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Muddy eats: Duke William, Ickham

Soak up the sunshine at this rural pub which boasts one of our favourite beer gardens in the whole of Kent and the food is as good as the view...

THE LOCATION

I’m always keen to find pubs slightly off the beaten track – the ones you’re unlikely to drive past unless you detour. That’s the Duke William for you, an attractive pub in the heart of the tiny, idyllic village of Ickham. It’s just off the A257 on the pretty country drive between Canterbury and Sandwich. It might be a rural location but it’s reputation pulls people in from all over – plus it’s a really pretty area of Kent to explore.

THE VIBE

This pub has a big-name chef behind it, Mark Sargeant, who is ex-Ramsay, so food is the main attraction here, but the interiors are pretty decent too. Low timber ceilings, a wood-burning fire, candles burning in old ceramic beer bottles, furry rugs, mismatched wooden tables and chairs – they’ve gone for the classic and quirky vibe. Warm, stylish yet still villagey.

There’s a main bar area, (pictured above), with lots of tables for eating as well as other pockets of space, like the vaulted ceiling dining area (below left) which I really liked the look of. Outside is one of my favourite beer gardens (pictured below, top left) not just because it’s a great space, but also for the view. Great for these glorious summer days – and a brilliantly convenient children’s play area too (below, top right).SCOFF & QUAFF

This place has got a good rep and you can see why. The menu (which was a good selection without over-doing it – I don’t like over-complicated menus or too much choice) all sounded delicious. From the Half Lobster, Garlic Butter, Fries Tomato Salad to The Duke Burger I wanted to try it all. I ended up settling on the Spiced Chick Pea & Tomato Stew with Pilaf Rice and was not disappointed. It came with chutney and naan and was full of flavour.

My friend and lunch date Debbie (who used to run her own pub kitchen!) went for the Special which was Sea Bass with Samphire which came from just down the road at Hastings, a nice touch. She reported it was very good and I can confirm she was correct, since I sneakily stuck my fork in (for research purposes obvs).

If you’re just popping in for a pint in the beer garden and a quick bite there’s a simple bar menu option (along the lines of Mussel Popcorn with Garlic Mayo or Scotch Egg, Caper Mayonnaise). But if I was to come back (make that when I come back) it will have to be for the Sunday Roast which I’ve heard is very good (complete with crackling, cosy fire…) There’s a choice of Beef, Pork or Lamb – or enjoy a platter containing all three.

An Afternoon Tea Menu is also available between 12pm – 4pm with anything from Coffee to Champagne, a seriously yummy sounding selection of savoury snacks and homemade fruit scones to tempt you.

KID-FRIENDLY?

Hell yeah! Have you seen the beer garden (reference pic above!) and children’s play area? Please tell me you were paying attention? There’s a Kids’ Menu with some definite crowd-pleasing options – Mac ‘n’ Cheese or Mini Cumberland Sausage & Greens to name a couple. Kids can enjoy a Main Course and Pudding for a mere £9.

The baby changing room was super clean when I stuck my head round the door and they even provide a selection of nappies and wipes. These little touches are important and say a lot about a place I think.

OUT AND ABOUT

Ickham itself won’t trouble you for long as it’s a small rural village. But you’re just 10 minutes outside the historic City of Canterbury or the Kent coastline in the other direction and surrounded by some beautiful country walks so this pub is particularly well situated for exploring.

Sounds like a mini break in the making? Well conveniently there are 4 stylish rooms at the Duke William including the Stein, which has direct access onto a sun terrace through its own private double patio doors, and looks out over the garden and rolling countryside. Or the Ramsay which can accommodate a pooch if you’re pushed after a pint.

Worth mentioning is the Midweek Retreat offer that runs from Sunday through to Thursday and is £129 for a 3 course meal and nights stay (for 2 people). Pretty good value for a date night break away.

Or looking for family fun? Then you’re just minutes from Wingham and the brilliant Wingham Wildlife Park or if you like bikes there’s the longest road cycle track in the UK at Betteshanger Park, a bit further out towards Deal.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Foodie explorers, families, Sunday lunchers, basically everyone. Sometimes restaurants with outstanding food are best for formal, adult occasions but the Duke William totally works if you’ve got the kids and/or the dog in tow too. This place was built for all seasons – perfect for roast, roaring fires and board games in the winter. And, in the summer months, soak up the sunshine in the south facing terrace and garden area, that backs onto the rolling Kent Countryside, complete with its own outside bar and brilliantly convenient children’s play area.

Not for: Well I can’t be sure but I don’t think this is probably the spot for a wild and boozy night out with a big group of mates – it’s in the middle of nowhere for a start, no High Street and we got stuck behind a tractor for quite some time on our way drive home!

££: Middle of the road on price, with Sunday lunches coming in at £17-19, pub classics from £12-£21 (for the Lobster) and Kids Main £6.50.

Duke William, The Street, Ickham, Canterbury CT3 1QP, Tel: 01227 721308, thedukewilliamickham.com

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