Restaurant review: Saltwood on the Green
- Credit: Archant
A former village shop has become a restaurant to watch in a little Kent village, as Kent Life discovers on a visit to Saltwood on the Green, celebrating its first anniversary
What do you get when you mix together an American, a Londoner and an Italian? In Kent the answer is the team behind Saltwood on the Green, the first business venture of American chef-owner Jeff Kipps, working with mixologist/bartender Dan Redman-Hubley and restaurant manager Gianpaolo Gori.
Housed in Saltwood village’s former General Store, dating from 1900, the building has undergone a sympathetic restoration process to turn it into an appealing and intimate restaurant.
Original pine flooring has been uncovered, six-inch sash windows reinstated to working order and, the pièce de résistance, an entire wall features the store’s original shelving, complete with nearly 100 tiny little drawers.
Framed historical photographs of village life documented from the 1900s sit happily alongside contemporary oils on canvas by local artist Jo Chapman and above the bar hang three tiny but utterly beautiful Venetian Murano glass lamps.
The garden, now filled with herbs, has also been given a new lease of life and offers an al fresco dining space during the day.
The best way to get a flavour of the place is to start with a cocktail – simply because here you are going to find such delights as my stunning Anno Kentish Gin with house-made tonic (a first for me).
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My Talented Writer Friend loved her Gusbourne Brut reserve and The Driver’s Orchard mix of mint, lemon, sugar, apple juice and seasonal fruit was delightful, even without the Gin.
Tastebuds suitably tingled, we nibbled on soft pretzels and cake-like corn bread with goat’s curd and tomato before our ‘Little Plates’ arrived.
Smoked fish cake was given a tangy kick from pickled samphire and citrus mayonnaise, tender Rye scallops came with sprouting broccoli and an unusual but much admired mushroom ketchup and TD’s brave choice of ‘tails and snails’ turned out to be a far less scary but very tasty croquette balanced by the crunch of apple, radishes and cresses.
Mains included MTWF’s lamb’s liver and bacon, which earned the accolade ‘outstanding’, especially when served with creamy mash and red onion purée and accompanied by a glass of Barbera d’Asti Il Cascinone. We followed all the menu recommendations for food and wine pairings and they proved spot on.
My duck breast with poached rhubarb, turnip and buckwheat was slow-cooked and admirably tender, the skin crisp and delicious; a glass of Bulgarian Pinot Noir coped admirably with the big flavours.
TD’s ham hock with peas, truffle, egg and radish was a lighter mouthful that was served well by a lively Valpolicella Ripasso.
Puddings are a must here and again, nothing is quite as you might expect it. MTWF described the Horlicks-like malt caramel and malt ice cream accompanying her darkly delicious chocolate tart as an “inspired” combination (although she said it made her immediately wanted to put her dressing gown and slippers on).
Meanwhile, I felt that the addition of pistachio transformed the often-overlooked rhubarb into my elegant, appealing dessert (see bottom right), although the fruit was a bit firm for me.
TD, who appreciates a good cheesecake, loved the addition of confit orange, cardamom and honeycomb to make a pretty and appealing finale to his meal.
This is a menu that puts vegetables at their seasonal peak to the forefront, is not afraid to introduce forgotten cuts of meat and give classic combinations an unusual twist. It’s brave, bold and exciting.
We’ll be back. Often.
Where: Saltwood on the Green
The Green, Saltwood Hythe CT21 4PS
01303 237 800
What: Contemporary, exciting restaurant with local at its heart
When: Open Wed-Sat 9am-3pm and 6pm-11pm, Sun 11:30am-5pm, Tue closed for private events
30 June: Micro and Craft Beer Dinner
28 July: Exploring Kentish Cider
Meet the chef
Jeff Kipp, chef and owner
Tell us a bit about yourself
We opened just over a year ago, on 19 April 2014. This is my first venture and everything matters! I am in control of the whole experience for the diners. We are in the hospitality industry; we are not just in the cooking business. I will rarely ask the diners about a specific dish – I want to know if they have had a great night, as I think that is the key to long-term success.
Who are your principal local suppliers?
For our meat we use Rooks and Coopers Butchers, for fish it’s Griggs of Hythe, PH Fish in Hastings, Dungeness Fish Hut. Crundons in Hythe and David Catt and Son in Maidstone help us source our vegetables direct from area farms.
Do you have a signature dish?
No. The seasons and the ingredients inspire us - The menus change constantly – it would be hard to define a signature item. However, it is surprising what becomes popular to the diners. We opened with a (deceptively) simple meatball and tomato dish that customers wouldn’t let us change for ages.
Your top cookery tip?
Learn to season properly. Salt is one of the most important and powerful ingredients in your arsenal. Season before during and after cooking. The seasoning behaves differently at each step of the process. Taste, taste and taste again.
Who has influenced you most?
My time spent in the kitchen at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago shaped me the most as a chef.
Your must-have kitchen gadget?
I love sous vide, sit it’s my chamber vacuum-pack machine.
Who would you like to cook for?
I would love to have been able to cook for my paternal grandmother. She was a force of nature, in life and in the kitchen. I think she would approve.