The list— No. 8

The Compasses Inn

The Compasses Inn, in Crundale, Kent, is a real gem of a country pub. Hops hang from the ceiling’s wooden beams, enticing smells waft from the kitchen and regulars sit laughing and drinking at the bar.

Owners Rob and Donna Taylor pride themselves on their work ethic and, dining at the Compasses Inn in Kent, it becomes clear what a labour of love the place is.

They took on the pub several years ago and set about quietly transforming it into the place it is now: a hub for locals and destination diners alike.

Due to its somewhat remote location, the Compasses Inn remained one of the gastropub world’s best-kept secrets until it won the adoration of Guardian food critic Marina O’ Loughlin and was named as a national finalist for the title of Best Food Pub in 2016’s Great British Pub Awards.

It wasn’t easy getting things right, though, as Donna and Rob will attest. They had their struggles striking the balance between serving high-quality food and ensuring the locals didn’t feel out of place.

Menu highlights have included stout glazed ox cheek with crispy fried oysters and oyster emulsion; pastrami-cured halibut with pickled cucumber; and roast Crundale pigeon with confit potatoes, celeriac puree, pickled girolles and black summer truffles.

Desserts have included vanilla crème brûlée; chocolate orange mousse brownie with orange ice cream; and caramelised apple crumble tart with whipped cream cheese.

The pub is tied to Shepherd Neame, so expect to find a range of the popular brewery’s ales as well as a variety of affordable wines.

Rob is a big name in the gastropub world and has worked alongside many chefs on and off the list in his current guise.

He has been involved with Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park, a series of increasingly popular foodie festivals scattered across the country.

Throughout this process, there was also the question of staffing, which meant Rob spent most of his time – and still does to some extent – in the kitchen alone.

It is as rural as rural pubs can get and is very much off the beaten track with little or no mobile phone signal to be found. Yet, we think that adds to the charm of the place – why on earth would you want to look at a phone screen when you’ve got the beautiful Crundale countryside surrounding you?

They have now struck the perfect balance with all parties – locals and visiting diners – who all are seemingly happy.

There are, of course, plans to build on the success of the gastropub in the future, with the hope of rooms and an extended dining area.

Menu highlights have included guinea fowl terrine with crispy sweetcorn and soused red onion; pork belly with almandine potatoes, roast chicory and almond milk sauce; and halibut with cauliflower purée, confit potatoes and a brown shrimp and tarragon jus.

Desserts have included vanilla crème brûlée; chocolate terrine with malted milk sorbet; and pear and Colton Basset stilton tarte tatin.

The pub is tied to Shepherd Neame, so expect to find a range of the popular brewery’s ales as well as a variety of affordable wines.

The Compasses is priced extremely competitively given the standard of food on offer. Main courses cost on average between £13 and £19 while most starters cost less than £10.

Rob is a big name in the gastropub world and has worked alongside many chefs on and off the list in his current guise.

More recently, he has been involved with Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park, a series of increasingly popular foodie festivals scattered across the country.

We say:

“The Compasses Inn has the kind of authentic atmosphere cynically rolled-out imitations lust after but rarely achieve.

Rob Taylor, the man behind the Compasses’ food, produces dish after dish of utterly delicious food, day after day, all by himself. You won’t catch him whining, though. Taylor, an absolute professional, relishes the work. And, without getting too soppy, that’s what good cooking is all about.

I refuse to use the word ‘honest’ to describe Rob’s cooking, because it doesn’t really mean anything. All too often, it’s used to snipe at the more polarising, experimental cooks out there. After all, if one can cook honestly, it follows that one can cook dishonestly?

Still, Taylor’s cooking ticks a lot of the ‘honest’ boxes: he uses exclusively local produce and doesn’t mess around with fancy presentation. But there’s so much more to his food than that. He skilfully elevates every ingredient to its most sumptuous and, within the menu, are flourishes of ambitious flavours that wouldn’t look out of place at star-adorned eateries further afield.

The pub itself may be a little hard to find; traversing the narrow Kentish country lanes can be disorientating. But it’s a journey well worth making. Just be warned – Taylor’s a feeder. You will waddle home.”

The Compasses Inn / CHEF

Rob Taylor

Proud of our work ethic

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The Compasses Inn

Sole Street
Crundale
Canterbury
Kent
CT4 7ES

01227 700300

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