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Water Lane Walled Garden - a foodie oasis in the Kent countryside

Katy
February 10, 2022

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What I loved about it:

Tucked away in the Kent countryside, Water Lane Walled Garden feels like a very special, hidden gem which foodies and horticulturalists alike will adore. The dishes were all so fresh, with their own imaginative twists, and I loved that so much of the ingredients were grown on site or sourced locally. Set against the backdrop of the rolling hills of the Weald, Water Lane is the ultimate English country garden, celebrating food, friends and flowers!

Location:

Hawkhurst, Kent

Suitable for:

Couples, Friends, Family

Value for money (out of 10):

8

Website:

As I walked through the distinctive green gate into Water Lane Walled Garden, I was filled with a peculiar combination of liberation and anxiety. After over a year of social distancing and maternity leave, this was my first outing that didn’t involve face masks or breastfeeding in a long time. However, it wasn’t long before I lost myself in the charm of the idyllic gardens and all my worries melted away.

Blessed with clear blue skies and radiant sunshine, I was incredibly grateful for the chilled glass of gooseberry and apple mint cordial which was kindly placed into my hand on arrival and – after the first delicious sip – I had to resist gulping down in one go! As I took in the crisp, sweet tastes of summer, we were welcomed by custodians, Nick Selby and Ian James, who had recently taken on the passion project of transforming this former nursery into a working kitchen garden and restaurant.

Located down a picturesque country lane in the pretty village of Hawkhurst, Water Lane Walled Garden sits pride of place on the Kent / Sussex border, offering spectacular views across the Weald. Since acquiring and moving to the site in early 2021, the couple have lovingly restored all aspects of the gardens, complete with beautiful Grade II greenhouses dating back 130 years, and an abundance of vibrant floral and vegetable beds.

It’s clear from the get-go how much love has been poured into Water Lane. As Nick and Ian gave us a tour of the historic glasshouses featuring everything from goblin cucumbers and tomatoes on the vine, to dried flowers and carnations, they talked passionately about their journey and their aspirations for the Walled Garden. Despite only starting to plant in April 2021, the gardens were already blooming in the summer sunshine, and as they casually told us about their early morning tending and watering schedules, it was obvious that this is undoubtedly due to the hard work of the pair.

Continuing on through the garden, we sauntered through a colourful arena of sweet peas, dahlias and larkspur, before taking our seats on the sun-drenched terrace for lunch. Transformed from a former polytunnel, the al-fresco dining area has been created under a chic stretched awning, with an open kitchen, sustainable furniture and magnificent views across the quintessential English garden.

Greeted by one of Water Lane’s lovely printed daily menus (I loved the little touches on this – the weather forecast for the day, what had been harvested and garden tips), we were then treated to a sumptuous array of tasting plates, accompanied by a chilled glass of perfectly paired Greek rosé. Created by head chef Jeb Wrobel, the ever-changing menu moves with the seasons, and features homegrown and locally-sourced produce, exuding a simple, rustic elegance with imagination and care.

The first course arrived made up of a selection of pickles (my first taste of pickled rhubarb, which was delicious!), gordal olives and a tomato and goat’s curd flatbread to share. Not only was everything tantalisingly tasty, but it was also beautifully presented with vibrant colours, in a homely, family-style way.

This was followed by individual glasses of fresh gazpacho, along with dishes of beetroot, whipped goat’s cheese and raspberry salads and a brown shrimp and cucumber platter, adorned with bright, edible flowers. The colours of the seasonal produce popped in the summer sunshine, with the pairings of the flavours sparking the taste buds and marrying perfectly together. And these were just the starters!

Our mains included a divine monkfish and nduja dish with peas and aioli, lamb meatballs with milk and chard, and as a vegetarian option of charred aubergine with kalamata olives and crispy polenta. Accompanied by punched potatoes and a garden salad (literally from the garden!) and the balmy weather, I felt like I had been transported to a Mediterranean paradise – by way of the Kent countryside.

The star of the show for me, however, had to be the peach crumble with bay custard, which was absolutely sublime! The grilled peach (poached in wine) was rich and juicy, with the sweet custard cutting through – it was heaven. We also sampled some of Water Lane’s soft serve ice cream from Northiam dairy which was equally refreshing on the warm, summer’s day.

As you can probably tell, I am a complete convert and can’t wait to return to Water Lane Walled Garden with friends and family! Nick and Ian have created something very special in this small corner of the Kent countryside, capturing the true potential of its reputation as the Garden of England. With its unique, fresh food proving to be outstanding, served against the backdrop of an idyllic English country garden, they have created a relaxed yet aspirational ambience which I have no doubt will prove hugely popular!

Water Lane Walled Garden restaurant and shop is currently open Wednesday – Friday between 8am – 5pm, and 10am – 4.30pm on weekends. They also host a range of workshops and events throughout the year. Please see their website for more details.

REVIEW

This is a Girl About review. I was invited by the management free of charge in exchange for an honest and frank review. All my opinions are my own and in no way have they been swayed by their kind invite. Girl About reviews are always 100% honest. We only publish reviews that, for the most part, are positive.

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Katy
February 10, 2022
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