Sizzling summer BBQ
A pretty, rural pub with a stylish beer garden is surely the holy grail of a hot summer’s day. Add in some serious foodie credentials, a chef with real character who cooks his unique Braai (South African-style BBQ) dishes to order and you’ve got a great new way to spend a warm summer’s day.
The Poet can be found in the middle of picturesque Matfield and it’s fairly off the beaten track (my kind of place) meaning that it’s probably not a place you’re going to stumble over. If you haven’t yet been, Matfield is just east of Tunbridge Wells, a super pretty spot that boasts the biggest village green in Kent and is a walkers paradise (there’s not much else there except 3 pubs!)
Recently crowned winner of this year’s Muddy Stilettos Award for Best Destination Pub in Kent The Poet at Matfield has gained some serious food credentials, particularly since Chef Petrous Madutlela (pictured below) took over a couple of years ago. Inside there’s lots of gorgeous quirky details in the decor (old-fashioned typewriters for example) – as a listed building the owners are limited in the extent of the facelift they can give it – it’s all low beams, brickwork and fireplaces. It’s one of those gastro-destinations that’s both a restaurant and pub at the same time. Gourmet food on offer but also the kind of place you’d feel very comfortable nibbling on some bar snacks with a glass of wine. And, of course, in the summer you’ve got the newly revamped beer garden to enjoy (above).
From his early days as a kitchen porter in South Africa, Chef Petrous Madutlela, worked his way up including a stint at The Savoy and even a turn on Master Chef: The Professionals. Back home he was Judge of South African TV show Ultimate Braai Master which gives him the best credentials possible for his latest project – putting his top barbecuing skills to good use with an outdoor grill in the newly refurbed garden area.
If your idea of a BBQ is a chipolata in a bun then this might not be for you. On the braai menu are Boerewors of course (South African sausages) and other tasty things like Chakalaka (a dish that originates from South Africa and it is staple throughout the country).
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Head Chef Petrous on a couple of occasions and this guy is passionate about his food. He makes all the sauces, marinades and spices for the braai by hand and he puts the dishes together with a certain flourish right before your eyes which I always find very satisfying. Also on offer to drink there’s a selection of craft gins, handpicked wines and quirky cocktails.
I have never taken my mudlets to eat inside The Poet before, not because I don’t think kids are welcome, but more because I think it’s more of a grown-up space/experience that would quite frankly be wasted on the fussy little fidgets. However they do love a BBQ and a beer garden so I took them along this time and it was a great success. They demolished the Lemon & Herb Spatchcock Chicken, Sweet Potato Fries and Corn on the Cob – if anything we needed more of everything (and elasticated waistbands to match).
OUT & ABOUT
In case it’s of interest (fact fans) First World War poet, Siegfried Sassoon, was born on the outskirts of Matfield village, hence the pub’s name (if you’re in the area you can take a peek at Weirleigh, the old-fashioned, slightly creepy building where he spent most of his life, or what the local kids refer to as the Scooby Doo house). There are lots of walks of varying fitness levels to enjoy in the area.
The outdoor refurb included adding in this funky terrace bar and seating area, which would be great for private party hire. A sophisticated little sun-trap this could be a good one to add to your list of summer celebration venues if you have a special birthday/anniversary coming up.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Relaxed foodies – this pub wants to put itself on the food map. Culinary delights come alongside a casual, local vibe. It’s for more refined palates, too fancy for some possibly, but Mr Muddy was in his element.
Not for: If you’re after a plate of plain old fish ‘n’ chips (hey, I’m not knocking it, it’s one of my fave dishes) you probably won’t find it here. This is a foodie pub.
££: Spicy Chicken Wings, £6.95; Pulled Pork Chakalaka 6.95; Grilled Halloumi £5.95; Peri-Peri or Lemon & Herb Spatchcock Chicken £12.95 and Boerewors £8.95. By the time you add it all up this is not a particularly cheap BBQ option – but what you’re paying for is quality of course. And as a treat and a break away from the kitchen it got a massive thumbs up from my Muddy Clan. This place is ideal for foodies seeking out new food experiences rather than Sunday lunch bargain hunters.
The Poet, Matfield, Maidstone Rd, Matfield TN12 7JH, Tel: thepoetatmatfield.co.uk