There is always a big question mark when a restaurant you have always enjoyed gains a sibling. The demands of a chef owner are great but finding the premises and recruiting a team that can recreate the characteristics of the original is a major challenge. We have been tempted to ask when booking one of a small chain of restaurants if the founder chef is cooking that day as he is an outstanding chef but his skills fall short on recruiting his staff. It is a shame but we do not take the risk.
The Corner House restaurant in Minster, Thanet was joined by The Corner House in the middle of Canterbury in the summer. Matt Sworder, a protégé of Gordon Ramsey is the owner; Matt over-simplifies his objectives by saying ‘The Corner House concept is all about doing simple food properly’.
So on New Year’s day with both of us feeling like empty-nesters with everyone gone, we took ourselves off to sample the new Canterbury restaurant expecting it to be half empty with everyone whispering in dulcet tones. Not a bit of it, at lunchtime the place was humming with the delightful burbling of the young and beautiful, including a very new babe in arms – comfortingly well strapped to its mother’s bosom in a baby sling, lovely well-behaved children perusing their own ‘kid’s menus’ and the old tortoises like us. This is exactly what Matt originally set out to achieve; the sort of hostelry where everyone was welcome and where families could follow the example of the Continentals sitting down together to a lovely easy Sunday lunch. Without sounding ‘happy clappy’ it was truly joyful and lifted our spirits.
The menu is along the same lines as its sister in Minster, Thanet with delicious seasonal food including The Corner House fashionable ‘sharing’ dishes. The local new season Romney Marsh lamb was perfect for a grey dreary January day accompanied by a glass or two of Smart Dog Syrah wine from Portugal. Truly terrible name but really it was scrumptious. The wine list is really well worth exploring with lots of interesting countries and grape varieties to try. But you must start off with one their delicious local fruit liqueurs preferably in a cocktail.
We were delighted to see some old favourites such as the pork crackling with hot apple sauce; the rather special sausage roll is now presented as a slice, together with some new starters such as the yummy goat’s cheese mousse with courgette, tomato and hazelnuts. Of course, the desserts are a must - no meal is complete in my opinion without a pudding. We were greedy and had a selection of wonderful puddings some accompanied by The Corner House’s homemade ice-creams. The sticky date and ale sponge pudding accompanied by salted caramel and peanut butter ice cream was particularly good. Well you only live once!
As far as we are concerned it is a joy to find friendly relaxed, characterful restaurants serving interesting modern British food that is pleasurable.
There is an added bonus, should you wish you can stay the night in one of the three delightful characterful beamed en-suite guest rooms. Already they have been awarded four AA rosettes which is quite an achievement since they only opened in July, but then Matt’s Minster restaurant won the title of ‘Kent Restaurant of the Year’ in his first year of opening.
This hostelry may be new to Canterbury in its present guise but was originally a 16th century coach house originally called ‘The Flying Horse’ and is believed to be the second oldest pub in the city. It has been sympathetically refurbished retaining the original character of the ancient building and is the perfect place for anyone wishing to visit Canterbury for a weekend.
At the risk of repeating ourselves, a meal at The Corner House is a lovely informal affair leaving you with a feeling of replete conviviality and all without giving your credit card indigestion. We can’t wait to go back - our next visitors are in for a treat.
The Corner House, 1 Dover Street, Canterbury, CT1 3HD Telephone: 01227 780793.