A visit to friends in Kent led to a quick review of the Good Food Guide to see what restaurants might be on the way.  Choices were quickly narrowed down to Chapter One and some further research online by my wife identified a B&B close by.

Table was duly booked for 7pm and most place we go at that sort of time you can walk in and almost be the only people in an empty cavernous room reluctant to say anything for fear of disturbing the silence.  This is not true in this restaurant where a good third if not more of the tables were already occupied and the rest steadly filled up over the next hour or so.  A pleasant room of decent size with the tables reasonably spaced, so plenty of ability to talk without being actively heard by your neighbours.

There is a tasting menu but this is not available on Friday or Saturday evenings so we were limited to the wide choice of the main dinner menu.  We had previously studied this online and so the choices did not come as a surprise – although the website chapteronerestaurant.co.uk does seem to suffer downtime intermittently.  Menu and wine list supplied we were left to study them – possibly for a touch too long.  One of the items is “Fish of the Day” – it would have been nice to have been told about this in detail as we were given the menus as it can influence the choice of wine.  The young waiter seemed keen to take our wine order so we had chosen a bottle of Argentian red Malbec (which I see is listed on the online wine list as 2012 but I have a memory that our bottle was 2013) before knowing the fish of the day – which my wife then chose for the main course.  If we had had the knowledge we might have decided on a white rather than a red.

Some very good focachia bread arrived along with a jug of water, plus a couple of glasses of white wine.  A chance to observe – a lot of serving staff moving around the room, largely male and most dressed in black, so looking quite smart against the white of the clothes and the room.

To open the eating we had chosen compressed pig’s head in my case and a quail kiev for the wife.  My “brawn” together with crispy pork jowl  was tasty and got the meal off to a good start.   Quail can be small, so a quail kiev and roasted leg is not going to be a large dish – but no real harm done.

For main course I had chosen the wild partridge with the warning that it may contain shot.  Nicely presented and completely lacking shot I was entirely happy.  Not so my wife who had chosen the wild sea bass with tiger prawns.  Pretty small tiger prawns and, seeing that it carried a £5 supplement, a small portion of wild sea bass.  Portion sizes obviously depend on the chef’s pricing parameters and there are two sides to this – I will come back to that in a moment.

As usual my choice at the end of any meal is cheese as I need to avoid sugar.  Although there is reference to Continental cheeses on the menu in fact a number of them were British – pleasing evidence that the last 20 years has seen improvements in both quality and types of British cheeses.  We chose some of the less common – and Continental – ones.  The Langres cheese and the Brillat-savarin with truffles were both outstanding.  My wife chose a dessert and again this was smaller than the average pudding; the tarte tatin seen in the distance was much larger.

She was now feeling hard done by in that her choice of all three courses were, we felt, on the small side, compared with what might be served elsewhere.

The bottle of Argentinian Malbec was very nice and went down very well!

The chef is clearly trying to balance cost and value for money.  The menu is £39.95 [at weekends] (is anyone taken in by that 5p these days?) and yet a number of items carry a supplement.  Many of us expect to pay extra for a decent steak against a fixed price – but if it applies to the Fish of the Day then I would expect a decent size portion.  A supplement for cheese still happens – historically justified because of wastage – but as a regular consumer of cheese I wonder if it remains fair.  This menu had a number of supplements and whilst none of us like rising prices, given how busy it is and the ability to turn tables (we departed in well under two hours) given the demand, I felt that the profit motive was a little stronger than should be the case.

GFG rating (2015 edition) is 6 – which is “Exemplary cooking skills, innovative ideas, impeccable ingredients and an element of excitement.”  I would say that it falls short on the “element of excitement” – unless driven by a wish to see small portions and also the innovation was not obvious.  Subsequently we visited Orwells which also enjoys a GFG rating of 6.  In my view Orwells was significantly better; it is Chapter One which is over-rated therefore.

The food was good and the service was generally good.  Nothing wrong with the meal – but nothing which would induce us to go out of our way to return.

Before I go just a word about the B&B – Clay Farm House in Bromley.  Nice room, good breakfast – what more do you want in B&B?  The owner even ran us to the restaurant in the evening and the restaurant quickly found a taxi for the return journey.