The 16th century Bridge Arms pub near Canterbury has been under the same ownership as The Fordwich Arms since 2021, with executive chef Dan Smith now in charge both kitchens, with his wife Natasha looking after front of house. The Bridge Arms gained a Michelin star in the 2022 guide. In addition to the a la carte options, there was also a set lunch for £35 for three courses. Dan now splits his time between the properties, with separate head chefs in each property and him overseeing the overall kitchen operation. Dan was in the kitchen at our visit today. The dining room has well-spaced tables and simple décor, with a large pub garden at the back.
The wine list had 93 labels and ranged in price from £25 to £160, with a median price of £55 and an average markup to retail price of a fraction under 3 times, which is fair. Sample references were Sylvain Bailly Sancerre 2018 at £42 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £19, Huia Pinot Noir 2016 at £55 compared to its retail price of £26, and Elgin Pasarene Chardonnay 2017 at £80 for a wine that will set you back £50 in the high street. For those with the means there was Littorai Pinot Noir 2018 from Sonoma County at £120 compared to its retail price of £60, and Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet 2017 at £130 for a wine whose current market value is £73.
We started with a couple of the bar snacks. Whipped cod roe and linseed crisp bread was excellent, the texture of the whipped roe being very smooth and having plenty of fishy flavour without being too salty; the crisps were just what was needed to provide a textural contrast (15/20). Buttermilk fried chicken came with tandoori mayonnaise. This was pleasant, and the mayonnaise was certainly useful to offset the slightly dry coating of the chicken, though perhaps it could have had a little more spice (14/20), Focaccia was really excellent, made from scratch and being airy and fluffy in texture, with just enough olive oil to avoid dryness.
Chicken liver parfait came with shallot chutney, red grapes, Sauternes jelly and home-made brioche on the side. This was an unusually good chicken liver parfait, having exceptionally smooth texture and excellent liver flavour, the richness balanced by the shallot chutney and the acidity of the grapes (easily 15/20), Ham hock, foie gras and leek terrine came with toasted sourdough, the bread also made from scratch in the kitchen. This was also good, the texture quite rustic, served with some pickled shimeji mushrooms, whose vinegar gave some useful balance. Perhaps a little more of the pickles would have benefitted the dish, as the terrine was quite rich (14/20). I should note that all three breads that we tried (focaccia, brioche and sourdough) were genuinely impressive, and I would not be surprised to see the kitchen open a bakery at some point, given the quality of their bread making.
A mix of new season green and white asparagus, along with wild garlic and morels stuffed with homemade ricotta. The asparagus was carefully cooked and the morels had excellent flavour, their earthiness contrasting nicely with the flavour of the ricotta. This was a seasonal and nicely balanced dish (15/20). Iberico pork chop was dry-aged and came with celeriac puree, grilled hispi cabbage and maple bacon. The pork was carefully cooked and had plenty of flavour, combining well with the earthiness of the celeriac and the lightly cooked cabbage (15/20). Chips on the side were also good, crisp and nicely seasoned.
Lemon meringue pie was flight and fluffy, the pastry good; for me it could have been just a touch sharper, the overall effect just marginally over sweet to my taste (14/20). Coffee was from a company called Street Coffee and was pleasant. Service was friendly and capable. The bill came to £66 per person for the food and coffee, and £100 per person with some glasses of wine. If you went a la carte and shared a modest bottle of wine between two, then a typical cost per person might come to £80 or so. Clearly you could trim this by ordering the £35 set lunch. Overall, the Bridge Arms was a very enjoyable experience, having an appealing menu, very competent cooking and a nice welcome.