Following the news that talented chef Gary Jarvis has taken over the kitchen at The Bottle House in Penshurst, Eileen Leahy went along to savour a flavour of his exciting new menu that’s big on seasonality and ingenuity…
It’s a late autumn Friday evening when my husband and I pay a visit to The Bottle House. We cross the threshold of this charming 15th century inn located on Cold Harbour Road in Penshurst and step into the bar area which is bustling with customers drinking at the bar and happily dining in one of the historic pub’s charming cosy dining nooks. It’s fantastic to see the place so packed – you’d never know there was a cost of living crisis given the amount of people enjoying themselves…
The Bottle House has always been a popular country pub, but it would appear to be even more so now thanks to the fact the talented chef Gary Jarvis has been brought on board to oversee the menu.
“You’ll still find lots of classics on The Bottle House’s menu but look a little closer and you’ll see there’s a subtle refinement going on here too with grander dishes such as Truffle Poached Chicken with Potato Terrine now included”
Gary’s epicurean pedigree is nothing short of impressive. He has worked at The Ritz in London, The Curlew at Bodiam and was also Executive Chef at The Lyle in Tunbridge Wells.
But the good news is he’s brought most of his team over to work their culinary magic at The Bottle House so hopefully we’re in for a good night.
On spotting us arriving, the pub’s amiable host and manager of the past 30 years Paul Hammond greets us like old friends and sits us at a lovely table by the log burner. He tells us that Friday nights are cocktail nights and he can highly recommend the Damson Vodka Gimlet (£8.50) – a delicious confection of damson vodka, distilled on the premises, simple syrup and lime juice. I willingly oblige while my husband opts for a pint of ale.
We settle back to look at the menu: on first glance it’s clear that Gary hasn’t wanted to alienate the pub’s loyal clientele so you’ll still find lots of classics on it including hearty burgers, fish and chips and steak options. But look a little closer and you’ll see there’s a subtle refinement going on here too with grander dishes such as Truffle Poached Chicken with Potato Terrine (£16.50) and Mussels with Chrorizo, Tomatoes and Basil (£10) included. There’s also decent options for vegetarians and vegans including Roasted Cauliflower Steak with Raisins, Capers & Spiced Coconut Broth (£14.50) and Grilled Aubergine with Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil & Olive (£14). And despite the grander foodie offering the prices are still pretty good value.
“In addition to the main seasonal menu there’s also a Chef’s Specials offering which on the evening we visit boasts a trio of delicious dishes including an indulgent Fillet of Seabream with Mussels, Crushed Potatoes and Champagne”
In addition to the main seasonal menu there’s also a Chef’s Specials offering which on the evening we visit boasts a trio of delicious dishes. These include Red Pepper Soup with Black Olive, Basil & Homemade Bread (£6), an indulgent Fillet of Seabream with Mussels, Crushed Potatoes and Champagne Sauce (£17.50) and a decadent Chocolate Brownie with Raspberry & Vanilla Ice Cream (£7).
I decide upon the intriguing sounding Gin Cured Salmon with Rhubarb Tasters & Pumpernickel (£12) while my husband, who has recently become a vegetarian, opts for Mushrooms on Toast (£8.50). Now as plain as this sounds on paper it is in fact, he says, a taste triumph. The mushrooms are rich, sweet and creamy served on a thick crusty tranche of brioche toast which is piled high with slivers of sweet peppers and a sprinkling of fresh tarragon. My smoked salmon is expertly cured and complements the sweet pops of rhubarb purée perfectly. Added texture comes courtesy of sprinklings of bread.
For our main courses we both decide upon fish dishes. My husband says the aforementioned Fillet of Seabream with Champagne Sauce sounds far too good to pass up while I am curious about the inclusion of salted grapes served with the Filet of Hake and celeriac purée. I’m happy to report the latter is an ingenius pairing. Both plates are superb and any fine dining establishment would be hard pushed to beat them.
We enjoy a nice couple of glasses of the recommended Wine of the Month: Anima Osco, a refreshing Italian white which cuts through the seabream’s decadent sauce and equally complements the buttery pan fried hake.
When it comes to dessert I have to declare defeat but my husband already knows what he’s going for: the Chocolate Delice served with Blackberries (£8).
“Shall I bring two spoons with that?” smiles Paul knowing that it will be futile to resist.
“Yes please,” I reply and sure enough our meal ends with us duelling for the last bite of this delectable dessert.
It’s fair to say that Gary and his team are certainly stepping up to the plate when it comes to delivering quality, inspiring and utterly delicious food for The Bottle House’s loyal and discerning diners and we cannot wait to see what they have up their sleeve for Christmas!