As (until recently) a singleton, and as one who can barely cook and works irregular hours, I tend to eat too often in pubs and cafes.
And having lived like this for more than ten or so years, one gets some subjective idea of what is good and bad about convenient food, and the places and people that serve it.
So on this basis, and also because it allows me to use the pun ‘Snack of Kent’, this is the first of an occasional series of food and drink review of places in Kent (of course) and also elsewhere..
Otford itself is worth a visit, and it is fairly easy to do so from London. Trains call there on their way between London Victoria and Sevenoaks, it is on the A225 main road, and the M26 is close by. (Sadly the noise from that motorway is a constant hum in this semi-countryside.)
In Otford there is what purports to be a ‘scale model’ of the solar system, which is in fact a sequence of white stumps or plaques from a central post with a silver ball on the top. (Pluto is thereby in the next village, and Alpha Centuri apparently would be in Los Angeles on this same scale.) There is a ruined palace, a pond on a traffic island, and various things named after Thomas Becket. The village, after all, is on the ‘Pilgrims Way’ to Canterbury.
There are also antique shops, the twee sort that makes you want to buy all the stock and acquire a baseball bat.
And there are pubs. The best of these is The Bull.
Yes, there was quiet music, but this was regularly drowned out by an antique Grandfather clock. The service was prompt and the interior bright and clean. The historic corner “wishing chair” (and, of course, I tried it) and authentic fireplaces were complemented well by modern tables and chairs.
It was the sort of place you are glad that you have found.
The menu was excellent, at least for a near-carnivore like me. There were menu standards, but also a full list of monthly specials. I spent ages choosing a ‘spring lamb’ special whilst my companion had a steak burger of the standard menu.
The wine list was also highly impressive – almost all the bottles were around the £15 to £20 price, and all but one of each of the reds and whites were available in 175ml and 250ml glasses. This was a wine list for people who actually come to pubs to eat and drink. I went for a very good Graffigna Malbec (£5.19 for 250ml).
The steak burger (£7.99) was extraordinary (though I was only allowed a small bit).
Meat really should taste like meat, else one can eat Quorn. And this was one of the best burgers either of us had ever tasted. The chips were decently sized and the ‘classic burger sauce’ was even in its own pot, to be applied as you wish (it turned out to be a superior version of the sauce used by McDonalds for BigMacs).
The lamb special was fine, though at £15.49 it was difficult to see what it significantly added to the lamb on the standard menu (£11.89). Unfortunately, it was presented in that irritating arty-nouvelle way of a pile of stuff in the middle of my plate. There was no gravy or sauce (other than the butter of the Jersey potatoes). And although the vegetables were fresh and tasty - Chantenay carrots, are there better carrots? – one would have thought at that price there would have been a plate full of them. The lamb itself was first-rate, a telling contrast to that dressed-up mutton usually served in restaurants.
So The Bull is a great place to eat and drink, but do stick to the standard menu for best value.
But a final gripe: why price everything in terms of “.99″? There were even posters there for Sunday dinner with a big “£7″ and a small “.99″. For restaurants this approach to pricing just smacks of insincerity and misdirection, and these are really not notions one wants to associate with the production and consumption of food.
Surely no one is fooled by this pricing gimmick, and it is about time it was brought to an end.
Comments are pre-moderated. No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters. Other comments published at my absolute discretion.