Muddy eats: The Vine, Goudhurst
Ah, now I’ve been excited to tell you about this little find for a couple of weeks. Those of you who know this pretty little corner of Kent will probably raise your eyebrows when I mention the word ‘cool’ (yeah I saw you do it). But I’m not kidding, The Vine pub, right in the heart of this quintessentially rural village has finally reopened after a change of ownership and complete refurb and now boasts a contemporary dining space and a cocktail lounge. Oooo – get you, Goudhurst! Suitably excited by this news, I decided to round up a few girlfriends and give it a go one Friday night. Please pass me my spandex and snakeskin shoeboots – I’m going out!
Goudhurst stands on a crossroads with a duck pond and is the perfect place for rather lovely walks with great views overlooking the Weald. It’s not somewhere you’d necessarily think of going for several rounds of Cosmopolitans and and elegant dining experience. Luckily however, husband and wife team, Justin and Vanessa, decided they wanted to bring something new to the area. As well as the more traditional pub space downstairs, there is also the new Grill Restaurant upstairs which allows diners to select both a cut of meat and its weight. Up another flight of steps is a cocktail lounge (pictured above).
Now there’s a reason I always conduct my restaurant reviews at lunchtime and it’s not just because I can’t think of a better way to spend my day than eating my way around Kent. It’s because in the evening, while the night sky and low lighting makes for great ambiance, it’s very hard to get good food photos. However I think you still get the general idea (see above).
The steaks are priced per 100g and are dependent on what’s in stock. They are big and don’t generally come any smaller than 500g. Plenty for two to share, which is what my friends Jo and Melissa decided to do. They opted for the most pricey of the grill options, Chateaubriand (what expensive taste, eh?), which was more than enough for two and came in at a whopping £72. It was, they assured me, a great treat, medium rare (as requested) and got a big thumbs up for being melt-in-the-mouth tender. Also on the Grill Menu is burger or chicken.
Of course, not everyone wants meat and my veggie friend, Sarah, was very happy with her Vegetarian Stack (goats cheese, aubergine, peppers…) from the Special Board. And if you like fish you can choose from the selection on offer under the Catch of the Day, such as my delicious Sole Meuniere with Mussels.
What else to tell you? Well, downstairs the pub has been changed a little to give it a contemporary feel, but they’ve been careful to keep elements of the traditional 17th Century building. There’s a separate, more relaxed, Pub Menu on offer and, while children are very welcome, there’s no official Children’s Menu, instead you can order smaller portions from the normal menu for half the price. So you’ll have to judge for yourself how your mini muddies would cope with that. While I admire the sentiment of avoiding processed foods, I’m the first to put my hand up and confess *sigh* that my two are all about the nuggets and burger.
The garden at the front is on a crossroads so it’s not a space that’s particularly friendly for younger children. But through the French doors at the rear of the bar is a courtyard garden for al fresco dining.
Anyhoo, it’s not been long since the re-opening and the new owners seem keen to keep ongoing discussions with locals – welcoming lots of feedback on what people want. For example my friend Jo, an interior designer, suggested some softer lighting upstairs in the lounge, like candles, and they seemed to take it all onboard and be genuinely interested. There’s a few nice little quirky touches, like the fish-bowl-sized gin & tonic glasses (tick) and artwork on the wall (is that Kurt Cobain in the cocktail lounge?) and elsewhere by a local artist (Charlie Deane, since you asked).
Overall we had a really fun night – and once the word spreads and the restaurant fills up this venue has the potential to become a really buzzing Friday night destination. It offers a great alternative to anyone wanting a grown up evening out without trekking into town – a little spot of country cool where Cosmopolitans and snakeskin shoeboots fit right in.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Couples, groups of friends and those looking for something a bit different. Upstairs is primarily more of an adult space – downstairs more relaxed and probably better with smaller children. Dogs are also allowed in the pub downstairs.
Not for: Fussy younger eaters – there’s no children’s menu. Anyone wanting a simple, pubby venue and prices – even the Pub Menu is higher end.
£££: On the upper side of middle. From the Grill Menu: £8 per 100g for T Bone Steak, £12 per 100g for Chateaubriand, Sirloin or Rib Eye Steak £22, Chargrilled Burger £13, Half Roast Chicken £16, Side Orders £3, Puddings £6. From the Pub Menu: Pork & Sage Bangers and Mash £13, Fish & Chips £13.
The Vine, The High Street, Goudhurst, Kent,TN17 1AG, Tel: 01580 211105, vinegoudhurst.com