Review: Macknade, Ashford
Macknade opened its new premises in Ashford in February, a foodie destination to stop by for a very tasty meal.
Ashford is not your typical foodie destination in Kent but lo and behold, we have a whole new reason to keep coming back to Ashford (especially with the Designer Outlet within very easy reach) as Macknade opened its new premises in February this year. As we well know, normal life went a bit awol shortly after it opened but they continued to support the local community throughout lockdown and it is now a destination (day and night) to stop by for a very tasty meal – or grocery pick-up – or BOTH!
There has been some substantial investment in Ashford over the past few years with Elwick Place, the home of the new Macknade, as testament of that work. It’s a striking, new 100,00 sq ft leisure and restaurant development located in the heart of Ashford Town Centre and was designed by the acclaimed Guy Hollaway Architects. Not only will you find Macknade but also the first ever new-built Picturehouse cinema plus there is capacity for more retail and restaurant units so a new go-to destination in that part of Kent for fun and food. And one of our favourite parts about it – plenty of parking right next door. I know that sounds very dreary but helpful to know you won’t be driving around in circles looking for a parking spot ahead of your visit.
If you haven’t heard of Macknade below – let us give you the quick lowdown. Not only the winner of Best Farm Shop in Kent in our 2018 Muddy awards but also one of the country’s leading food halls serving local produce alongside the very best food and drink from Italy and all over the world. Stefano Cuomo runs this family-owned business, with heritage in both Kent farming and Italy, and they celebrated its 40th year in Faversham last year. Macknade Elwick Place is a new string to its bow, and we hear that there are whispers of new locations in the future. Watch this space!
The clever part of the new Macknade space in Ashford is that it resembles the flagship store over in Faversham, as it offers similar freshly prepared produce as well as larder essentials and key ingredients with the synonymous Macknade branding throughout, but it has a totally different vibe. Over in Faversham, you can expect a more rustic surrounding with hops hanging from the ceiling and the building is an old converted farm building whereas the Ashford store, befitting of its location, has more of an urban style with stripped down lighting and an industrial warehouse feel. You can expect communal tables (with socially distanced space on them) and a very relaxed setting with the smell of very good coffee smacking you in the face right upon arrival.
SCOFF & QUAFF
This place is all about the food theatre as you can choose the meat, straight from their butchery, with accompaniments of your choice (listed on the blackboard so changed regularly), and they will cook it on their plancha grill straight in front of you.
We went for the Fillet Beef which was cooked to perfection and preference plus Pork Chops with Sage Butter which was melt-in-the-mouth good. Moroccan Style chickpeas and Veg couscous with Tomato & Mozzarella salad were our very tasty side accompaniments with Potato Wedges and Garlic Mushrooms on the side PLUS Sticky red pepper sauce and Sauce Vierge to really complete the gastro-explosion.
But if you are not after a full-on meal, there is plenty of choice for a snack or lighter lunch. The Delicatessen Boards and Platters come with our Muddy recommendation as well as their Sandwiches packed full of fresh ingredients you can buy in-store. The Famous Rarebit (sautéed leeks, cheddar on toasted sourdough bread) gets our vote every time.
And you would think there was no room for pudding after all that but do not fear, we did. Even the waitress said she was proud of our eating stamina as we ordered Orange Almond cake and Carrot Cake with a Flat White to really complete the feasting. As we mentioned in our Faversham review, the Italian gene for good coffee is represented in the fact that they import their house coffee directly from the Italian roaster Manaresi plus they also source coffee from small batch artisan roasters in the UK and offer regularly change guest blends.
Pre-COVID-19 days, there was a bar there on-site, but this is on pause for the moment but there’s still plenty of reasons to keep coming back for more. Corkage-free Friday is a regular thing and there is a very healthy selection of wines available on the shop floor which you can buy for their standard price and ask the team to open them for you. We sampled quite a few of their English and Italian white wines (purely as research you understand) including Biddenden Gribble Bridge Ortega, Pemo Pecorino and Chartham Bacchus and yep, we give you permission to order.
OUT & ABOUT
We have already mention the Designer Outlet store and Picturehouse cinemas within easy reach but you could also make a day out of it with a visit to other local attractions such as Rare Breeds Centre for a more wholesome activity with the family.
You should also consider Macknade Elwick Place for Brunch (served until 3pm every day) with the usual staples such as Scrambled Eggs and Smoked Salmon but you can also mix it up with crispy Serrano ham or you can spice it up with N’Duja.
We should also tell you that it is very kid-friendly with a great menu for kids (grilled skewers, house fries, mini sandwiches and deli platters) and there were quite a few mums on our visit having a good catch-up with their friends as their babies squawked around them.
We shall also be returning for the Pre-Cinema meal (4pm-7pm every Thursday and Friday) where you can enjoy a Main and Drink for £12, or £7 for the children, and keep an eye out for their themed supper-club evenings with Tapas Night being a recent hit on a Saturday night. Free corkage on its full range of Spanish wines that night when you buy five (or more) dishes to share for your table. Yes please to that!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Everybody – from parents with pushchairs to those after a quick working lunch or a more elongated get-together with the girlfriends as well as date-night for one of its themed evenings or pre-cinema at Picturehouse up above. It’s a foodie affair that is hard not to love!
Not for: If you are after a more formal setting, then Macknade Elwick Place is maybe not for you. This is about getting back to basics with very good food as the star of the show.
The damage: Our fillet of beef was £14 and the Pork Chops were £11 with Veg Main dishes at £9 with sides such as Potato Wedges/Garlic Mushrooms at £3 and additional sauces at £2 a pop so I would say bang-on in terms of calibre and portion sizes.
No.1 Elwick Place, Elwick Road, Ashford, TN23 1AE, macknade.com/elwick-place, 01233 434096.