I think I will be disqualified from entering any Michelin star restaurants in the future for using the word “stylz” in my header. Soooo not on, but hopefully it conveys my excitement about having dined at a Michelin star restaurant for the very first time (possibly the last) in my/our life. ZOMG!
So, we were cruising through the Kentish countryside and a good friend had informed us of a “very affordable” Michelin star restaurant called “Apicius“. Apicius refers to a collection of Roman cooking recipes though the word “apicius” was a common phrase for the Roman “foodie” back in 4-5 A.D. Intrigued by their name and under £30 lunch fare, I found out where they were (Cranbrook, Kent), their number and decided to call and ask if they’d have a table for Sunday lunchtime. This was about 6pm on Saturday and I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a table the following day. So began our Michelin dining adventure.
Did you know that the “Michelin Red Guide” which rates and lists all Michelin starred restaurants was an invention of the Michelin brothers of the Michelin tyre fame ?
We got to Apicius for a 1:30pm lunch and while my husband drove us there, I’d managed to get changed into some more respectable clothing other than tatty jeans and my comfy love-heart jumper. Upon getting there, I realised that no one would have really cared had I been in my tatty jeans !
It was a simple restaurant with a smily lady welcoming us in and only a handful of tables of which 3 were taken and one more got filled after us. Turned out that the smily lady was the chef’s wife and that the chef did all the cooking himself with no assistance even when it came to dish-washing. The restuarant only has 3 members of staff – the chef, his wife who is the face of the restaurant and a young waitress to assist in bringing dishes to the table and making coffees. I was already starting to day-dream about my imaginary restaurant and how I’d keep it simple like this one. I was truly inspired!
First off, we got treated to some warm breadrolls and unpasteurised butter on a black slate. Turns out that I’d done my usual half-hearing and hadn’t heard that the one on the left was unsalted and the one on the right was salted. So I dabbed on the salted butter all the while thinking how salty it was and I really would have liked some unsalted butter. Sorry I didn’t take any pictures of the bread as I was quite hungry.
Then it was time to order. Given I’d done my homework, I already knew what I was going to order off the menu. The starter and main choices were easy as there was only one vegetarian option in each category. The dessert was a little more challenging but there was one clear winner. The menu below shows my mental fluoro-marker tagging the things I was going to order.
About 10 minutes after we ordered our food, our yummy looking mushroom starters came out to the table. They looked really pretty and I am rather fond of toasted brioche so I was really looking forward to it. The parmesan crisp looked a little pale relative to what I imagined it would be but I decided not to judge the book by its cover. The mushrooms were absolutely delicious as was their sauce which complemented the toasted brioche very nicely. Greedy girl that I am, I would have liked another little sliver of toasted brioche but ah well. The parmesan crisp was the most disappointing part of the dish. It wasn’t crispy but more on the chewy side – as if it had been made a lot earlier that day. Small disappointment but the mushrooms and brioche made up for it quite nicely.
While my husband went for the fish option on the menu and didn’t regret it at all. It was a John Dory fillet with five spice sauce on a bed of really tasty beans, roasted garlic and fancy potato cubes. I tried the beans and the potatoes and they were yummy indeed!
My main was a black truffle linguini in truffle cream sauce on a bed of rocket and provencal vegetables….I always thought provencal vegetables were those you put into a ratatouille (aubergine, courgette, peppers) but the chef Timothy Johnson’s interpretation of this was a little different. The linguini was quite clearly the star on the plate and that’s what the intention was I’m sure. However, the accompanying pickled white baby onions (shallots?), artichokes and roasted garlic were less exciting to me. The roasted red peppers and rocket added colour and vibrance to my plate. We polished off our mains quite quickly in anticipation of dessert !
Always my favourite part of any meal. Given that diabetes runs in both sides of my family, I should probably be a little careful but not at a Michelin star restaurant. Afterall, we probably won’t go to one again for many many years. Mango and coconut – a match made in heaven and one that really appeals to my Indian tastebuds. Seeing this on the menu was an “Oh my God” moment so I had to have it. My husband, just for a bit of variety went for the caramelised apple sponge which my photos don’t do justice to. I promise it tasted way better than it looked and the thin apple “chips” were superb! While we were waiting for our dessert to arrive, the other patrons were onto their coffee and petit four course. Every time the waitress brought out a plate of petit four, she would say what they were and our collective mouths were drooling in anticipation of post-dessert treats. Just plain greed I tell ya!
COFFEE AND PETIT FOUR
I have for most intents and purposes given up coffee – except when we are in a Michelin star restaurant and the accompaniments sound really good. My husband didn’t want any caffienated drinks so I had to take one for the team. Off went the cappucino order and petit four for two. I’m so glad we went for it as every little treat was abolutely divine. At £1.50 a head, they were an absolute bargain too. We had 3 different tuffles from a chocolatier called Aneesh Popat – a salted caramel one (on the edges), a baked apple and cinnamon one (bottom ones in the glass) and a hazelnut and coffee one (top ones in the glass). In addition there were tuille biscuits (or fancy crisps as my darling nicknamed them), raspberry jellies, candied almonds (surprisingly tasty despite their pinky appearance) and orange meringues (though I thought they tasted like passionfruit).
SO LONG, AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH !
My wordy Michelin star dining experience comes to an end here. Before I forget, all that food cost us £78 and some change – £32.30 per three-course meal, £2.50 for the coffee, £1.50 each for the petit four and a “discretionary” 12.5% charge.
If you can find an affordable one near you (this one was definitely affordable), I’d highly recommend it – at least once in your lifetime. Particularly, if you have a special celebration or are an avid food lover and imaginary restauranteer like I am. Apicius was a lovely experience for us and we’d highly recommend it if you are in the Cranbrook neighbourhood. It is an hour’s drive from Charles Darwin’s house if you are into evolutionary coolness, an hour from Canterbury and all the historic sights it has to offer, half an hour from the site of the Battle of Hastings (very important for English history) and a 45 min drive to the pretty little town of Rochester with a real “Town-crier’. So if you needed excuses to go to Cranbrook, they are in every possible direction (or so say Google Maps and Wiki-travel).