Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Pearson's Arms

Last night Steve and I went to The Pearson's Arms in Whitstable with my parents for my birthday dinner.  I've never been here before and have wanted to try it for some time.  It's a Richard Phillips pub, and we had previously been to and enjoyed his restaurant (The Swan) at the Chapel Down Vineyard in Tenterden (plus Chapel Down produce some of my favourite wines, and it's local!)

Located just off the beach near Keam's Yard in Whitstable, from the outside The Pearson's Arms doesn't exactly look like the sort of place where fantastic food is lurking inside.  It's chalk boards, slightly grubby white painted exterior and the large bins near the entrance are not encouraging.  However, like a geode, this place is a hidden little gem.

Please excuse the blurry nature of these first photo's - they were the last I took and by this stage I was none too steady on my high heeled feet (note to self, high heels and loose pebble beaches are not a good mix).
You step down into a warm, welcoming pub environment with a distinctly nautical theme.  The restaurant is upstairs, the pub takes up the two lower levels.  The pub is cosy with large sofas and worn wooden furniture, fresh flowers on the bar and friendly staff.
There is a good selection of local beers, ales and wines to choose from, including a chocolate beer and local wines from Chapel Downs.  I didn't spot the cocktail menu as only dessert cocktails were listed but there were definitely cocktails being served down the bar - I will be looking out for that next time!
The staff are fantastic.  My parents had been delayed by about half an hour due to an accident on the motorway and the staff made sure that there were no sittings booked in for after us so we were not rushed and could just enjoy our time.  We sat at the bar while we were waiting (I was drinking soda water at this stage - pacing myself!) and they were friendly but unobtrusive and did not crowd us at all.

Once the parents arrived we were shown upstairs to the restaurant, past the kitchen hatch where my mother had to be forcibly removed from a perfectly cooked duck egg and wild mushrooms on bruschetta that was going out to another table!

The little nods to the nautical past of the building continue up the stairs with the rowing boat paddle bannisters.
Fresh bread and cured meats are displayed as you walk past the kitchen hatch.  Considering how hungry I was I thought that this was decidedly unfair.
The menu is a very good looking menu with plenty of fresh fish and shellfish on offer (being in Whitstable I wouldn't expect anything else) but also plenty of other options for those people who are not that enamored with fishy flavours.

Mum had the mushroom bruschetta to start with, Steve had potted shrimp, dad had lobster and prawn cocktail and I had the salt and chilli squid - the soy and miso dressing for this was such a nice contrast to the usual sweet chilli sauce most places provide and provided a nice depth of saltiness to the squid, which were perfectly cooked, not too chewy and a light, crisp batter flaked with shards of fresh red chilli and a smokey sea salt.  We were all hungry so I completely forgot to get any pictures of the starters - you'll just have to go and see what it was like for yourselves!.

As my mum said, if that was the starter she was looking forward to the main.

They didn't disappoint.

Dad had the IPA beer battered cod and thrice cooked chips - complete in a kitch basket.  I managed to snag a chip off him - crisp, fluffy and light.
Steve had the rump steak - served with mushrooms, dauphinoise potatoes and tomatoes.  All his favourite flavours on one plate.  He said it was good but that the steak was a little sinewy and the potatoes could have had more cheese on them, but he would have it again.
Mum and I both had the wood pigeon - strictly speaking its a starter but I asked them to make mine a main while mum added dauphinoise potatoes to hers.  I loved this - I'm a fan of wood pigeon to start with but this was full of flavour, soft and perfectly cooked while the sweet cranberry sauce was offset by the camembert and black pudding beignet.  I could have eaten those beignets until the cows came home - they were heavenly.
To drink I had a South African Chenin Blanc to start with which was OK but could have been colder and then moved onto a red Shiraz (The Spee something- here is the empty bottle that mum and I polished off between us.  Which may explain why I can't remember the name of it).
Amazingly we managed to find room for a cheese board to share, made up of (obviously) local Kentish cheeses.  The waitor was quite sweet with this.  He came over rather sheepishly and said 'you're going to ask me about the cheeses, aren't you.  I'm afraid I have no idea - more drinks?'.  At least he was honest!  I remember a Kentish Blue, a Canterbury Camembert, something smoked and something cheddary.  The bread was the standout for me - baked with pistachios it complemented all four cheeses so well.  I need to learn how to make this! Mum and I both had glasses of a good tawny port with the cheese board.
It's the attention to detail I like in this gastro pub - it is rustic and unpolished but very comforting with a warm colour palette.  The details are subtle but clever - from the paddle bannisters to the Pearson's Gazette newspaper lining the chip baskets and the fish designs on the pillows - the little touches make a difference. 

Your meal is unhurried and you don't feel like the staff are hovering over you the entire time.  Of course this was dinner on a Wednesday - it may be different on a Saturday night or a Sunday afternoon!  It is a tad pricey, but worth it for a special occassion
After we had eaten I got into the serious business of ripping open my presents.  As Steve says, I am a spoilt little git.  More on that later.....

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