CHARLIE BOND SPENDS A NIGHT DISCOVERING WHAT THE TICKLED TROUT IN WEST FARLEIGH HAS TO OFFER…
Nestled in the quaint Kentish village of West Farleigh, just a few miles outside of Maidstone, you’ll find The Tickled Trout. The pub is the latest addition to the Hush Heath family, having opened its doors at the end of 2015, and with modern touches to the 16th century building and six boutique bedrooms, it’s a charming retreat in picturesque surroundings.
From Tunbridge Wells, travelling to the pub is easy – it’s situated minutes from the A26, but when my guest and I pull into the car park and take in the blooming flowers surrounding the pub’s entrance and a sheep grazing nearby, it feels as though you could be hours from the hustle and bustle of life.
Inside, the pub is cosy and inviting – a butler sink filled with Hush Heath wines and ciders is a stylish addition to the bar, which is decked out with chic grey wood panelling, while oak beams run overhead. There are already plenty of revellers enjoying a Friday night drink or dinner, but before we sit down to eat, there’s the small matter of finding out where our bed for the night will be.
Hush Heath’s ethos for their accommodation is ‘a home away from home’, and they’ve certainly succeeded in creating inviting, luxurious bedrooms. We’re shown to ‘Luke’s Tree’ – a room named after owners Richard and Leslie
Balfour-Lynn’s son, although all of the rooms are named after family members and individually decorated.
Our room is divine – a super king bed lies beneath stunning oak beams, and a luxury en suite bathroom overlooks the scenic village settings outside. I pad across the plush carpet and wish this really was my own home – I could easily move in.
We freshen up and head back downstairs for our dinner reservation. Tonight, we’re sampling the ‘Hush Heath experience’ option. This is a three course menu, with wine pairings, and is available as part of Hush Heath’s Experience Tour, which costs £50 per person and includes a full estate, winery and tutored tasting tour at the vineyard, as well as food and drink at the Goudhurst Inn.
It may be a set menu, but it’s by no means limited, and I have a real struggle deciding what to choose.
Eventually, I settle on the tomato and pesto bruschetta to start and the ale battered haddock for my main, while my guest chooses the Jake’s Cider onion soup, followed by confit pork belly.
Each dish comes with wine recommendations, and our waitress brings us over a selection of three of Hush Heath’s wines to try – the Hush Heath Manor Pinot Noir, Skye’s English Chardonnay and Nannette’s English Rose.
The pub is clearly a popular spot, because almost every table is filled – some are large groups out celebrating birthdays, and some are couples enjoying a romantic meal. Looking around, I notice that owner, Richard Balfour-Lynn is even frequenting tonight – and if it’s good enough for the boss then I know we’ll be in for a treat.
Our ﬁrst courses arrive and we eagerly tuck in. My bruschetta is full of ﬂavour – the rocket on top gives a peppery ﬁnish, while the pesto is deliciously nutty. My guest emphatically enthuses about the interesting cider ﬂavour of his soup, which is accompanied by cheese on toast. What could be better?
In the past chardonnay has received a bad rep, but it’s time to forget all of that – when I take a sip of the Skye’s Chardonnay, it’s sharp, citrusy with a wonderfully long and fruity ﬁnish. Yes, it works well with the bruschetta, but this is a wine I could enjoy on its own, or with a multitude of dishes. As it’s unoaked, it’s similar in style to a Chablis, without that buttery, creamy taste on the palette.
Our main courses arrive, and as my ﬁsh is presented to me, the restaurant manager disappears off and returns with a glass of Leslie’s Reserve sparkling wine to accompany my dish. Fizz and ﬁsh and chips is one of my guilty pleasures, so this gesture has just made an agreeable evening even more enjoyable.
The clue may be in the name, but the Tickled Trout are known for their ﬁsh dishes, and my haddock certainly lives up to expectation. The ﬁsh comes beautifully presented on the plate, coated in a mouth-wateringly light and crisp batter, and – particularly pleasing – a good amount of homemade tartare sauce accompanies. The Leslie’s Reserve is an excellent pairing too.
My guest’s conﬁ t pork belly is served with savoy cabbage with pancetta and a creamy mash. The meat is so tender it falls apart, and paired with the wonderful Hush Heath Manor Pinot Noir, with its peppery, warming ﬁ nish, this dish is certainly a winner.
For dessert, we both choose the same – the chocolate torte, which is served with Cointreau crème anglais. It’s served warm and incredibly moreish – the orange ﬂavour from the cream really makes the dish something special, and we each devour every last bite. To accompany, we drink the Nannette’s English Rose, which is soft with hints of strawberry, and a fresh ﬁnish. Perfect for summer drinking, I can see this becoming a ﬁrm favourite at barbecues over the coming months.
Plates and glasses empty, and stomachs full, it’s time for us to retire to our room, where, according to my Fitbit tracker I have the most restful night’s sleep I’ve had in months, in perhaps the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. I wasn’t joking about moving in, and I’d happily live off the Chardonnay…
The Tickled Trout, Lower Road, West Farleigh, Kent, ME15 0PE www.thetickledtrout.com