Muddy eats: The Three Chimneys, Biddenden
I often find myself in the car, whizzing along the winding, rural roads that run between Tunbridge Wells and Ashford. And every time I get to the middle bit, Biddenden, full of farmland and vineyards I notice a sign post tempting travellers to the The Three Chimneys pub. And I think – imagine if that pub’s food is as awesome as its setting…? So I did a bit of digging (not literally – I’m still driving remember), tried it out and – my giddy aunt have I been excited to tell you about it ever since…
The first thing to tell you about The Three Chimneys is that there are only two. Chimneys, I mean. Apparently the explanation behind the name is demonstrated by the pub sign showing a French soldier looking at a three-armed signpost (see photo, top right, above). It refers to the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763), when the 3,000 French prisoners held in Sissinghurst Castle were allowed as far as the pub where three roads, or trois chemins, meet – and no further. This story is retold on a frieze that circles the conservatory dining area.
There’s nothing like a quirky little bit of local history to give a building a sense of place, character and charm.
And if it’s character and charm you’re after, then this pub has it in spades. The owner Craig Smith (who packed in his City job to take over the pub 15 years ago) was keen to talk me though all the updates and improvements – relandscaped garden area, stylish new B & B rooms and a plan to redesign the conservatory. And yet, he’s also very savvy about what not to do. He’s retained the pubby feel and original country charm. On entering the bar is all low beams wrapped in hops and dusty books decorating inglenook fireplaces. Beers, bitters and the like are sold from casks behind the bar (there is no cellar but refrigerated probes produce a similar chill). This is the kind of gastro pub that Mr Muddy Kent loves – no glossy Farrow & Ball refurb here.
This lunch was with my friend, Sarah, on a very rare moment when the five children we have between us were all otherwise engaged. We headed straight for the dining room, leaving the public bar for regulars and dogs – who were all very friendly. Mirroring the split of the pub, there are separate Bar and Dining Menus, depending on your needs. All the food sounded so good we couldn’t decide, so settled on four starters to give us a taste of everything. Take a look below and prepare to drool…
We ate Farm Asparagus Topped with Parmesan & a Shallot and Tomato Dressing (asparagus farmed from Ladysden farm up the road); Devon Crab & Smoked Salmon with Apple, Fennel, Radish & Avocado Mayonnaise, Parcels of Deep Fried Breadcrumbed Brie with an Apple and Celery Salad and Fruity Cumberland Sauce and Roasted Butternut Squash, Quinoa, Griddled Courgette, Feta Cheese and Toasted Pinenut Salad with a Lavender Honey Dressing.
I suppose our choices were fairly classic ladies-out-to-lunch, lighter and salady options – but if the meat-loving Mr Muddy Kent had been present he’d have been spoilt for choice too – from the Pan Roasted Rump of English Lamb, (served pink), with Spring Greens, Roasted Butternut Squash and Dauphinois Potatoes to the Ribeye Steak, (cooked to your liking), with a Steak Garnish and French Fries… Salivating, much?
Now I like to spend as much time as I can in lovely pubs (for research purposes, I tell you!) and I can honestly say the food here was excellent. Add in the wonderful pockets of outside space – like this beer garden, above, or the sun-trap terrace, (perfect for drinking a rosé on a summer afternoon), the tranquility and the views… I think The Three Chimneys has something special. One point to mention – I didn’t have the mini muddies with me when I visited – and I was pleased. Children are welcome, but this is more of a grown up dining pub.
The newly finished rooms are in a separate building across the pub gardens – giving added peace and privacy – with views directly onto open countryside and sliding doors. I can see that visitors Down From London or parents like me who want to get away for the night will find this a welcoming oasis and a good springboard for local destinations. You’ve got Sissinghurst Castle and a wonderful choice of local walks right on the doorstep. Rooms cost from £120 per night for kingsize double, £80 per night (single occupancy only) with en-suite walk-in wet room, private terrace with patio seating and traditional English breakfast included.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Those who like a local vibe with added style. Foodies for Sunday lunch, friends and family get-togethers – even special occasions. If you want a weekend getaway or have friends looking for a reasonably priced rural retreat this is a great option.
Not for: Kids are welcome here, but young children will struggle with the grown-up menu, and if you’re as tight as me you won’t want to pay for the ungrateful midgets to eat off it either. I’d reserve this for a grown up escape destination.
£££: Great to have the option of Bar and Dining menus. Typical Bar options include Ploughmans, Homemade Soup of The Day (£.4.50) or Three Chimneys Made Sausage Roll Served with Fruity Cumberland Sauce, (£5.75). The Dining menu price range is what you’d expect for a gastro pub – and in my opinion worth every penny. Entrees £6-9, Mains £12-21.
The Three Chimneys, Hairplain Road, Biddenden, Ashford, Kent TN27 8LW, Tel: 01580 291472, thethreechimneys.co.uk