Thursday, 17 March 2011

Review: The Farmhouse, West Malling

A lazy Sunday afternoon roast dinner can easily be the most joyful part of your week; well the most enjoyable part of mine in any case. Living as a commuter, coming home every evening and cooking is a chore that simply has to be done. I often flit between something simple like Gammon and creamy mustard mash, to a pad thai take-away or if I am feeling lavish, scallops cooked in garlic oil. Scallops are so easy and quick to cook, yet it often surprises people when I mentioned that I had them for supper the night before.
However, as working has slowly crept into the weekend and Saturdays are often filled with catching up on housework, visiting friends and family or having a day out; Sundays just need to be lazy. Newspapers, eggs Benedict and a strong coffee sum up my perfect morning and a roast dinner is the icing on the cake.
Now, I am not one of these half-hearted roast dinner cooks. I often have to nudge my mother when she says: “I’ve had a long week; I’m just going to use Aunt Bessie’s.” You just cannot beat a homemade roast and as a result I have created a rod for my own back and am now the nominated roast-dinner-come-feast cook. Roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes (in dripping or goose fat), cauliflower cheese, creamy mash, spring greens, pigs in blankets, roasted, buttery carrots and anything other seasonal vegetable finish the roastie-feast.
Yeah, I will admit I am a little anal about roasts – a soggy roast potato will never make it onto my plate, let alone anyone else’s. I just can’t help it. It’s not my particular way of cooking – it is just common sense. Why go to the effort of making a roast if you’re not going to do it properly? It just does not make sense to me.
So, you can imagine my joy when I discovered The Farmhouse, West Malling. West Malling is a beautiful little commuter village, surrounded by an abundance of fields and farms, and unfortunately, linked to the real world by a maze of a bypass that links it to Maidstone, Kings Hill and Aylesford.
Surrounded by quaint shops, including a jewellers, boutique fashion store, craft shop, art gallery and an abundance of other gorgeous places to visit, The Farmhouse is also only a couple of minutes away from Manor Park, a lovely rolling park with a lake and in the summer is home to (safely lit and probably illegal) BBQs and a very friendly ice-van man.
The Farmhouse itself is on the High Street opposite another local haunt, The Five Pointed Star nestled amongst many other eateries, The Farmhouse could easily be lost. Perched on the edge of a row of shops, The Farmhouse has its own car-park which is handy. The entrance is divided between cosy pub with interesting bar food and then across the hall, a small, but airy restaurant, served by its own staff and bar separate to the pub.
A warm, welcoming atmosphere greets you and the charming waiter seats us near the window. The building is about 200 years old, so beautiful wooden floors and original detailing remain and it all adds to the rustic charm of The Farmhouse. We decide to order a selection of meats and pickles with various breads and a side of garlic bread. We are not disappointed and feast on the cured strips, presented on a large board. Everything tastes as it should, although as a sharing platter I may have suggested more to feed four, however it would happily feed two people. The garlic bread was as it said on the tin and could have been a little stronger and buttery for my liking. Good crisp, toasted edges though.
As we wait between courses, we are entertained by the waiter who tells us about different champagnes and his life living near the Champagne region of France. He also speaks to us about the history of the restaurant and some other good restaurants in Kent. He is engaging and charms the pants off of us. Sometimes it is easy to forget the little things that make a dining experience really wonderful. Water replaced before it is empty; bread before it is even remotely hard; wine before the glass is drained. It is easy to get into a habit of eating mediocre food and experiencing mediocre service, simply because the restaurants are ‘local’ or ‘cheap’ or ‘they serve my favourite beer’ – I have found this plenty of times when choosing somewhere for a family meal/night out with friends and we just need to get out of it. There is no point complaining that your steak is tough, overcooked and fatty, sitting alongside your flabby chips and limp salad when you paid less than £10 for it.
Speaking of which, onto the very reasonable £12 Sunday Roast main course. Out beef and for presentation, it’s got to be top marks. Clean and neat. Four good size, crispy potatoes, a generous and stylishly arranged hunk of beef and seasonal vegetables adorn the plate. A nice, meaty well inflated Yorky Pud (sounds an awful lot like I am talking about breasts..) graces the top of the beef and all in all looks like a pretty sexy dish.
Yorkshire – crispy and meaty. Good.
Roast Beef – lovely texture, well cooked, succulent and seasoned to perfection.
Potatoes – crispy, fluffy and of generous proportions – perfection.
Vegetables – firm and seasoned well – not enough to accompany generous meat and pots.
Always an alternative at the table, my sister had Gnocchi and it tasted creamy, well seasoned and the gnocchi was firm and not too overpowered by the creamy sauce. She did say however, that on seeing the roasts she would had preferred the meat and veg over her Italiana dish (showing off duly noted) ha!
The only issue that seemed to be blighting other diners experience was potentiually the lack of staff. There only appeared to be one person at the bar and The Charming Waiter. When observing, they all had their food and full drinks, however I think one couple were little impatient and walked out.
If you want a relaxing, enjoyable Sunday afternoon lunch with the opportunity to stroll round a beautiful high street and surrounding countryside then The Farmhouse is for you.

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