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Kent restaurants named among best in UK at National Restaurant Awards

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Five Kent restaurants have been honoured in a top industry ranking of the nation's best eateries.

The establishments - in Canterbury, Whitstable, Margate and Tunbridge Wells - have been named in the coveted Top 100 list by the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards.

The Fordwich Arms. Picture: Alan Langley
The Fordwich Arms. Picture: Alan Langley

Top in the county is The Fordwich Arms, which came in at number 17.

Based just outside Canterbury in the tiny town of Fordwich, the Michelin-starred restaurant and pub is run by husband-and-wife chef duo Daniel and Natasha Smith and has built a strong reputation since they took it over in 2017.

The National Restaurant Awards says it brings together "the feeling of proper old school hospitality with a more modern and forward-looking approach to pub restaurant cooking".

"Whether it be the duck liver parfait accompanied by a pot of warm doughnuts or its baked cheesecake with Kentish strawberries and elderflower, the cooking is familiar yet fresh and exciting," it adds.

The Sportsman, based just 10 miles away in Seasalter, came in at 47th place.

The Sportsman in Seasalter, Whitstable
The Sportsman in Seasalter, Whitstable

Judges said: "Free of faff, The Sportsman still manages to be a proper pub despite being one of the best places to eat in the UK."

The Sportsman was named National Restaurant of the Year in both 2016 and 2017.

It had also been named Gastropub of the Year on seven different occasions.

Judges say: "The Sportsman might not look much from the outside but behind its whitewashed and weathered facade is a world-class establishment serving some of the best food in the country, in a wonderfully humble and unpretentious fashion."

Taking the 67th spot was The Bridge Arms - Daniel and Natasha Smith's second venture, which they launched last year following the Fordwich Arms' success.

The pub, nestled in the village of Bridge, was awarded a Michelin star less than a year after it opened.

The Bridge Arms in Bridge, just outside Canterbury
The Bridge Arms in Bridge, just outside Canterbury

The judges said: "While The Fordwich treads a delicate line between gastropub and restaurant, The Bridge Arms has the true feel of a proper local boozer.

"Seasonality and provenance are at the forefront of the menu. The restaurant is situated only 10 miles from the coast, giving access to an abundance of fresh and local seafood.

"Being in the centre of the countryside, there are also plentiful supplies of meat, all of which are cooked over charcoal, produced from a local Kentish woodland."

The Smiths also received a Restaurateur of the Year award.

Sargasso in Margate came in at number 89.

Overlooking the town's harbour, the restaurant focuses on freshly-caught seafood, and is the sister restaurant to highly rated Hackney stalwart Brawn, bringing "a slice of east London to Margate’s Old Town".

Sargasso in Margate. Photo: @sargasso.bar / IG
Sargasso in Margate. Photo: @sargasso.bar / IG

Judges said: "While the food is largely locally sourced, the restaurant’s seasonally-driven menu takes inspiration from European coastal cooking. Expect gutsy, carefully executed riffs on classics such as mussels mariniere; butter-fried sole; and smoked eel with celeriac remoulade.

"Margate might not quite be the French Riviera, but this is soon forgotten when eating at this north Kent gem."

Last but not least is Tallow in Tunbridge Wells, which came in at number 91.

The restaurant was launched last year by husband-and-wife team Rob and Donna Taylor, who previously spent eight years running popular gastropub The Compasses Inn in Crundale, near Canterbury.

Having won The Compasses a Bib Gourmand and a top 10 position in the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs list, their new venture is "proving to be every bit as good as what came before".

Judges said of Tallow: "The Taylors have kept things simple and hearty.

Donna and Rob Taylor at their previous establishment, The Compasses Inn in Crundale
Donna and Rob Taylor at their previous establishment, The Compasses Inn in Crundale

"It’s a meaty affair, with the likes of roast wood pigeon; treacle-cured beef; quail; crispy confit lamb; and roast loin of venison making appearances, paired with seasonal and local ingredients."

Launched in 2007, The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards celebrate the "brilliance and vibrancy" of the UK’s eating out scene.

It lists the best restaurants in the nation, as voted by its chefs, restaurateurs and food writers, and presents awards including the coveted National Restaurant of the Year.

Ynyshir in Machynlleth, in the Welsh county of Powys, came in first place this year, scooping the coveted Restaurant of the Year Award.

The Angel at Hetton, North Yorkshire, was named Gastropub of the Year.

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