A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: Updown Farmhouse, Kent
A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: Updown Farmhouse, Kent

A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: Updown Farmhouse, Kent

In this series, we travel to some of the UK’s best restaurants – many of which are destinations in their own right and well worth a day trip or overnight stay. This time, SL’s managing lifestyle editor Heather Steele paid a visit to the Kent coast to eat at one of this year’s coolest openings…
By Heather Steele

All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.


Over the last couple of years, Ruth Leigh and Oliver Brown have been carefully restoring the farmhouse and grounds of Updown Farmhouse near Deal. Set within seven and a half acres of Kentish countryside, the property is now home to seven bedrooms, including two cottages, each of which reflect the house’s unique character. During the renovation project, the couple used the space to host a successful series of long-table supper clubs with some of the UK’s most exciting chefs – think Anna Tobias, Will Bowlby and Alex Jackson. In May this year, Updown launched as a permanent fixture, welcoming guests to stay and dine at the farmhouse for seasonal menus in beautiful surroundings.


This beautifully renovated 17th-century farmhouse is a ten-minute drive inland from the charming town of Deal. Now, the Grade ll-listed property is a lovely, welcoming restaurant with rooms. The restaurant is housed in a conservatory in the centre of Updown’s rambling grounds. Inside, guests dine beneath hanging vines and wisteria surrounded by original brickwork and antique mirrors. The set-up is simple – picture sculptural black dining chairs, white tablecloths, minimalist floral arrangements on each table and huge plant pots filled with foliage. Diners can watch the chefs in the open, semi-alfresco kitchen, which is built into the old stable wall, as they tend to the wood-fired grill and original farmhouse bread oven. In the summer months, tables spill out onto a pretty terrace overlooking the main house and gardens.


For all its gorgeous interiors, the food really is the star of the show: Oli was the founder of Duck Duck Goose in Brixton and Ruth is the daughter of acclaimed chef Rowley Leigh (of Kensington Place fame), so the pair know good hospitality. The menu choice is pleasingly concise, and the food is Italian influenced and seasonal, using the best regional ingredients available on the day – you might eat the likes of fazzoletti with morels and wild garlic, raw sea bass with almonds and cherries then tuck into baked saffron rice with gurnard, mussels and aioli or grilled lamb chump with broad beans, artichokes and bagna cauda. Right now, the menu includes fried delica pumpkin with honey and sage; crab tagliolini with chilli and mint; followed by treacle tart with clotted cream.

When I visited on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I had my first roast of the season – a beautiful piece of pork from acclaimed butcher HG Walter, with crackling that was absolutely perfect and a side of delightfully rich cauliflower, seasonal greens and three just-right, crispy roast potatoes. There was also a striking whole guinea fowl – served with its claws aloft – plus a starter of mozzarella with roasted peppers, caperberries and olives and simply yet impressive desserts of melon and vodka sorbet, plus cold custard with late-summer fruit. Our relaxed lunch was enhanced with a choice of exciting wines from a small, ever-changing list and a seasonal golden negroni, with a pale green colour that shimmered across the white tablecloth as the late-autumn sun shone through the conservatory panes. As a whole, it was the most relaxed lunch I’ve had in a long time.


The cooking at Updown Farmhouse is proof that simplicity is always a winner – so much so, that the kitchen’s mozzarella, pepper and caperberry starter has become a lunchtime staple that I’ve riffed on and recreated back at home many a time. While it has its own sense of place, the atmosphere and cooking are reminiscent of the best bits of Petersham Nurseries and The River Café – simple Italian-inspired cooking and a pretty indoor/outdoor setting. The team’s focus on ingredients shines through – even at breakfast – and there’s a lovely kitchen garden, which is tended to by gardener Rachel. It is open for guests to explore and even enjoy a drink among the beds in the evening sun when the sunnier months return. If you can, book an overnight stay so you can really soak up the sense of relaxation and peacefulness the restaurant inspires without breaking the spell when it’s time to depart.


There are four bedrooms in the farmhouse, and for a totally peaceful stay, the Gardener’s Cottage is set in the grounds away from the main house. All are very cosy, with low beamed ceilings, comfy high beds, olive green walls and interesting artwork. This autumn, Updown Farmhouse launched The Gate House, a self-contained two-bedroom cottage. Tucked away on the grounds, it's the most luxurious of Updown’s suites, consisting of two bedrooms, a master with a king-sized bed, and an additional room with bunk beds, perfect for those with small children. The interiors have been thoughtfully designed by the Oli and Ruth, with several natural and pastel shades complemented by a selection of brighter, bolder colours via paintings from Jose Campos of Studio Lenca in Margate. If you’re staying on a Sunday, when the restaurant is only open for lunch, guests are served a light supper in the farmhouse lounge – think cured meats, a cheese board and zingy salads to cut through the richness. There’s also an honesty bar, several fireplaces and a library – just the place to end your week in style, weekend papers in one hand and a cocktail in the other.


Trains to Deal from London take around 90 minutes from St Pancras and Charing Cross. From Deal station, it’s a 15-minute taxi journey. If you’re driving from London, it will take around two-and-a-half hours. If you live in the South-East, the team can also arrange a chauffeur service in one of their 4X4s.

Updown Farm, Updown Road, Deal, Kent, CT14 0EF; the restaurant is open on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and for lunch Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Visit UpdownFarmhouse.com

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at info@sheerluxe.com.

Fashion. Beauty. Culture. Life. Home
Delivered to your inbox, daily