed…

We thought it is about time we offered a structured cookery demo so instead of a dinner event in February we are offering a very special lunch preceded by a live cookery demo.

We will have just four spaces and Hari will demonstrate a full three course menu that you will all sit down to eat. It is a great way to learn some new techniques and tips and Hari will be more than happy to answer any questions along the way.

We will ask all attendees to arrive at 9:45am for a welcome coffee and biscuits. The demo will kick off at 10:00 am prompt and then lunch will be served to all around 1:00pm (or basically when ready)

The dishes that will be demonstrated will be as follows

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Date: Saturday 24th February 2018

Arrival: 9:45 am

Finish: Circa 2:00 pm

Price: £55 per person includes Recipe Sheets and  3 course Lunch


Starter: Ceviche of Smoked Haddock, Celeriac Remoulade & Apple

Main Course: Supreme of Chicken with a Prune & Bacon Stuffing, Red Wine & Prune Sauce

Gratin Dauphinoise & Vegetable Medley

Dessert: “Damian Allsops” Water Chocolate Mousse served with Blood Orange Segments

N.B. Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

If time allows Hari will also demonstrate his Beer Bread and the demo will also show how to bone a whole chicken and the process of making a red wine stock. He will endeavour do everything from scratch (where possible) and will also demonstrate the presentation of the finished dishes. Attendees will also be provided with recipe sheets to take away so they can replicate at home.

This event will only go ahead if all four places are filled so why not get a group together and come and enjoy a live demo followed by a lunch.

To book  your places please complete the form below and we will then confirm your booking with an online invoice for credit card payment to secure your places.

 

The Long March…

I always like to give my monthly events something of a title and a theme and as the years go by it seems to get a little harder to come up with something pertaining and relevant.

This time for me the month of March sees the beginnings of the end of a long winter as we head into Spring and also we see the clocks spring forward as we head into Summer.

So “The Long March” will see us opening for two nights on the 16th and 17th of the month. The 17th is St Patrick’s Day and we thought shall we go all Irish with the menu but have decided just to in places on the menu have the odd nod to the Emerald Isle.

We will kick the evenings off with a welcome drink and some seasonable nibbles. We have no idea what as yet but we normally serve a soup shot, one cold and one hot “ameuse bouche” so will start researching some ideas.

To kick the meal off we thought we would start with a starter we have done before many years ago… a custard set chilled Cauliflower Terrine. This time we propose to serve it with some freshly poached King Prawns that we will then dress with a sweet chilli dressing and a sliver of roasted cauliflower. The earthiness of the cauliflower should marry well with sweet prawn and dressing. It will also have quite some “eye appeal” as well so a great way to start our food march!

For the main course we thought we would do a roasted pork tenderloin/fillet served with our veritable green beans and the addition of some Chinese Pak Choy. A sauce made with dried apricots and a red wine jus will be a great marriage.

Garnished with some crispy “Pommes Dauphine” a mix of potato and choux pastry that is deep fried will give it all a desirable textural element and something to soak up that sauce.

We traditionally serve cheese following the main course (the French way) and here we hope to introduce an Irish element ! We have also been experimenting recently with some new style biscuits – a totally gluten free version using a mix of ground seeds including hemp, chia and linseed. We of course will also have our now much sought after Porridge Oat biscuits as well.

Finally to complete the meal we will serve a very much in season fruit – Rhubarb as a pastry slice married with the classic combo of custard. This will complete a fun night of good seasonal food with some classic combinations.

Coffee and Petit Fours will finish it all off along with your comments on the event in our guest book or as a review on our Facebook page.

Dates: Friday 16th & Saturday 17th March 2018

Arrival: 7:30pm – Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm 

Suggested Donation: £35 per person  – a £5 per person Reservation Deposit by emailed invoice with a secure credit card payment link will secure your places.

We then request the balance of £30 cash per person on the night  (N.B. service not included)

Water & Glasses provided on the table – guests can bring their own drinks to consume with their dinner. 

Menu

Welcome Drink and Nibbles

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Cauliflower Terrine garnished with Poached Prawns in a Sweet Chilli Dressing

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Roasted Pork Fillet, Apricot Jus

Pommes Dauphine

Haricots Verts & Pak Choy

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Hari’s Cheese Selection with Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Rhubarb & Custard Cream Slice

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Coffee & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

 

Review of 2017…

Well it has been a hectic year at “Covert Towers” during 2017 with a variety of dinners and an assortment of functions throughout the year along with some pretty impressive dining out experiences as well as the odd humdinger as well! Less said about them the better!

We kicked the year off with a new concept for our dinners where we did a “Pot Luck” menu where we literally decided the menu at the last minute and suggested a minimum donation of just £10 per person. We were amazed over two dinners and one lunch we managed to serve a total of 48 diners – a record for us and a great way to kick the year off.

Next up was our Game On dinner where we featured some amazing Game – from venison Pigeon and then Guinea Fowl and this was quickly followed by what we termed our Quirky Dinner as we were deemed a “quirky” food venue on the newly launched Quirky Kent website.

May saw us do an event in a new venue for us on the “Mountain of Crowborough” in the Community Centre where we took over their cafe for the night and popped up with a special four course menu.

We were back there in the summer when we also did another night where we served up our infamous Paella from a single large pan! In fact during this year we managed to serve up Paella a number of times with the biggest challenge, doing a party of 100 using some four separate pans.

Other private functions saw us doing Moroccan Chicken in the pans and even one where we did bubble and squeak so we could serve up Sausages with an onion gravy to about 80 guests enjoying the Tom Carradine Cockney Sing-a-Long. If you are are planning an event in 2018 check out our Man with a Pan service or our @yourhome offer as well.

We also saw events in the Autumn period ranging from our “End is Nigh” dinner to our “October Fe(a)st” and finally just before Xmas our “Ding Dong – Ho Ho Ho” events – one pair of stalwart guests who came along each month commented in our guest book “Turned up trumps again and consistently excellent… delicious food as ever” … makes it all worthwhile for us – thanks David & Brenda!

Our own dining out high has to be the WasTED pop up in Selfridges back in March 2017 whilst we really enjoyed a lunch at Adam Simmonds year long pop up in Soho “The Test Kitchen” and then a new discovery of an Asian Fusion place located in the heart of St Katherine’s Dock run by chef Neil Wager called Dokke – a meal literally just before Xmas was awesome in so many ways – I will return and post a review soon in 2018!

Now we are busy planning 2018 dates and themes. We are already excited about a week long gig in the French Alpes in early February for a long standing Hari customer.

We also have something a little different planned for April – we will publish details soon and we are also hoping to persuade some other guest chefs to join us during 2018 so you can all experience some different styles and unique experiences. We are also hoping to offer a special charity night at some stage as well.

Our first event of 2018 is a joint venture with wine tasting guru Rowena Hawtin so check out the Discover the Vine and Savour the Curd Event for more details… we only have limited spaces left so be quick and reserve your places now.

What a great year 2017 was and wishing you all the very best for 2018…

Cheers

Hari

The Butchers Block, Burham – a review…

Well it has been many a year since I have visited this establishment in its previous incarnation as the Toastmasters Inn.

About three months ago it reopened its doors following a major refurbishment and renamed the Butchers Block… a reference to its provenance of being owned by a butchers family.

I have to declare at this point I have a big affection for this place as I spent some of my earlier culinary years at this place and worked alongside the proprietor who was something of a mentor to me and instilled a real passion for cheese if nothing else.

The place has been beautified and decorated in a pleasing way but it is the menu that for me speaks volumes about their aspirations and aims. It is obviously and rightly very meat centric (considering their connections) and features a meat cabinet in the dining areas entrance that displays some really good looking hunks of ageing beef.

The menu highlights for both lunch and dinner are steaks and prime cuts from a T Bone to a Cote de Bouef or Fillet with the classic accompaniments. These all come with a price tag that whilst not eye watering expensive they are not such good value as perhaps lesser known cuts would be. Why not feature a Jacobs Ladder or a bavette. Especially on a lunch menu where a diner wants to eat more quickly as they are time constrained and also price sensitive.

It is a continual debate even in high end restaurants in the big metropolis that you can eat a highly accoladed meal for far better value for lunch than dinner.

The Butchers Block is really missing a trick here and need to rethink the offer. It should be a shop window for what to expect for the more formal dinner service and in particular special occasion diner.

So what did we eat – well we did not fancy a paddle (wooden board) Ploughmans, charcuterie board or fish platter but craved something a little more substantial and the burger whilst tempting had been our menu choice the day before on a visit to Windsor.

So we opted for Fish & Chips a pub classic and then a Steak and Ale Pie – both priced at £12.90 seemed to be the choice of the majority of all the other diners as the Steaks were all prices at double this amount.

A wait of just on one hour from when we had entered the place was our experience before our food arrived. It was not busy and I felt the kitchen was struggling to cope to produce what was pretty basic fare.

Fish & Chips arrived on a wooden board (a modern trend that needs to be discouraged) and was duly sent straight back to be put onto a plate as Mrs HC wanted to eat it off a hot plate!

My Steak & Ale Pie came served in a bowl shaped plate – better than a board but again not my favourite receptacle shape as the cutlery has a tendency to fall into the centre if ever you rest it on the rim! Much was made of the fact the pastry case was short crust and the top was puff pastry and whilst tasty with a well cooked inside filling the gravy boat with extra sauce was much need as it required some extra lubrication, the accompanying  mash and vegetables with it were not so pleasing.

Gritty baby carrots and then sugar snaps were nestled alongside a mash potato that had a stale flavour that was close  to turning.  The pie was I suspect not made in house which for £12.90 was not really good value. I was hungry so ate it and did not fancy an hours wait for a replacement.

Overall I had and expectation that this place would deliver something far better than it did. It could be described as very average and the fact they have access to high quality produce they could execute it all with more flair and imagination.

Service was also lacklustre and in need of polish. There seemed no urgency and classic example of lack of communication between the husband and wife team resulted in us being overcharged for our two small glasses of wine. Quickly rectified when pointed out however the landlord did not seem to posses the social skills to back it all up.  Not a natural front of house so left us feeling it was all a bit amateurish.

It had been many years since I had been in the place and I guess it will now be many more years before I will want to make a return visit… says it all really.

Fancy a dinner on us?…

It has been sometime since we have held a competition so we thought we would have one now.

It is very simple to enter, we want your recipe for your favourite Autumn dish.

What for you epitomises this lovely season? It can be anything you like.

To enter all you need to do is email us your recipe at covert.hari@yahoo.co.uk with the phrase Recipe Competition in the subject line.

We will then look at them and test the best ones and then pick a winner which we will share with you all in our November Newsletter.

All entrants will then go into a free draw to win a free place at our next event in November where they will be invited to attend and have  their dinner on us!

So simple – just send us your recipes as soon as possible

Closing date is Friday 20th October at 5pm

You can also send more than one recipe and increase your chances!

 

October Fe(a)st…

Well, we thought for our October event we would highlight a few of our favourite dishes and try something a bit different as well.

It will take place in our home venue only on Saturday 14th October so spaces are limited.

We will kick the evening off with a welcome drink and some seasonal nibbles… We love the challenges of providing something tasty and topical to our diners and seeing them explore some new flavours or experiences!

Bang Bang Chicken Salad

We will, for our first course,  do a classic Chinese inspired starter… Bang Bang Chicken Salad. This is cold poached shredded chicken that is dressed with a peanut butter and sesame dressing. My friend Chef Kam Po But has taught me well (Please watch this space – for a return visit from him… we are working on it)

Next course is a bit different…instead of our normal cheese course we thought we would serve a fish course so will be serving a pan fried salmon fillet garnished with roasted beetroots and a beurre blanc (butter sauce) flavoured  with horseradish – a simple combination that should provide some great complimentary flavours!

Beef Olives

The main course will then be a dish we have done before – a classic beef olive… a slowly braised, rolled & stuffed top rump steak served in a rich stout sauce. We will serve this with some creamed potatoes and a classic braised red cabbage – a truly comforting flavour combination with the beef olive!

Finally, an Orange Polenta Cake served with Greek Yoghurt and runny local honey will be the way to round off what will be a great autumnal feast.

We do hope you will join us for what we are calling our “Fe(a)st” and we will also have soon our plans for November and December to complete yet another year of “Covert” dining.

We are now taking bookings and request a £5 deposit per person to secure your places with a balance of £30 per person required on the night.

We just ask you to complete the form below and we will call you within a 48 hour period to take your booking deposit over the phone and confirm your places.

Time : 7:30pm Prompt for welcome drink and nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm

Suggested Donation: £35 per person service not included

Menu

Welcome Drink &  Seasonal Nibbles

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Bang Bang Chicken Salad

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Salmon Fillet with roasted beetroots and a horseradish beurre blanc

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Slow Cooked Beef Olive with Stout Sauce

Creamed Potatoes

Braised Red Cabbage

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Orange & Polenta Cake with Greek Yoghurt & Local Honey

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Coffee or Tea with Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases and Ingredient Availability