The Fordwich Arms: Review

Now, you know we love eating out in London. We adore the fizzling excitement of a new Soho cocktail spot; a shiny, just-built marble-topped tapas bar; or the rustling of crisp, newly-laid linen. However, we also love to nip out of town of a weekend, hurtling through the countryside on the train, weekend papers in hand and the promise of a good drink and long lunch ahead.

The Fordwich Arms fulfils all possible ‘out of town lunching’ criteria. Firstly, it’s a gorgeous old country pub, complete with canal-side garden, open fireplaces and a rambling creeper-covered exterior. It’s been serving the locals simply as, well, ‘the local’ for yonks but was recently taken over and reopened by ex-Clove Club chef, Dan Smith. Yes, that Clove Club –  the Clove Club currently No. 26 in the World’s 50 Best list and one of London’s very best restaurants.

So no, you’re not going to be sitting down to a basket of scampi and chips at The Fordwich Arms. What you can (and should) do, however, is spend several hours working your way through a series of impressive snacks, inventive, playful dishes and excellent wine. That’s what we did, and we left with our bellies as rotund as the beer barrels in the cellar, cheeks flushed with merriment and hearts full of certainty that everything is, in fact, right with the world (at least for a little bit).

We started with crisp sandwiches. No, really. Ok, they weren’t just any crisp sandwiches but house-made versions plump with creamy taramasalata, crowned with caviar but you know, still technically crisp sandwiches. They went very well with the doughnuts. Ok, ok, not just any doughnuts but dinky, freshly-fried-moments-before versions, filled with impossibly smooth foie gras.

We followed them with a dip of smoked cod’s roe which had us fighting for the last morsels, scooping it with the sweetest innards of endive, baby turnips, radishes and carrots. They’re obsessive about sourcing local ingredients here and we reaped the benefits – a mound of super sweet crab meat; rich, yellow confit egg yolks; meats cured in-house. All fine ways to graze our way towards mains.

Suckling pig was as wonderful as ever, it’s crackling shattering before giving way to a perfect layer of milky fat; its belly, smoked in a bed of hay. Dexter beef drew similar gasps, its flesh soft but still with bite, the flavour aged yet short of the cheesy funk that comes later in the process.

For dessert, we zoned in on a homemade ‘Snickers’ bar, a fancy pants version, yes, but no less satisfying, and a slice of perfectly cut, boozy cake, of which we can remember precisely nothing other than the fact it made us smile.

So yes, The Fordwich Arms has changed and we’ve heard that some of the locals aren’t impressed, probably because we’re among the first in a long line of wide-eyed Londoners to make a beeline for its rustic charms. This is a whacking great country pub carrot that’s been dangled in front of city-dwelling donkeys and boy, does it deliver. The food has all the elements of great pub food – British flavours from hyper-local ingredients, a generosity of spirit and a cosy, welcome-home charm, teamed with the swanky high falutin technique of a serious kitchen. It’s pub grub, Jim, but not as we know it.

The Fordwich Arms, 1647 King Street, Canterbury CT2

Photos: Chris Pople

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