Kent is home to a huge number of exceptional restaurants, with many clustered in and around the historic cathedral city of Canterbury.
Commonly referred to as the Garden of England, there’s quite frankly little excuse for Kent’s large assortment of eateries not to lean heavily on local produce. Happily, that’s just what they do, with many crafting their entire menu concepts around provenance. Below we’ve picked out 20 of the best places to eat across the county, with a focus on historic Canterbury and its surrounding towns and villages.
The Fordwitch Arms
Refined British cuisine is the name of the game at this cosy Michelin-starred gastropub in Fordwich, said to be Britain’s smallest town. Perched on the banks of the river Stour, the restaurant’s seasonal menu focuses on provenance, showcasing the best of Kentish ingredients, sourced directly from local farms and producers. Meals are served in a swanky oak-panelled dining room with three open fires, while in the summer months the riverside location gives rise to a beautiful dining terrace and garden.
King Street, Fordwich, Canterbury
To say that chef and owner Stephen Harris was being self-effacing when he once described his acclaimed eatery as a “grotty rundown pub by the sea” would be an understatement. His upmarket seaside gastropub may be somewhat windswept, but the diners who travel here from far and wide are consistently swept away by the standard of food which has earned The Sportsman multiple accolades, including a Michelin star, thanks in large part to its delicate and creative use of local seafood on enticing blackboard and tasting menus.
Faversham Road, Seasalter
Following the success of their initial venture, the owners of the Fordwich Arms (above), opened their second gastropub in April 2021 a mere 5 miles down the road. Needless to say, within weeks of the Bridge Arms opening its doors it had begun to earn major plaudits. Fully revamped from its previous public house incarnation, the 16th-century inn has been given a brand new look and feel, with all of its produce coming from local suppliers and farmers. The food is cooked in a custom-made charcoal grill oven, while the wine list features several wines sourced from English vineyards.
53 High Street, Bridge, Canterbury
Wheelers Oyster Bar
Situated on Whitstable high street, Wheelers Oyster Bar dates all the way back to 1856 and is something of an institution within the town, even catching the eye of the national foodie press. A tiny oyster parlour and seafood bar, it serves ready-to-eat, market-fresh seafood to a steady stream of hungry day-trippers and locals who can often be seen patiently lining the pavement outside. While most patrons head to the beach or harbour to tuck into their sea fare, there is some limited seating inside.
8 High Street, Whitstable
Set in the tiny hamlet of Dargate in the heart of the Kent countryside, just a few miles outside of Canterbury, this historic pub combines the quintessential charm of a traditional inn with all the trappings you’d expect of a fine dining gastropub. Under the helm of talented head chef William Shenow-Brady, it serves up a menu of hearty fish and meat-based dishes but with a refined touch that has gained him – and the establishment – widespread acclaim, while avoiding Michelin-level prices.
Plumpudding Lane, Dargate, Faversham
There’s nothing quite like sitting on the sun-drenched outdoor terrace at Rocksalt, sipping a glass of rosé as a steady stream of fishing boats roll in and out of the harbour. And if the weather is a touch too inclement, then the same vistas can be enjoyed from inside, thanks to the panoramic floor to ceiling windows looking out over the English Channel. But Rocksalt offers far more than just scenery, with the stylish restaurant’s entire ethos built around seasonality, locality and simplicity, all brought together by the best produce hailing from the south coast of Kent. The result is a delectable menu of largely seafood-based dishes, all served with a clever, playful twist.
4-5 Fish Market, Folkestone
Featuring a frequently-changing, seasonal six-course tasting menu, this Michelin-starred restaurant in the well-heeled seaside town of Broadstairs is run by a husband-and-wife team who operate under the ethos of serving “good food, laid bare”. A small, intimate and relaxed neighbourhood eatery, the restaurant is loved by locals, but also attracts a healthy sprinkling of discerning diners from further afield thanks to its reputation for exceptional food made from the best local ingredients.
15 Oscar Road, Broadstairs
The Goods Shed
A unique local business with stalls including cheese, a fishmonger, bakery and butcher, The Good Shed is also home to an all-day restaurant overlooking the market. The seasonal menu uses local ingredients garnered from the market below. Slow proved loaves are drawn from the ovens in the bakery throughout the day, while whole carcasses of meat, broken into cuts on the butchery, are cooked in the open kitchen, or outside on a grill. Diners can enjoy casual lunches or more formal dinners served by candelight as the market winds down for the day, or in the garden illuminated with the glow of festoon lighting.
Station Road West, Canterbury
Set back from the incessant traffic of London Road in Faversham is this upscale hotel and fine dining restaurant in an elegant Georgian manor house, surrounded by tranquil grounds. Despite losing its Michelin-star a few years ago, the restaurant has retained its reputation among dedicated gastronomes who continue to travel from near and far to savour the inventive contemporary British dishes served up in the venue’s atmospheric silver service dining room.
Macknade Manor, Canterbury Road, Faversham
The West House
Set within in a quaint 15th-century weaver’s cottage in the village of Biddenden in the Weald of Kent, this small, family-run hotel and restaurant earned a coveted Michelin star in 2008 – recognition for its innovative and constantly changing modern English dishes. The brains behind the operation is Graham Garrett whose food celebrates the produce of the ‘Garden of England’, surrounded by heavily timbered interiors with contemporary art dotted across the walls lending the dining room a funky flourish.
28 High Street, Biddenden, Ashford
The Lobster Shack
Located on the East Quay of Whitstable’s historic harbour, this casual beach bar-style eatery offers fresh-off-the-boat seafood set against a stunning ocean backdrop. Despite its name, the restaurant also specialises in fish and chips, mussels, calamari and other expertly cooked creatures from the sea, and there’s also a great choice of local beers. Inside, the space is warm and light-filled, while the large outdoors area has tons of wooden benches perched on the pebbled beach that seat up to six people with table service.
The East Quay, Whitstable Harbour, Whitstable
Despite being Kent’s largest town, it’s fair to say that Maidstone is not known as one of the county’s culinary hotspots. Yet amid this somewhat barren foodie landscape sits a delightful French bistro and wine bar that bucks the trend in impressive fashion. Nestled down a pretty side street in the town centre, Frederic’s offers an extensive menu of French-originated dishes, from classic beef bourguignon to filet de boeuf – served rare, naturellement. Be sure not to leave without sampling a slice of something from the adjacent patisserie and there’s also a huge choice of global wines to purchase.
Market Buildings, Earl Street, Maidstone
Fish on the Green
Proving that you don’t have to be on the coast to find top class seafood, this chic restaurant is perched on one of England’s prettiest village greens in the mid-Kent village of Bearsted. Housed in a converted stable and boasting smart, simple décor, it has an extensive a la carte menu featuring an assortment of ocean-based creature comforts including Jersey Rock oysters, Scottish scallops, king prawns, and lobster, along with halibut, mackerel, sole and many other fishy favourites.
Church Lane, Bearsted
While most of the Whitstable eateries on this list are seafood focussed, this independent, family-run bistro bucks the trend with a more varied menu dedicated not just to local fish, but also meat and seasonal greenery sourced from nearby farms. Boasting a rustic, unfussy décor, the high street restaurant’s cosy, comforting atmosphere combined with consistently excellent modern British cuisine has helped make it one of the town’s favourite foodie spots for relaxed lunches and dinners.
4 High Street, Whitstable
A Casa Mia
Italians tend to be evangelical about the ‘right’ way to make pizza, and nowhere more so than in Naples – birthplace of the famous dough-based dish. In the UK the only restaurant accredited by The True Neapolitan Pizza Association can be found in the unlikely surroundings of Herne Bay, a seaside town four miles east of Whitstable, where this family-run eatery stays faithful to the traditional pizza-making techniques that result in an ultra-thin base and light fluffy crust, topped with sauce from real Italian tomatoes. The result? Packed tables every night of the week.
160 High Street, Herne Bay
Hide and Fox
Positioned in the coastal market town of Hythe, the Hide and Fox occupies an old general store on a picturesque village green and is the proud owner of a recently-earned Michelin star. The team behind the restaurant come from exceptional cooking backgrounds, having served in some of the UK’s finest dining establishments, evidenced in the subtle but brilliantly inventive dishes found on the five- and eight-course tasting menus. Seasonal local produce is the focal point of the fare, with the Kentish lamb loin a particular highlight.
The Grn, Hythe
The Compasses Inn
Situated off the beaten track in the village of Crundale, and with hops hanging from the ceiling’s wooden beams, this is about as Kentish as a country pub can get. Indeed, the restaurant’s remote location has done nothing to stem its burgeoning reputation as one of the area’s best gastropubs. Enticing smells wafting from the kitchen testify to the quality of the food, while the bar is constantly buzzing with regulars as evidence of the pub’s enduring popularity not just as a dining destination, but as a community asset too.
Sole Street, Crundale, Canterbury
The Pig at Bridge Place
Part of a growing chain of high-end hotels dotted across the southeast of England, this sumptuous countryside hideaway in the historic village of Bridge boasts a lavish restaurant among its facilities. Open to all-comers and not just hotel guests, the food reveals an obsessive commitment to home-grown and local produce, with its surroundings influencing the menu in every way. Indeed, the owners operate under the principle that what can’t be grown in the Kitchen Garden is only ever sourced from within a 25-mile radius, ensuring that diners can savour their mouth-watering dishes in eco-conscious comfort.
Bourne Park Road, Bridge, Canterbury
The Wife of Bath
Acquired and refurbished in 2016 by the team behind Rocksalt in Folkestone (above), this historic venue has long held an excellent reputation around Kent. The light and airy dining room has in recent times been imbued with a fresh and original Northern Spanish theme through the décor and menus, utilising the best seasonal produce available – sourced both locally and direct from Spain. Dishes such as octopus with carrot, chorizo almonds and pickled shallots, or Iberico pork with cauliflower, wild mushrooms and morcilla feature on the a la carte menu, while an array of tasty tapas dishes can be devoured at the rustic bar.
4 Upper Bridge Street, Wye, Ashford
This elegant, white tablecloth French restaurant offers relaxed fine dining in a formal setting, and has gained a widespread reputation for applying classic European culinary philosophies to modern and inventive dishes. Housed in the former home of legendary British novelist William Thackeray, the dining room and other spaces are softly illuminated and even features local art in the atmospheric first floor private rooms. Ideal for a special occasion, or simply a romantic date night, Thackeray’s earns its rightful spot on this list.
85 London Road, Tunbridge Wells