Well-trained, warm staff, a great atmosphere, and practically faultless food: if you’re looking for a pitch-perfect village pub, Zoë Perrett’s found it
The Barrow House’s situation might render it the ideal base for a walking break, but that is of course dependent on whether you can tear yourself away from the cosy bar post-check in.
A squashy-looking sofa, thoroughly lovely staff and the presence of an array of bar snacks that I can already see LB eyeing up with glee have us contemplating staying put and resting our not-yet weary-limbs as we work our way through a pile of board games.
But the countryside is calling – and what a pretty part of it. The village of Egerton is dominated by a vast church where we pick up a path and meander through blossoming apple orchards and around wheat fields until we’re greeted with a sprawling view of the Weald of Kent.
Back to the ranch and, when you’re suffering from post-country walk ravenousness and your appetite’s been piqued still further by a large G&T at the bar, you really, really hope the food is good.
The presenting evidence – chock-a-block venue; specials board that’s all ‘in-season this’ and ‘locally-reared that’; a tray of food that just whizzed past your nose both looking and smelling wonderful – is all well and good, but you never know.
But we have hope, and we’re already having a lovely time. The Barrow House has evidently made a big impact on Egerton; indeed, most of said village seems to be happily ensconced in the pub’s dining room – a bare-stone-and moody-blue space that’s as classy as me and as handsome as LB (maybe that’s the gin talking).
A menu peppered with charming rather than irksome puns promises solid gastropub grub, and the three-course meal which ensues positions that ‘grub’ at the very top end of its category.
Our first two dishes might be starters, but they amuse our bouches to no end. A triumvirate of fried duck egg, black pudding and sourdough crumbs is oh-so much more than the sum of its parts – the runny yolk cloaking the rich, earthy blood sausage; the crumbs providing audible textural contrast.
Whoever said ‘making a hash of it’ means doing something badly clearly never had the joyful thing that is a well-made corned beef version. This one is presented as a well-crusted puck that we fork first into the mustard vinaigrette beneath, then into our mouths.
‘Specials’ aren’t always that, but here both our main course choices deserve their label. Pork belly is by turns soft and juicy, fatty and crisp; accompanied by mustard mash, a velvet-textured cider and apple sauce, and a sticky, laquer-y red wine reduction.
There’s a skilled saucer-er in the kitchen, and I wouldn’t mind being their apprentice. The Bearnaise and peppercorn examples that come with my wild-garlic-buttered sirloin steak are exemplary; into their depths are dunked fat chips, watercress, grilled mushrooms, tomatoes, and anything else with any absorbing power.
I predicted LB would be torn between the banana fritters (whose presence catalyse paroxysms of joy) and Viennetta parfait, and torn he is. But the former proves a wise choice; laced with sesame seeds, drizzled with a salted caramel that lives up to its adjective. My chocolate fondant tart is on the delectably bitter side of sweet, its blood orange sauce calling to mind Jaffa Cakes and summing up this lovely pub’s playful approach to great food.
And so to bed. The Barrow House’s three rooms – Bowl, Bell and Disc – are gorgeous in their simplicity; done up in tasteful Farrow & Ball tones, with restored furnishings that are quirky enough to command interest but sufficiently muted to not make the space feel noisy.
The fact that this room is where LB at long last gets to occupy the side of the bed we both covet is testament to the supreme, marshmallow-like comfort offered by The Barrow House’s super-kings – I’m so snug I can sleep in spite of my discombobulation.
A good night’s kip commands a substantial breakfast, and happily a Full English proves as exemplary as dinner. House-made muesli feels indulgent rather than worthy, and comes with a cherry compote that enchants LB so much he begs the staff to start selling it by the jar.
We’d happily hole up here for another night, week, or just move right in. It can take a lifetime to find your own perfect home-from-home hideaway. In The Barrow House, we’ve found ours.
Make it happen
Where: The Street, Egerton, Kent TN27 9DJ
Find out more: To visit the website, click here