Armed with an impressive CV (London's Dorchester under Anton Mosimann, Boulestin, Le Caprice, the Ivy, the Greenhouse and Scott's restaurants), Adrian Martin decided to head for the commuter belt to open his first restaurant venture just before Christmas last year.
Keen to return to his home county of Kent, he settled upon the picture-postcard village of Southborough, a stone's throw from Tunbridge Wells, where he was hoping to entice the area's discerning residents. A 36-seat restaurant, Right on the Green, had been operating on the premises for six years, and Martin, after searching for a suitable property on the internet, "stumbled upon the site and simply fell in love with it".
Right on the Green - Martin decided to retain the restaurant's name - adjoins a property built in the 1800s, but was built as an extension in the 1930s. While the restaurant can't lay claim to any Victorian heritage, the decor does ooze that period's characteristics, with light pouring in through large, arch-shaped windows. Inside, bright white walls meet mint-green carpet, creating a fresh but sophisticated feel for diners.
The kitchen, unusually, is situated upstairs, across the landing from the restaurant's 14-seat private-dining room. The Georgian Room is frequently hired for private parties, but Martin also has the bonus of using it as an overspill for the restaurant's dining room on busy Friday and Saturday nights.
Martin is aided by just one chef in the kitchen, Matt Bayliss, while Albanian restaurant manager Alesio Morinaj, who must descend to the dining room via a steep, winding staircase, has a small team of part-time waiting staff.
Under its previous management the restaurant was open for dinner only, but Martin is slowly and steadily building up lunchtime trade. Sunday lunch, in particular, is really taking off. He operates a set lunch menu and an … la carte menu, both of which change monthly and are available at lunchtime, while only the … la carte is available at night.
Set lunch (£12.50 for two courses, £14.50 for three) might include truffled Jerusalem artichoke soup, Cos lettuce and dolcelatte salad, main courses of smoked haddock fishcakes with spinach and lemon butter sauce, and roast suckling pig and Bramley apple compote with oatmeal crust, and desserts such as warm apple and blackberry crumble with clotted cream, and chocolate and walnut tart with chocolate malt ice-cream.
Martin's fishcakes are something of a signature dish. "I've been cooking them since I was at Scott's of Mayfair and they've always been a good seller, so I can't envisage taking them off the menu," he says. Such is the popularity of the dish, it had a starring role in Hello magazine, when comedian Harry Hill named Martin (while at Scott's) as his favourite London chef. The fishcake recipe was also featured in the article.
When it comes to desserts, Martin says he likes to offer customers "yummy puddings". Current winter warmers include pecan and caramel ice-cream with hot fudge sauce (£5.50 on the … la carte) and chocolate sponge pudding souffl‚ (£6.50).
The wine is looked after by Martin and Morinaj who work hand-in-hand with wine consultants Anthony Byrne and locally based Jacqueline Franklin. "We hold tastings with each menu change, which is really educational for the team," says Martin. "I'd say my wine knowledge is reasonable, but it's definitely grown since I've taken on my own business. It's been great fun learning."
Right on the Green doesn't offer any culinary pyrotechnics, but the cooking is solid and technically faultless. It's just the kind of restaurant we all crave for our neighbourhoods.
Right on the Green 15a Church Road
Tel: 01892 513161
What's on the menu
- Chicken liver parfait, grape compote and brioche, £6
- Deep-fried lamb sweetbreads, anchovy butter, £6
- Warm red onion and Weald Way goats' cheese tart, £6.50
- Pan-fried monkfish, creamed leeks and pancetta, £18
- Girolle lasagne with Taleggio cheese sauce, £16.50
- Fillet of beef, shallot sauce, baked vine tomatoes, £18.50
- Apple charlotte with spiced autumn fruit, £6
- Lemon créme brûlée with lemon sponge cake, £5.50
- Warm honeyed fig tart with Greek yogurt, £6
- Buttered spinach £2.50, fat chips £2, roast root vegetables £2.50