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Review: One Pound Lane

Recently voted Best Bar in Kent by you, with a brand spanking new restaurant all situated in the brilliantly quirky former prison house it was our Muddy duty to ask: Hello, hello, hello, what's going on here then...?

More commonly referred to as The Pound, this central Canterbury eatery boasts the Best Bar in Kent (Muddy Stilettos 2018 Award Winner) a brilliant brand spanking new restaurant and a recent craze sweeping Kent – Escape Rooms! It’s all set in the distinctive, historic building with its prison key motif plastered on the wall. Alert the Gaoler and brush down the tablecloths…Muddy’s paying a visit!

THE LOCATION

The Pound is situated in the city’s former police station (built in 1829) by Westgate tower – a medieval gatehouse and the largest surviving city gate in England. It’s an attractive part of town with chauffeured river punt trips taking place nearby on the Great Stour River, close to Westgate Gardens and only five-minute walk from Canterbury West station so perfectly possible to make a night of it from West Kent to see what the East has to offer. Alternatively, you can try parking in Pound Lane Car Park, North Lane Car Park, Millers Field Car Park or St Radigunds Car Park which are all a very short walk away.

THE VIBE

Hello, hello, hello, what’s going on here then? As you might have guessed, the vibe is historic police station through and through – but small references rather than theme-park-tastic. You can enjoy private drinks (or dinner) in individual cell rooms, admire police memorabilia on the wall and take your cutlery from former police lockers in the dining area rather than actually being shackled to your table.

The new dining area, formerly a Parade Room and subsequently a concert hall in a later life, still has the original parquet floors and is painted with on-trend dark blue hues. Menus are printed on brown paper, meals served on tin plates and cocktails such as and Doing Thyme (Cabrito Blanco Tequila, Lemon, Kaffir Lime, Thyme, Apple, Sauvignon Blanc, Black Pepper) and Rule 43 (Captain Morgan Dark Rum, Hibiscus Tea, Sugar, Lime Juice, Strawberry Puree, Mint) all bring the prison theme to life in a subtle yet original and fitting manner.

SCOFF & QUAFF

The Parade Room opened in May this year and is headed by Doug Sanham, formerly from The Beacon in Rusthall, a local lad who has come to make his mark in Canterbury. We were booked in for the Sunday Roast and those poor prisoners must be turning in their graves as boy oh boy, has the broth had a serious upgrade.

Sunday lunch kicked off with a tray of home-baked breads including focaccia with wild garlic, bread seasoned with marmite (love it or hate it), cheddar shortbread with chive cream and butter with burnt onion powder sprinkled on top. Pan Roasted Mackerel, Oyster Emulsion, Rye Bread with Lemon & Ginger (him) and Slow Cooked Octopus, Tomato and Chilli Jam, Chorizo, Buttermilk (me) followed. Just what I serve up pre-Roast dinner at home, right? All exquisitely presented and did not take much time to demolish due to it all being goddam delicious.

This was followed by Roast Rump of 30 Day Aged Beef with Marmite Hollandaise (they are rather keen on this Marmite thing…) and Roast Leg of Salt Marsh, Lemon & Dill Dressing served with cauliflower & Curious Brew braised onion gratin, orange & ginger glazed carrots, braised red cabbage and of course the obligatory Yorkshire Pudding and duck fat roast potatoes. I am not 100% convinced by lemon & dill with lamb as a match but this was a small note amidst a seriously good feed.

KID-FRIENDLY?

Children meanwhile had a child’s portion of Pan Roasted Fillet of Hake, Broccoli and Fish Pie sauce which was swiftly eaten by one but I struggled to convince my two-year-old that it was time to eat and it was only stern words outside a private police cell (“Do you know where little girls go when they don’t eat their lunch?”) which encouraged her to go upstairs and polish her plate off. The options for little ones are quite grown up / gastro so not going to suit all young tastes or older folk that want to avoid the customary food negotiation drama.

Pudding was shared as predictably not a lot of stomach space was left. Ice cream for the juniors and Dark Chocolate Delice, Banana & Passionfruit Sorbet for the seniors. It looked good and tasted even better.

One nifty touch is that you can then visit the Westgate Tower as it is free entry if you present your meal receipt. This scheduled monument and Grade I listed building now houses the Westgate Towers Museum & Viewpoint and is a fantastic place to while away thirty minutes admiring the view from Canterbury at the top of the tower and nose at prison shackles, truncheons and handcuffs from a bygone era.

OUT & ABOUT

You can sit outside on the Riverside Terrace but only the Small Plates can be served outside. However no real hardship when these include smart little nibbles such as Trout Scotch Egg with Dill Mayo; Crispy Lamb Shoulder, Wild Garlic & Paprika Bao Bun and Cauliflower Bhaji with Black Quinoa and Dukka Spice. Bar snacks have moved a long way it seems since the humble pork scratching.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for:  Group dining – book a cell and feast on fine food, quirky date night in the Escape Rooms (takes role play to a whole new level), family fun due to the novelty factor of eating in a police station followed by a trip to Westgate tower, girls’ night in the bar with Small Plates, dancing and prison-themed cocktails. The list is a little bit endless…

Plus a novel location for parties as you can rent the Guard Chamber which is located in the central chamber of Westgate Tower Towers with capacity for 60 people and a private bar.

Not for:  Children who are fussy eaters and maybe more suited to winter months rather than summer-time due to limited outdoor eating space.

The damage:  I would say just about right considering the calibre of the food and the setting – a two-course dining is £19.50 with three courses being £25.50. My mocktail was a little punchy (at £6.00) but pretty darn delicious.

1 Pound Lane, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2BZ, Tel: 01227 458629, onepoundlane.co.uk

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