When the Journal’s resident food critic John Hippisley heard about a new eatery in the old Deakin’s outfitter’s, he knew he had just had to give it a try.
When Tim Deakin decided to close his family’s clothing store after 150 years of service to the city of Canterbury, like many I was sad to see it go.
I purchased my school uniform there as well as many drapery items. Tim’s father had ordered him never to marry, lest he neglect his family name and his store.
Tim is an honourable chap and followed his father’s wishes above his own, but as soon as his father died, he sold the business and married his childhood sweetheart. They are still blissfully happy.
Following this came the ill-fated La Trappiste with its eclectic mix of Belgian beers, hit and miss service, and frankly odd management style. It closed late last year to the relief of many in the city.
Re-opened as Deakin’s Pub & Kitchen, it now supplies Canterbury’s growing appetite for all things a bit different.
It describes itself as “an artisanal sourdough bakery coffee house, as well as a pub and dining room”.
I took a chance as I had already had a cracking meal in its sister restaurant The Chapter at the top of Burgate, some weeks ago, and left them a glowing review on TripAdvisior.
I have been here since 1978, and I suppose you could call me a gastronome, although I am partial to the odd gastropod as well, but only if it’s soaked in garlic, lemon and parsley butter, and baked en-coquotte.
It was a cold February day and I was on my way to collect a group for my ghost tour when I called in. The menu looked like a good fit for me as anyone that knows me will know I like my food.
To start with I chose the creamed wild mushrooms and poached egg on toast for £6.50. I was asked if I wanted a glass of wine, but as I was performing later I chose just tap water.
There was a nice bit of background music, the place was not rammed when I arrived, but slowly filled with like-minded people who wanted to see what the re-opened venue was like inside. Some sat over coffee and read papers, others chatted over a glass or two of beer, a bit like the old place, but a different atmosphere.
The starter arrived shortly. Very nicely presented on what looked like a brioche, but may have been freshly cooked bread, its aroma filling the room. Deakin’s sells bread to take away, too. That’s a good sign that maybe this is for locals and not a tourist trap. The mushrooms smelled incredible, they must have added some truffle oil as that has an amazing kick to it.
The poached egg was cooked just the way I like it, still oozing unctuous bright yellow yolk when I sliced into it with my knife…just what I needed to get my juices flowing.
Polishing that off, I sat back to look at the world in its dreary solemnity, passers-by scurrying to and from shops as they tryied to dodge the raindrops.
My mains came soon after. I wanted warming up and filling up so I chose Old Spot pork belly, buttered kale, crushed swede and caramelised apple puree for £16.50.
That might sound expensive, but it was just right for me. The crispy crackling of the pork’s underbelly was delicious, the meat and melting in the mouth. No sawing with a steak knife, it was tender and perfect as the tart apple sauce gave a good bit to it.
I’m not really a fan of kale or swede, but ate it all up like a good boy. Maybe I should have taken lots of photos of my food, maybe I will in future. But as a chef, I would rather food tasted wonderful than be an artistic feast for the eyes.
The dish was well presented and not just dumped on the plate. By now, I was pretty full but needed a sweet to finish off with.
I had noticed that the menu that they contained a schoolboy favourite of mine: bread and butter pudding with vanilla custard for £5.
It was most impressive and tasted like home made creme anglaise, as the French call custard, light and fresh, and not too sweet. The pudding was not too stodgy either – just the way I like it.
In the words of many a food critic, I think we’ll have to wait an see, but as a first impression I am coming back for sure. I hope you give Deakin’s a go, too. I was impressed, I think you will be too.
Vive La Difference.
Passionate about Canterbury, John Hippisley is a trained chef, a writer, a publisher and operates the Canterbury Ghost Tour.