Bowley’s Restaurant at The Plough, Trottiscliffe
It never takes long for a new foodie gem to pop up on our radar – step this way please...
It never takes long for a new foodie gem to pop up on our radar – step forward Bowley’s Restaurant at The Plough in Trottiscliffe which already wins prizes for the best-named village in Kent before we even get onto the food. Step this way to hear more…
For those of you looking for an ideal meeting point between the West and East side of Kent (that makes us sound like a couple of witches from the Wizard of Oz), then Bowley’s ticks that box as it’s 10 miles from Sevenoaks and only a 30 minute drive from Faversham as it’s easy to reach along the M2.
Also, just so you know, Trottiscliffe is actually pronounced ‘Trosleigh’ (seriously, trust us…). Once there, you are also within easy reach of the delights of West Malling and its’ amazing selection of independent shops, yet within a lovely rural setting, so it’s the best of both worlds.
From the outside, you probably wouldn’t give The Plough much of a second glance as it is an unassuming pub but therein lies the magic behind it as this is a pub with a real foodie punch. Not least because Alex Yates is the resident chef there who trained at Westminster Kingsway College before spending two years working in the kitchens of the Michelin Star ‘Goring’ restaurant under Shay Cooper, experiencing and learning the precision of Michelin Star food. Whilst at the ‘Goring’, Alex worked with Rick Stein and cooked for Her Majesty the Queen no less so Kent is lucky to acquire this talented chef to our midst!
What is particularly charming about Bowley’s is the fact that even though you can expect Michelin-esque food with exquisite attention to detail, there is still an incredibly laid-back feel to the pub.
The décor is muted with soft tones, old-fashioned prints on the walls and nice touches such as lavender pots as decoration in the window. It is the kind of place that you would like to settle in for a seriously good food sesh or a cosy drink and catch-up with family or friends since the pub part accommodates the locals for a drink on a regular basis with people flocking, far and wide, for the foodie show.
It’s a real people pleaser too with an unique story behind The Plough as the villagers famously gathered together to fight to keep their pub going. It is now family-run (the Yates family have a long back story in good hospitality) and community owned with everyone pitching their combined skills in to help this spot become a well-known foodie destination in Kent. You’ll even find that some of their ingredients are sourced from locals’ gardens! This family vibe is evident by the super-friendly staff who all seem to live close by and are super chatty with no standing on ceremony here. We are sold before the food has even come out…
SCOFF & QUAFF
We have already explained the foodie credentials so it should come as no surprise that the food really does live up to expectation. We tried out the Tasting menu to get a real flavour of the dishes they do but the a la carte menu equally showcased some tasty dishes – from the sophisticated (Raviolo – Confit of Duck Leg with Oyster Mushrooms) to the jazzed up classics (Kentish Hop Sausages with horseradish mash with a caremalised onion jam).
You know when you are onto a good thing when the bread is served, and the waiter tells you that it is one and half hours old and made by the new pastry chef that morning. While the a la carte dishes look absolutely great, I urge you to indulge in the Tasting Menu (with an option to do the accompanying Wine Flight too) as your taste buds will surely want to get their chops around some seriously good dishes such as Wild Mushroom Tortellini & Dashi Broth (with the tortellini made from miso paste for an interesting twist).
One of our favourites was the Aranici with Stir Fry Vegetables and Green Curry. An unusual approach to combine a traditionally Italian dish with Thai spices but it works.
There is the choice to do a Vegan tasting menu too which is testament to the chef’s prowess about how diverse and ‘meaty’ these dishes are, but there are also some very good fish and meat options (best fillet of beef ever – fact) to be found on the other menu.
Thankfully, this is not the kind of Tasting menu where you are full after three courses as the portions are well-sized so there was plenty of room still (kinda) to sample the palate cleanser (Earl Grey ice cream and plum sorbet) followed by not only Lemon Cake served with a salted caramel sauce and Carrot Cake with Tonka-bean ice cream.
The ultimate piece de la resistance just had to be the Plum Souffle (with the fruit sourced from previously mentioned neighbour’s garden) though as the finale dish which was the winning combo of a gooey tart-tasting souffle in the middle and a crunchy crumble-esque sweet topping on top. The Bomb!
It was not one of those quaffing lunches but you are in very safe hands with the wine menu here which has been carefully thought out to pair with the dishes and may I recommend (if you don’t want to drink) their Ceder’s Pink Rose distilled non-alcoholic alt-gin, paired with a refreshing tonic!
While the vibe here is very laid-back and you don’t feel as there would be any sniffy waiters looking at you with disdain if you did bring the offspring, we recommend keeping this an adult only affair since the food is the hero and there’s a lot to be savoured and admired. It is a good place to take your time to enjoy it all rather than do the one hand cutting of food routine as you try to enjoy your meal as it is warm. There isn’t a dedicated children’s menu as such, but they do a roast dinner on Sundays and the bar menu has bangers and mash on it if you are compelled to bring them!
OUT & ABOUT
We spent so much time quaffing and scoffing on your behalf that we did not explore much of the local area as we would have liked but within easy vicinity, you have West Malling for a potter and a coffee. If you’d like the low-down read our West Malling Guide.
There’s plenty more on the horizon with a plans in place to open a deli in the sheds at the back of the pub which would be an ideal spot to pick up your groceries and another asset for the village to have on their doorstep. They are also talking about doing more sharing platters and the menu is constantly evolving so no visit will ever be the same from a foodie point of view.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: FOODIES – there is an ever-changing menu here with local produce at the heart of it. It comes as no surprise why people flock, far and wide, to sample the seasonal cuisine. If are a fan of a tasting menu that will leave you happily full and not stuffed to the brim, then is the one for you too.
Not for: Fussy children eaters might not be as excited by the food options as you are!
The damage: I would say pretty darn reasonable considering the calibre of the food – The five-course tasting menu (plus a palate cleanser) is £40 per head of £65 with the matching wine flight. If you are going A La Carte, starters are around £5 with mains ranging from £11 to £25 for the 28 Day Aged Steak so well-worth the price!
Bowley’s Restaurant at The Plough, The Plough Inn, Taylors Lane, West Malling, Kent ME19 5DR, www.theploughkent.com, 01732 822233