Chapter One has been one of Kent’s premier restaurants for a number of years and much of its trade comes from the well-to-do surrounding areas – locals who know it stands for quality. Yet, there is no reason why it should only be frequented by those in the know: it is within easy access of the M25 – there is a junction at nearby Orpington, while a train from Orpington will take you to Charing Cross in 20 minutes.
The dining room screams luxury but, refreshingly, the prices do not. At dinner, three courses are yours for just £37.50, while all lunch starters are priced at just £5; at dinner £9.25.
The restaurant is in the habit of keeping things local, as all Michelin-aspirants should be these days, and do so with real gusto. Chef Patron, Andy McLeish, shoots much of the venison that appears on the menu, while Kent’s hallowed Chart Farm and Watts Farm are other local suppliers.
McLeish says he doesn’t really have any signature dishes – he’d rather keep evolving than rely on a few well-worn trademarks. Yet his fondness for game is reflected in dishes of wild duck and foie gras terrine and fricassee of wild rabbit. There are modern techniques at play (an espuma gun is frequently unholstered by McLeish) but any ‘airs’ or foams are grounded by classical presentation and humble ingredients.
Chapter One’s roomy mock-Tudor building also houses a laid-back brasserie, where you’ll find all the usual classics: fish and chips; a beef burger (unusually grilled in a Josper Oven); steak ciabatta and a Cumberland sausage and mash.
In the summer of 2013, Chapter One launched their masterclass series with chef Andy McLeish. Attendees may get the chance to butcher a deer or simply learn how to cook asparagus.