In keeping with my theme of finding luxury restaurants with lovely outside spaces, my search leads me to Aylesford in Kent to Hengist. Aylesford is a tiny cutesy oldie-worldie village with picturesque features and having walked through it from beginning to end must have taken less than 5 minutes! Consequently, I must say we were surprised to see a restaurant of this calibre located in such a quaint sleepy village. However, there were no complaints in the slightest, its charm leapt out and we loved what we saw.
The proud Co-proprietor of this fine establishment is TV Chef, Richard Phillips. I know him best for his stint on Ready Steady Cook and Saturday Cooks (both programs I love!) but he started his early career at London’s famous Savoy Hotel. He went on to work alongside the likes of the Roux Brothers at Le Gavroche and then he became Head Chef for Marco Pierre White at The Criterion, Mirabelle and Les Saveurs, it’s no wonder Richard had his own Michelin starred restaurant by the age of 29! An amazing talent may we say so ourselves. His very first restaurant, Thackeray’s in Tunbridge Wells, is well known as one of the best restaurants in Kent. In the ten years since it has been under Richard’s watchful eye Thackeray’s has won numerous accolades including a Michelin star, three AA rosettes and ‘Best Gourmet Restaurant’ in the Kent Restaurant Awards in 2009. We couldn`t wait to sample Hengist.
From its exterior Hengist wasn`t what we were expecting but we loved its mysterious guise. As it was a fabulously sunny day we opted to eat outside in the intimate private courtyard, as this meant no one else could overlook our table, which we liked. Hengist also has a bar and lounge, private dining, a dramatic decadent Japanese Room and a Crystal Room that has a spectacular crystal chandelier centrepiece. Having peeped our heads round into the main dining area it looked substantially full so we were pleased with our alfresco dining choice. The décor was quirky and modern something that I hoped to see but wasn`t sure I would – this place surely packed in a few surprises!
Main dining area
Once seated we ordered a glass of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, it was fresh, delicious and we could even taste the tomatoes that were described in the wine list! We were given both a la carte and special lunch menus to peruse but we opted to choose our dishes from the a la carte menu. Before our starters arrived we sampled the separate goats cheese and smoked swordfish canapés, which were just a mouthful but full of wonderful flavours. From the starter menu my friend and I both chose the pan seared sea scallops with slow braised pork, creamed cauliflower, wood sorrel and cauliflower veloute. The entire dish looked, smelt and tasted incredible, and without a shadow of a doubt this was one of the best starters I`d had in a long time! Next our main courses arrived and I had chosen the steamed fillet of sea bass with salmon and crab mousse, tian of poached crayfish, brown crab and tomato risotto and vanilla infused fish cream. I`m so pleased I chose this; I can`t remember a time when all the flavours on one single plate have tasted so composed and utterly delicious. My friend had the roast loin of free-range pork with parsnip and sage terrine, savoy cabbage, Dijon mustard puree, slow braised pork cheeks and Kentish apple cider jus but overall my dish pipped hers to the post. After both courses had been consumed we were absolutely stuffed so to complete our lunch we opted for the coffee with petit fours. I was disappointed I couldn`t fit in a dessert but this shows the portions were more than significant and the petit fours sufficed. Overall we experienced a beautiful restaurant in a fantastic setting, wonderfully delicious food and incredibly friendly customer service with big smiles. It`s definitely one restaurant I would pay to go back to for all the right reasons!
For more information or to make your reservation, visit www.hengistrestaurant.co.uk or call 01622 71927.
Hengist dining voucher. Simply print voucher and take with you to restaurant to receive 15% off.
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