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 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 three 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 quite recently, when 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.
Menu highlights include 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 puree, confit potatoes and a brown shrimp and tarragon jus.
Desserts include 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 – £19 whilst most starters cost less than £10.
Our judges 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 Taylor’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 skillfully 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.”