What is it?
A near-perfect restaurant-with-rooms close to hip Deal.
What's the deal?
Ruth Leigh and Oliver Brown seem to have actually done what many addled couples in and around London perpetually dream of – moving to the Kentish coast and opening a small restaurant and/or inn. Chef Oli founded now-defunct Duck Duck Goose in Brixton; before that, he worked in the kitchen of Le Café Anglais under the esteemed Rowley Leigh, where you have to imagine he met Ruth, Leigh’s daughter. Obviously, punters can’t know what kind of private conversations led the couple to purchase a 17th-century farmhouse near the Kentish coast and do it up into a paradiscal restaurant and hotel, but you have to imagine they went something like: we’re tired, we’re sick of London, let’s take the plunge.
When you arrive at Updown, you immediately know you’re in for something special: the eponymous farmhouse is a weather-worn, red-brick cottage, fringed by a romantically overgrown garden. Inside, it’s a museum of impeccable taste, with bold wall colours (the ground-floor library is painted an audacious tangerine and the bar a dark-night navy) and a wide-ranging artwork collection curated by Olli’s mum and brother (spot his sister’s photographs and a sunny portrait from Margate-based Studio Lenca in the bar). Two of the four rooms in the main house are daubed in an avocado green that rivals the library in nerve, while the other two come in a chiller grey-green, and all are country house-cosy with a streak of Hackney chic. Also on the grounds, there are two self contained cottages: the Gardener’s Cottage, bijou and bright with room for two, and the newer Gate House, sleeping four and opening out onto its own pergola and terrace.
The real draw here, though, is the restaurant: set in the romantically tumbledown, vine-clad conservatory, it’s a little slice of magic. The sun streams in through the beam-buttressed ceiling (covered with a clear roof for rainy days), and Oli’s excellent food – hyper-seasonal British cooked over wood – is cooked busily in the open kitchen at the far side of the conservatory. Taken together, the unfussy food (think honking plates of pork chops, pasta stuffed with local pheasant, attentively-prepared vegetables heaped with verdant herbs) and casually gorgeous setting evoke the feeling of a note-perfect dinner party at your tastefully rich friend’s house. Anyone, not just guests, can book into the restaurant, and it’s recommended even if you don’t plan on staying over – on a nice day, a weekend lunch here can be transcendent.
Why should I go?
Harried Londoners with rural fantasies.
Updown Farmhouse, Updown Rd, Betteshanger, Deal CT14 0EF