Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I love pubs. But you know that already. The old furniture, the musty smells, the regulars who frequent the same pub every night for a lifetime, and of course, I love the food. Simple and tasty. Since moving back to England with my wife in May I have embarked on a mission to seek out the best pubs in the South East. It's a large task. One that seems repetitive and monotonous at times. I have often wondered if I'm wasting my time. Should I be reviewing the bounty of Indian restaurants in the area? Or the myriad of Thai restaurants? What about the one Mexican restaurant? That's just sad. ONE Mexican restaurant in my area. The answer is, yes. However, pubs in England are currently undergoing a very special revitalization and I can't help but be swept up in their attempts to create fabulous, locally grown gastro-food.
And so it is with The Black Pig Pub and Dining Room. Located in Royal Tunbridge Wells and owned by Julian Leefe-Griffiths, the same man that owns The George and Dragon in Speldhurst. I knew that going in and my expectations were high. From the outside, The Black Pig doesn't look like anything special. In fact, I had seen it numerous times and hadn't been drawn to it. That is, until I found out that Julian owned it.
As I sat with my fellow diners in the almost empty dining room staring at the nearly wholly exposed, tiny kitchen, I wondered if Julian had faltered slightly. When our Pigeon Breast with Caramelized Lentils and Truffled Mash came, my worries were calmed. It was rich and beautifully prepared. But man does not live on Pigeon Breast and Truffled Mash alone. When the mains arrived I was beginning to believe Julian was a gastro-God. My Sussex Red Steak Burger with Red Onion Confit and Black Pig Chips was a mighty effort. The Caramelized Onion added a sweetness to the clean, dense Burger meat.
My wife's Kentish Hop Sausages, Truffle Mash, with Spinach and Red Onion Confit made me believe in a higher power. And his name was Julian. Is it wrong to have a man-crush on someone I've never met? When he makes food this good, I don't think so. The last main I tasted during the meal was the only letdown of the day. The Harissa Marinated Chicken with Black Pig Chips and Salad reminded me of being in the Bahamas. It felt out of place. Like they were just looking for an excuse to put Chicken on the menu. And although it was tasty, it felt incomplete.
Once again, Julian Leefe-Griffiths has shown me how simple it is to make excellent food when you use quality, locally sourced ingredients. Even if it's made in a kitchen the size of Nissan Micra.
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