10 best Kent restaurants to visit in 2022

St Leonard's, West Malling

Imaginative and delicious: a beetroot dish at St Leonard's, West Malling - Credit: Jason Wain

Our resident Masterchef, Julie Friend, presents her pick of the places that really should be on your dining 'to do' list this year.

Angela's, Margate
Strip back everything as far as décor is concerned, keep things as sustainable as possible and ensure that the food is the star: this is the Angela's ethos. For me, part of the appeal is a small, blackboard-scribbled menu that leaves you plumping for something you never knew you wanted - perhaps steamed mussels in local cider or cod with celeriac and brown shrimp. Carefully considered vegetarian options too and lovely, old-fashioned desserts such as junket with raspberries. Main dishes from £16.

Bottega Caruso, Margate

Cuttlefish at Bottega

Cuttlefish at Bottega - Credit: Bottega

Harry, and Italian-born Simona  may keep their menu small, but it's a very generous portion of love that goes into the authentic dishes they serve. Enjoy freshly made ravioli, deep flavoured fish stews, cime di rapa - a bitter broccoli leaf - and Riso latte, a rice pudding the like of which you won't have had before. Main courses from £17. bottegacaruso.com

Buoy & Oyster, Margate
I have to raise my kiss-me-quick hat to Simon and Nadine Morriss, who've taken the great British fish & chips tradition to another level, with a string of awards for their efforts. Working closely with local fishermen, head chef, Craig Edgell's dishes are as fresh as can be and any meat on the menu comes from the revered Goods Shed in Canterbury. On a warm day (they will come!) bag a sea-view table on the balcony and enjoy plump oysters, a pint of prawns, miso sea trout or a crab & salmon belly cake. Main courses from £17, buoyandoyster.com

St. Leonard's, West Malling

A beetroot dish at St Leonard's

A beetroot dish at St Leonard's - Credit: Jason Wain

Chef Tom Genty and Front of House Terry Brouet together have a seamless energy that have helped ensure this restaurant with rooms - still only a year old - has already appeared in The Times newspaper's 100 Top British Hotels list. 
Tom’s cooking is exquisitely plated, but this is absolutely not a case of style over substance -  textures, flavours and cooking techniques are intricate and perfectly executed - don't miss the tempura salmon nori rolls. Drinks-wise, enjoy a killer cocktail and let Terry talk you through a wine list that includes offerings from the Mereworth winery, just a couple of miles down the road. The three-course set menu at £26 is very good value. 

Tallow, Southborough
Rob and Donna Taylor made a name for themselves at the Compasses Inn, Crundale, where they won rave reviews from the UK's broadsheets (“where they go, I will follow” said Grace Dent in The Guardian). Donna handles front of house in super-slick, unfussy Aussie style, while Rob sends down fabulous food from his tiny upstairs kitchen. Ribeye is melt-in-the-mouth tender and detail throughout is impressive: a cruffin came served with Marmite butter and crispy onions - a dish in itself. Very special - three courses with wine around £80 per person. If you're visiting from the other side of the county, a two-minute walk after you've wined and dined will take you to accommodation at the Hand & Sceptre pub. 

The Beacon, Tunbridge Wells
After a stint in Tonbridge,  Scott Goss - winner of Kent Life's Chef of the Year Award, 2019 - is back at The Beacon. On the 8-course tasting menu (£65 per person) expect the unexpected from  ingredients such as celeriac, pigeon and chocolate with miso, all served within a gorgeous Arts & Crafts space, or, in summer from the terrace outside, which offers stunning views over the nearby Happy Valley. Gaze at it over a plate of Scott's great food and be happy, too. 

The Fordwich Arms, Fordwich

Snickers dessert at The Fordwich Arms

Snickers dessert at The Fordwich Arms - Credit: The Fordwich Arms

Michelin-stared expertise and faultless service from chef-patrons, Daniel and Natasha Smith (who are also behind the more casual bridgearms.co.uk - well worth checking out, too), with dishes including duck liver parfait with warm doughnuts and a ‘Snickers’ dessert. In the summer, reserve a table on the terrace and watch the boats and paddle boarders enjoying the Stour. Main courses from £30.

The Small Holding, Kilndown

Venison and chestnuts at The Small Holding

Venison and chestnuts at The Small Holding - Credit: Key & Quill

Will Devlin and his talented team, including head gardener Jenny Huddart, have created pure magic from an old pub and an acre of land. The idea is simple: "we grow it, breed it, nurture it and then cook and serve it", but of course this belies the work and going on behind the scenes. The result sees produce such as own-cured pork, salt and ferment damsons and plums, cobnuts and custard and wild-garlic kimchi served as part of a set tasting menu. 7-course lunch menu, £55 a head; 10 course dinner menu, £75.

The Sportsman, Seasalter

Slipsole with seaweed butter is a signature dish at The Sportsman

Slipsole with seaweed butter is a signature dish at The Sportsman - Credit: Phil Harris

I can't believe I still have visited Stephen Harris's acclaimed culinary home, Michelin-starred since 2008 and perpetually in the Top 5 Gastropubs listing, so it's top of my list to visit in 2022. 
Slip sole served in seaweed butter has become a signature dish -  sometimes you just need something exquisitely cooked and not much more. There's a mussel chowder, braised turbot with tiny vegetables, hake with chorizo and olives, saltmarsh lamb, but no one dish contains more than a handful of ingredients. You have to be really confident in your cooking to pare back like and with such extraordinary results. 5-course tasting menu from £65 per person. 

Water Lane, Hawkhurst
As featured in Kent Life last summer, Water Lane is as much about atmosphere as it is about food - you're dining under a terrace or in a heated indoor glasshouse within  a 'secret' Victorian garden. Watch chef Jed Wrobel plucking greens, squashes and herbs from soil just a few metres away from his wood-burning oven, then using them in the creation of lip-smacking dishes: ‘Punched’ potatoes, sharp pickled fruit and vegetables, fish baked in that searing oven. And then there's the cake...Lunch dishes from £9.

And one for luck!

Desh, West Malling
I've recently tried this Indian restaurant on the high street where, for me, flavour and presentation are taken to new heights - great dosas and chai as well as dishes such as buttered chicken. Main dishes from £9.