New Review Posted on OrderOnlineNow for Hengist Restaurant – Aylesford
For those of you that don’t know, Hengist is owned by the same people (Head Chef Richard Phillips & Paul Smith) who also run Thackerays in Tunbridge Wells and Chapel Down in Tenterden. Being a regular diner and huge fan of Thackerays I have to admit to being quite excited by the prospect of what was to follow. But how was it to compare?
The restaurant is nestled on the left as you enter the High Street of Aylesford, apparently Englands oldest village, quite a quaint olde worlde high street too. You would be forgiven for missing the restaurant but for the elegant yet understated signage from outside. Those of you familiar with Thackerays will know how the building has been carefully and sympathetically restored, yet in my opinion, Hengist is on another level. The interior is simply stunning.
It is quite dark downstairs with a nice feel and stylish minimal touches, upstairs to the rear a party were obviously enjoying the use of a very pleasant room whilst we were sat in a room that ran parallel to the very impressive bar area. If I’m honest, this room was perhaps the least impressive in the building but for a magnificent modern chandelier and tasteful mirrors. However, we had only booked this Sunday lunch the day previous so we were glad just to have got a table and the restaurant was busy which is always a good sign.
We were served with a choice of bread (an apricot option and onion & pancetta) whilst we perused the wine list, deciding on an Argentinian Calafate Pinot Noir from the Sommeliers reccomendations, this was an inspired choice and quite stunning. We were also brought a canape of duck confit that really set things off. The Sunday menu really has something for everyone and we actually struggled to make a decision even though there were only 4 choices of each course.
For starters, Mrs La opted for the salmon, which was served with a caviar that I forget the name of, she described the dish as having an abundance of fresh flavours and a melt in the mouth texture. I went for the ham hock salad which was a big ballsy cylinder of delicious ham served with celeriac, the whole plate working together in unision and an absolute joy.
For mains my partner went for the Belly of ‘Land Race’ Pork served with an apple consomme and cabbage whilst I went for the Romney marsh lamb. Just like the starters before, the presentation was a delight, the pork accompanied by some of the finest crackling I have ever seen and Mrs La plainly savouring every mouthful, washed up with the ‘Kentish apple cider jus’. My lamb was another cylinder of meaty goodness, tender flavoursome lamb cooked to perfection with pomme puree, the dish executed perfectly and elevated by the delicious black olive jus it was served with.
To finish what was already a memorable meal, Mrs La went for a chocolate parfait with ginger mousse, whilst I kept things simple with a selection of local cheeses. My partners chocolate dish was delivered with precise and clean presentation yet she soon managed to make a complete mess of the plate and made it obvious she was enjoying it. My cheese was a lovely selection and had a nice balance to it served with a generous dollop of pleasant chutney.
The waiter who served us was a delight throughout, attentive yet unobtrusive, in fact we didn’t have to fill our drinks once and he ensured we were extremely well looked after, as I mentioned they were busy too.
There were only a few criticisms that I have, and they are minor. Firstly, our meals were not described to us, as they are so eloquently at Thackerays. Bear in mind this is complex cooking at its best so it is nice to know exactly how each plate is constructed. Secondly, I was not told that the biscuits for my cheese were served in the napkin placed next to me, so I could have sat there a long time not knowing. And finally, it appears that the prices on the website are in fact incorrect as it quotes that 3 courses on a Sunday are £18.50 when in fact they are £28.50, however this is all niggly stuff and easily corrected.
The bill came to £114 in total for 3 courses, a bottle of wine, water and espresso’s which we both agreed was good value for exquisite food in a great setting. Overall it was an excellent experience, these guys know exactly how to run a tight ship and I would thoroughly recommend Hengist, even as a destination restaurant.
As for Mrs La and myself, well on the back of this I think a trip to Chapel Down beckons…….
Review by: Mr La who dine in June 2010
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