I’ve just found my way to somewhere special

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The Compasses Inn

Sole Street, Crundale

CT4 7ES (phone 01227 700300, web www.thecompassescrundale.co.uk)

Battered by the storm and ready to embrace autumn in all its glory, anything other than a hideaway in the heart of the country with a blazing fire to boot would not suffice.

Tucked away in the village of Crundale, between Canterbury and Ashford, The Compassess Inn offered the perfect setting.

Highly recommended by a colleague, the historic pub was not that long ago taken over by Rob Taylor, former chef of the renowned Samphire restaurant in Whitstable.

And it seems his magic touch is working here.

Immediately won over by the warm, friendly atmosphere and typically countrified décor – dried hops, fire burning in huge fireplace, candles and so on – my guest and I settled down to what was, on a quick glance at the menu, a pub dinner with a difference.

The menu boasts much more than your traditional pub grub, with a selection of diverse and mouth-watering starters, including sweet pickled herrings with celeriac coleslaw, spiced crab pasties with sorrel mayo and fennel soup with Wye bakery sourdough.

We shared the seared pigeon breast with apples and blackberries and the crispy ham hock spring roll with cider and sage dip.

The pigeon was the winner, flavour bursting from every element on the plate and the meat just melt-in-the-mouth delicious. The spring roll was great, too, the cider and sage dip being particularly good.

For its main-course offerings, the menu again did not disappoint.

I chose the butternut squash and Kentish blue bluebell pudding, a dish that, while looking slightly unusual, delivered that homely, warm taste experience with the flavour of strong blue cheese running through it.

My guest opted for old-spot pork belly with merguez sausage and mash, which was presented beautifully with flavours to match.

If I had to find something to criticise in the meal, it would be the bread and dripping, which I felt lacked flavour.

Despite being full and feeling ready to curl up in front of the big fireplace and fall asleep, the dessert menu was just too tempting to turn down.

I chose the selection of cheeses, which included Farmhouse Ashmore Cheddar, Two Hoots blue cheese, goat’s curd and Burwash rind.

My guest went for a lemon drizzle cake with raspberry ripple ice-cream, which he wolfed down before I had a chance to try – testament to the flavour, I’d imagine.

The Compassess is one of a number of venues offering a country-pub experience combined with traditional- meets-contemporary dishes.

Some miss the mark; this one hits the nail right on the proverbial head. Great atmosphere, even better food and a place to which I shall return. The bill came to £69.

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