Chef and restaurateur Mark Sargeant is to open a new Spanish-influenced restaurant with rooms Wye, Kent, next month.
Sargeant and his business partner Josh De Haan, who together also run Rocksalt and Smokehouse in Folkestone, and the Duke William pub in Ickham, Kent, have bought the freehold to the Grade-II-listed Wife of Bath in the village, and will keep its name.
The restaurant is currently undergoing a refurbishment and will re-open in its new guise on 1 December with a tapas bar featuring an oak bar top and space for 10 seats and another 10 standing, a 60-cover restaurant, and a private dining room with space for 12 upstairs, in addition to its six rooms.
Explaining his decision to offer a menu influenced by Spanish cuisine, Sargeant said: "I am not going up against the likes of Barrafina or Pizarro or any of those guys who are actually Spanish, but we are using northern Spanish influences and flavours and putting them towards local produce.
"I am bored of doing the same thing so I want to do something that is a little bit different that enables me to do some more research.
"The restaurant has been highly regarded for a very long time and at one time had a reputation as one of the top restaurants in Kent for fine dining but was very much of the ilk of the white tablecloth. I did think about changing the name but we decided there was a lot of history in it so we decided to keep it."
Typical dishes include starters such as grilled red prawns, aioli and gem wedge, or butter lettuce, Ortiz anchovy and garlic croutons, while main courses on offer range from pot-roasted chicken, chorizo and cider, to braised local rabbit, chestnuts and grilled hispi cabbage, and Mersham partridge with white bean stew.
Head chef of the restaurant will be Adam Ashley, previously a junior sous chef at Rocksalt, who prior to that worked at Brown's hotel in London under Simon Oakley, who is now Sargeant's executive chef.
Sargeant added that he hoped his restaurant's tapas bar, which will serve a range of wines, sherries, and Spanish beer brand Mahou, would draw in a group of local regulars: "What I really wanted for the bar was to back to early bistros and brasseries of the ‘80s where we weren't really used to lots of restaurants around and there would be one really good place that was local in a town and it always smelled of garlic and onions and you would go in there and all the locals would be in there," he added.
He has recently worked to produce a series of videos working alongside other chefs to pair Carlsberg-owned Mahou with Spanish dishes and he said that it was partly this work that prompted him to start thinking about the idea of a Spanish-influenced restaurant.
The Kent-born chef, who also operates Plum + Spilt Milk, the 90-seat, first-floor restaurant at the Great Northern Hotel in King's Cross, as well as working with American Airlines and Brakes, opened his first solo restaurant venture Rocksalt in Folkestone five years ago.
He won Young Chef of the Year in 1996 and in 1997 started to work at Aubergine for Gordon Ramsay. He was sous chef at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay for four years during which time it won three Michelin stars, and became head chef of Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's in 2001 where he gained a Michelin star. During his seven-year tenure in the role he also assisted in the openings of Ramsay's pubs the Narrow, the Warrington and the Devonshire, and also had a hand in the opening of Foxtrot Oscar.
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