Monday, 5 October 2009

The Goods Shed - Canterbury

So, Autumn is upon us proper. The last vestiges of Summers shimmering waves of heat have retreated for yet another year, replaced by the cold, damp, rotting leaf and bonfire smell of this, my favourite time of year.

There's nothing like awaking early on an October weekend to glimpse the leaden grey skies replaced overnight with a cobalt blue, the sun spearing a gap in the curtains with a tantalising shaft of light, dust lazily dancing triggers a voice inside my head that barks like a drillmaster "Wake up!" Coffee, shower and get out into the British dawn nice and early, somewhere in the countryside, perhaps to the coast or maybe to one of the beautiful, historic cities and towns that dot the landscape. Places like York, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Winchester, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath. Wandering around historic cobbled streets, surrounded by medieval half-timbered warped buildings or roads lined with regal Georgian architecture, well I can think of nothing I'd rather be doing on a sunny autumnal day off.

But of course, being me, before I've left the house to tread the cobbles, or wander the countryside I need to work out where I'll be eating lunch, nothing left to chance. The ideal will be an ancient pub with a roaring log fire serving traditional, seasonal British food, well prepared.
Sadly, easier said than done. Don't get me wrong, these places are out there, but more often than not, located nowhere near where you want them to be.

Sunday saw me in Canterbury, Kent wandering the historic cobbled streets and lanes, gawping at the incredible Cathedral and as the morning turned to afternoon, thinking about lunch.
I couldn't find the ideal in Canterbury, despite the profusion of historic half-timbered buildings and ancient inns - it's apparently too much to ask to find a reputable one that proffered decent grub, but my research had turned up something else.... A former Railway Goods Shed, now a farmers market/restaurant located just outside the old city walls. With cracking reviews from critics such as Jay Rayner, no less (albeit back in 2005), it seemed like an ideal choice.

As your eyes adjust to the light, entering the comparative darkness of the former Goods Shed, you immediately notice tables loaded with fresh local Kent produce...the same produce in fact that the restaurant creates it's menu from daily. Apparently 95% of the restaurants ingredients are sourced from the daily farmers market which is located barely meters away from the kitchens. There's a small fishmongers, a decent sized butchers, a stall selling bread, even a small stall selling cheese. It's about as local and fresh as ingredients are going to get, and is a fantastic idea. It would be great to see the concept replicated elsewhere.

The Restaurant is located in a open gallery which runs down one side of the shed, overlooking the market. It's simple but pleasant looking, bare wood tables, a small bar located in the middle and large original arched windows offering views of the dubious pleasures supplied by Canterbury West train station.

Studying the chalked menu board behind the bar, my initial thought was "Great simple, British dishes and local produce" my second thought was "Quite expensive - hope it's worth it!"

Well, you'll be pleased to learn that it was worth it, just. There were elements of the meal that let it down slightly, considering the prices being asked, but overall I enjoyed what I ate.

We were brought thick slices of excellent rustic bread served on a wooden board with butter. It was good stuff, as far as bread goes.

My starter of Ham Hock Terrine with 'Paul's Piccalilli' was quite possibly one of the prettiest starters I've seen this year, a thick jellied slice of terrine layered throughout , with fresh green herbs, separating the soft flakes of ham hock and studded with peppercorns, perched on warm toasted bread with a subtly flavoured, obviously homemade piccalilli. Beautiful stuff, it all worked so well together, and served on old mismatched china, was really nice to look at, being almost a shame to dig in.

My main of Confit duck with muscat wine and chorizo arrived, and was almost equal in the looks department to my starter, again served on old mismatched china. Two confit duck legs, spiked with chorizo balanced on a mound of buttery mash which itself sat on a bed of spinach and a chunk of some kind of squash. The Duck was perfectly cooked, falling from the bone at the merest touch of the fork, great stuff. Incredibly tasty but filling, this was a huge portion of food, I barely finished it.

The GF's main (no starter for her - that's why she's svelte, and I'm running headlong towards being fat.) was Filleted skate, with brown shrimps, and brown butter. I tried some and it was lovely, subtle yet meaty. For some reason she wasn't so keen, stating that the skate wasn't hot enough. I'm not so sure to be honest, a flat piece of fish like skate will lose heat rapidly - the piece I sampled was fine. So, a divergence of opinions on that dish.

Desserts, I toyed with the highly unusual step for me of not ordering any, I was so full. The GF suggested we share one...(not likely!) But, steeling my resolve I pushed on determined to see this to the end, and immediately went for Treacle tart with brown bread ice cream.
This arrived with candied orange zest on the side, (nice simple idea which I'm going to steal for use at home). and a slightly broken looking appearance at the front. Presentation issue aside, it was lovely and light, partnered with a slick of cointreau, cinnamon and star anise syrup and the ice-cream (which If I'm honest didn't taste much of brown bread to me) it was a nice way to end the meal.

The GF's Apple flan with custard seems to have suffered from the same serving problem, also arriving with the front broken. Her considered opinion, it was "OK, a bit dry" She didn't seem too keen.

So, a few hits, a few misses. My starter and main were truly excellent, the GF wasn't so enthusiastic about hers. The dessert's, although in my case, nice, were marred by a bit of cack handed presentation. The service, friendly, efficient and prompt was let down a bit by the waitress not knowing what the vegetable platter consisted of and seriously underselling it. But for all that, the concept of eating dishes made with locally sourced food, with the ingredients to purchase yourself a mere step away is an intriguing one. I think that overall, I'd happily eat here again but at around £7-50 for a starter, £16-£20 for a main, and £6-50 for a dessert, I'd expect a bit more attention to the small details.

The Goods Shed

Station Road West

Telephone: 01227 459 153


Dan said...

Loving the description of waking up on an autumn morn Dan, I can recall days like that, spot on!

And heading to Canterbury also sounds like great idea. Need to book a Sunday off sans kids methinks.

The Ample Cook said...

Really well written review Dan.

That ham hock terrine looks really good. Can't quite understand why anyone would fillet a piece of skate though. Apart from monkfish is there an easier fish to eat off the bone?

Haven't been here for years. It seems to have leapt up in price since we went.

Having looked at their menu I'm having difficulty in seeing how the prices are justified. They're not paying for linens to be laundered/expensive crockery etc so they're overheads can't be that much.

Would you go back?

Dan said...

Dan - Thanks. Canterbury is a lovely place to visit for a wander round if you've never been.

Jan - Thanks.
The Terrine was lovely. The Skate fillet or otherwise, I can see what your saying.
I was suprised, considering it was the lunch menu, and as you say - no linens, fine crockery, how expensive the menu actually was. It may be pretty good, but the prices are pushing it a bit, not so much for the mains - but £6-50 for the desserts was a bit much to ask. Turned out to be quite an expensive lunch.

I think I'd go back if I was ever in Canterbury one evening, give it a try. It seems to be quite highly thought of, although there's not much competition in the immediare area of Canterbury itself.
Thinking about it, if I was in the general area, for those prices, I think I'd pay the extra and try to get a table at The Sportsman at Whistable, or it's sister restuarant The Granville.

Hollow Legs said...

I love the serving plates. Like Jan said, I'm not sure why they'd fillet a skate; part of the fun of it is shredding the meat off the cartilige.

gastrogeek said...

Sounds like an incredible place, and a great write up too. Your poor GF though, it can't be easy for her watching you chomp through that lot while she's trying to watch her figure! (Joe's usually the one ordering fish and no starter when we go out to eat- it always drives him nuts) ;)

Marcus Shingler said...

Good review. Thinking of heading over to Canterbury with er indoors soon and hope to give this place a try. Must be 20 odd years since I went to Canterbury with an old girlfriend and considering its so close to Essex, bit of a crime that!

Dan said...

Lizzie, agreed the serving plates are cracking - really rustic.

Reg, Thanks. "poor GF" -she's always been the same, petite - she quite often wont order a starter and then tries to get me to share a dessert. Hahaha so you eat three courses and Joe is the one who holds back? that's suprising going by your relative heights!

Marcus - Thanks. Yep, worth the drive for a day out if you want something to do on a nice day.

Unknown said...

Hi Dan - this places looks great even if it did have highs and lows - I love the crockery that they served everything on as well

Dan said...

Hi Kara, without a doubt, it was good. The lows were more niggles really, the food was cracking - but at £6-50 for a slice of tart, I expect it to be served in one piece, if one had come up like that - fair enough, but both?
Saying that - I'd really like to try it for dinner one evening and see what the experience is like then.

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Helen said...

Oooh my boyfriend worked here in the kitchen while he was at uni! Will ask him his thoughts and report back!

Dan said...

That's interesting Helen, I'd love to hear his thoughts on the place. Let me know.

franmouse39 said...

Ah! Had several good lunches at the Goods Shed, including an utterly memorable and up there with the best puds of marmalade ice cream. Have now defected to the Sportsman, though...