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Kent Restaurant of the Year Winner: The Small Holding

Named ‘Chef to Watch’ in The Good Food Guide 2020 and awarded a Green Michelin Star in 2021 and 2022, Will Devlin is chef owner of The Small Holding

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Named ‘Chef to Watch’ in The Good Food Guide 2020 and awarded a Green Michelin Star in 2021 and 2022, Will Devlin is chef owner of The Small Holding, a kitchen and farm on a country lane in the village of Kilndown on the Kent and East Sussex border. The Small Holding is part of the Acre Group including The Curlew in Bodiam and Birchwood in Flimwell and opened in April 2018.

The 38-cover restaurant is set in one acre of land, permitting a unique connection between farm and table. Growing, foraging and cooking the best ingredients is at the core of The Small Holding, with daily-changing menus, using home-reared and home-grown ingredients from the farm, which is less than 10ft from the kitchen.

The menu is defined by hyper-seasonal ingredients with a focus on the farm’s own produce but undefined by the number of courses or choice. There is no formal menu at The Small Holding; instead, guests are offered a multitaste dining experience featuring the best ingredients on that day from the farm and local suppliers. Vegetables and fruits from the farm, harvested within hours of guests arriving, home-made charcuterie and zero waste animal cookery from the farm’s own livestock is the main focus. The Small Holding works directly with growers, farmers and fishermen and the kitchen team forage in the nearby hedgerows and woodland.

Sustainable practices Everything is home-made at The Small Holding, or sourced hyper-locally, except fish and seafood, which comes from the South Coast or Scotland.

Ingredients are picked less than 10ft from the kitchen and when there’s a glut the kitchen preserves, pickles and jars. We farm with organic and regenerative principles and aim to be as zero waste as possible. The menu starts with homemade kombucha or broth and breads and sourdough and fresh butter, made on-site with the rich yellow cream from a local herd of pedigree Guernsey and Holstein Friesian cows in nearby Benenden. The menu falls into themes such as ‘The Farm’ with raw peas, elderflower and radishes; ‘The Glut’ with Kohlrabi, green apple and yarrow; ‘Preserves’ of fermented roots and smoked bacon broth, ‘Cured’ with home-made fennel salami and sourdough; ‘Fish’ with oyster, chive and pickle; crab, chamomile and fennel; lobster and tomato and ‘Sweet’ with gooseberry, honey and cream; carrot, cream cheese and hogweed; and strawberry, meadowsweet and basil.

“A group of folk growing amazing things, then pulling them out of the ground, sometimes knobbly and lumpy, then cooking and serving them. It’s perfectly imperfect and I wouldn’t change a thing.” Grace Dent, The Guardian.

“The menu reads like a list of all that is good in a British larder. Self sufficiency, careful sourcing, purity of intent and an absolute focus on flavour.

It’s easy to fall in love with The Small Holding for the warmth of the staff, its good intent and deft execution.” Tony Turnbull, The Times.

The Small Holding in Kilndown is an unforgettable rural delight. Its field-to-fork ethos is at the forefront of their magical creations. Its talented chefs and attentive front-of house staff are simply at the top of its game. They clearly enjoy interacting with their guests, sharing their knowledge and explaining where their exceptional Kentish products come from. The entire team are able to explain the provenance of the ingredients used.
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