Review: Updown Farm, Kent – a dreamy English country house and garden
Updown Farm, a restaurant with rooms in rural Kent, is the epitome of the English idyll
Updown Farm is the kind of place you might see in a TV drama and assume that this is the way everyone dines in the UK, but sadly, most of the time it is not.
Thankfully though, couple Oli Brown and Ruth Leigh – both big names in British food – have brought that fantasy to life for some of us and the setting on an old farm down twisting lanes set amid the oast houses and rolling fields of the Kent countryside is quite magical: think Midsummer without the murders meets the Secret Garden.
And that’s just it, it’s totally unobtrusive, hidden away in the grounds of a red-brick 17th-century Grade II listed farmhouse, where guests can wander woodland and wildflower gardens, making it the most idyllic lunch or dinner spot, or the setting for a perfect English country weekend for those lucky enough to stay.
Those who know Oli Brown’s previous restaurant, Duck Duck Goose, which took its inspiration from Hong Kong’s cafes, may be surprised to find that the food is pleasingly English.
It’s also utterly seasonal and all served outside – yes-really – beneath the garden’s pergola, where you can watch the chefs cook on the wood-fired grill. Don’t worry, it’s less of an elemental experience than you might think thanks to huge, thick curtains warding the weather off (soon to be replaced with actual windows), and a rustic roof.
Dishes are kept simple, letting the flavours of the fresh produce do the work – grilled lamb chops and seared scallops are a taste of things to come, served with garden fruit and vegetables such as rhubarb and artichoke.
Inside the main farmhouse there are four eclectic but extremely comfy bedrooms, with huge beds, radios, coffee machines and homemade nibbles. In some bedrooms the house’s old bathrooms have been kept, which adds character no doubt, but not ideal for those used to power showers.
But it’s a small irk. The general atmosphere of the place is delightfully welcoming and captivating with bold colours on the walls and modern artworks.
Downstairs there are a couple of lounges, with quirky and high-brow books to leaf through, and large sofas to sink into, and then there’s a snug honesty bar where you can help yourself to G&Ts or a dram of whisky. It’s a bit like coming to visit your wealthy, slightly eccentric English friends for the weekend and having free rein of the place.
Those who want a little more privacy may prefer to book into the Garden Cottage, a little away from the main house, and all five rooms are generally booked from Thursday through to Sunday, in keeping with this lazy weekend in the countryside atmosphere.
Whether you’re escaping the city for a few days or popping in for a bite to eat after a drive in the picturesque countryside – the attractive town of Deal is just a 15-minute drive away and there are lots of pretty country lanes that hide sleepy villages and pubs – you won’t be disappointed.