ROAST WITH THE MOST

CHARLIE BOND VISITS THE BOAT HOUSE BISTRO AT BEWL WATER TO SEE WHETHER THE
RESTAURANT CAN MEET HER ROAST EXPECTATIONS…

I feel as though, come winter, on Sundays there’s a certain criteria that has to be met, which goes as follows:
spend the morning pottering about for a bit doing housework and other boring things, have a roast dinner in which you completely overindulge, attempt to walk off said roast dinner to reverse the effects of the overindulgence, then spend the rest of the day being lazy because you’ve earned the right from all that walking.

The great thing about the Boat House Bistro at Bewl Water is it ticks all of the above boxes, offering you the chance to gorge on delicious food, then stroll around the stunning reservoir until you’re sure you’ve burnt off the calories of at least one roast potato.

The doors to this restaurant only opened 18 months ago, and in that time it’s built a reputation locally as a must-visit eatery, and when I visit with husband in tow, it’s buzzing with almost every table occupied, plus the odd walker can be found relaxing in the lounge area, wine in hand.

The décor is chic and contemporary with muted greys, exposed bricks and high ceiling beams adorned with twinkling lights. But, as stylish as the interiors may be, nothing can really beat those stunning panoramic views across the water. Luckily, most tables have a view, so wherever you sit you’re promised a spectacular outlook.

Once seated, we begin our meal with a glass each of the El Colectivio Malbec from Argentina (£6.20 for 250ml) which is rich and slightly spicy – the perfect warming wine for a winter’s day. Then, we take a break from admiring the views to peruse our lunch options instead.

The Market Menu changes daily and boasts a selection of fresh, seasonal ingredients – selected by head chef Andre Woodward, and used to create something special. What’s refreshing about this menu is it’s not overwhelming – there are enough choices to please everybody, but not so many you lose the quality due to the sheer quantity. It’s also great value – two courses are £19 and three, just £24.

I’m all set to choose the smoked trout salad (the fish is freshly caught from Bewl) but when I overhear the couple on the table next to us enthusing about the seared Cajun spiced pork belly, I order the same, as does my guest.

When it arrives, we’re certainly not disappointed – the pork is served on a bed of salad leaves with grilled corn salsa and a smoked garlic aioli. The meat is delicious – perfectly crisp and not fatty at all, and paired with the salad and corn
salsa it’s actually quite light and refreshing. The garlic flavour from the aioli isn’t too overpowering, so the slight smoky taste works really well with the sweetness from the pork and corn.

The main course has been harder to decide on, mostly because I can be a bit of a roast snob (the potatoes have to be crisp and fluffy, there must be the perfect amount of thick gravy and the vegetables need to be slightly crunchy and full of flavour – not asking much, I know!)
In the end though, I opt for the roast chicken, while my husband chooses the topside of beef. It seems silly not to
have a roast when you’re not doing the washing up, after all!

Thankfully, this roast is fantastic – the chicken is succulent, the jus is rich and sweet (and there’s plenty of it), the potatoes are crisp and the smoked bacon and sage stuffing is delicious. My husband’s beef is tender and Yorkshire pudding is light…and then there’s the vegetables. The seasonal selection includes carrots, green beans, courgettes and broccoli which are all vibrant colours and have a slight crunch. However, the swede and carrot mash is the real hero of the dish, and really elevates this dish to another level – it’s flavoursome, sweet, spicy and lightly seasoned with a secret ingredient that my guest and I spend the majority of the meal trying to guess – nutmeg? Cinnamon? It’s a secret, apparently, but whatever is in it, it’s divine.

The portion sizes at The Boat House Bistro are certainly not meagre, so we ask the waitress if we can have a hiatus before having dessert. While we try to prepare our stomachs, we wistfully watch boats gliding across the sparkling water and admire the vivid colours of the remaining leaves on the trees and how they reflect in the water below.

Eventually though, it’s time for round three. Inspired once again by the table next to us, I’ve chosen the lemon meringue pie with strawberry and earl grey coulis, while my husband’s choice is the sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce and ice cream.

When they arrive at the table, the smell of the caramel sauce in my guest’s dish is amazing – like burnt toffee.
He concurs that it all tastes incredible too – there’s the perfect balance of saltiness and sweetness in the sauce, while the sponge is soft.
Mine is equally pleasing – the pastry is crisp, the meringue is light and the lemon, paired with the strawberry coulis provides a sharpness to balance the sweetness of the rest of the dish.

The last of the winter sunshine stretches before us as we bid The Boat House Bistro farewell, so we take a short stroll along the water’s edge to try and ease some of the guilt from our rather decadent lunch. On a cold but sunny day, Bewl is really at its best, and having this wonderful destination on the restaurant’s doorstep makes the eatery even more worth a visit. They’re open on Christmas Day, and with food this good and the chance to blow away the cobwebs afterwards rather than falling asleep to the Queen’s speech, I’d urge anyone to discover what they have to offer – you won’t be disappointed.

The Boat House Bistro, Bewl Water, Bewlbridge Lane, Lamberhurst, Kent, TN3 8JH 01892 893 930 www.bewlwater.co.uk