Restaurant Review: The Wife of Bath

In Kent, Good Things’ editor Zoë Perrett enjoys a gin-soaked Spanish lunch at Mark Sargeant’s Wife of Bath.

We step off the train into the sunshine, greeted by screeching seagulls. A short stroll up the road ensues, then we’re nibbling fat green olives, each of us cradling a big balloon glass filled with ice-cold gin and tonic. We’re definitely not in London anymore.

But nor are we lunching in some Spanish town. No – we’re in a quaint Kentish village, scarcely an hour from Kings Cross. Why? Because Wye is home to The Wife of Bath, where Mark Sargeant has teamed up with Gin Mare to create a host of ginfused dishes; and where we’re going to be the very first to try them.

Mark Sargeant

Image courtesy of Tom Bowles

The restaurant-with-rooms is Mark’s pride and joy, and it’s a venue of which he should be justly proud. Whilst transforming The Wife of Bath late last year, the chef-turned-restaurateur tells me that he and business partner Josh were ‘like an old married couple’ – picking textiles; bickering over artwork; wondering whether the curious locals would actually populate the dining room once they opened the doors.

They needn’t have worried about the latter. The Wife of Bath does a brisk trade – Wye’s residents gathering around the bar for drinks and tapas of a weekend; coming in to feast on stunning Galician steaks on a Monday night; and shortly (providing Mark finds the right equipment) taking tipples from a tableside vermouth trolley – a concept I helpfully suggest should be titled ‘Get Trollied’.

And it’s not just a local place for local people. As word spreads, The Wife of Bath is increasingly becoming a destination restaurant; its five beautifully-designed rooms serving both as an extra reason to visit and an excuse for a lazy lunch to segue into a well-lubricated dinner, because there’s no need to leave.

Starters and cocktails

Image courtesy of Tom Bowles

We’re not staying the night, but as I run my eye over our menu and realise it’s a five-courser paired with the same number of cocktails, I have an inkling that the temptation to slope off for a catnap might become a prospect that’s very alluring indeed.

But first, food. Or, rather, drink. Mixologist Stuart Bale introduces the contents of a round of tomato vine-garnished martini glasses: a surprisingly-triumphant, super-savoury blend of Gin Mare, tomato cordial, mushroom stock, miso paste and malic acid. A pair of tapas eases us in – a heritage tomato salad whose croutons soak up copious quantities of gin-spiked dressing a treat, and tiny clams dressed with crisp Serrano ham, basil and rosemary.

Melon and ham

Image courtesy of Tom Bowles

That ham makes another appearance in the next dish – this time as silken slices that are nestled against wedges of sweet, gin-marinated canteloupe; the melon compressed to imbue it with an intriguing, dense, almost jelly-like quality. A dash of salt lends a sprinkle of magic to the tall, cooling combo of cucumber, melon, gin and Cava to which the course is matched.

Tomato salad

Image courtesy of Tom Bowles

Next, we make the acquaintance of tiny glass of an elixir whose ingredients Stuart reveals as Gin Mare, yellow chartreuse and Seville orange. It’s a bracing, palate-cleansing concoction; a brisk number with which to precede hunks of roasted hake with asparagus, orange, radish, and the most beautiful butter sauce I’ve eaten in perhaps my entire life. Instead of the typical dry white wine, it makes wildly successful use of Gin Mare. Bread is requested; not a drop is left.

Roasted hake with butter sauce

Image courtesy of Tom Bowles

I’d happily sail on over to the next life on a river of that sauce (and I suspect that, were I to indulge in the quantities I’d like to, death by butter would surely come soon), but it’s time for something sweeter. Stuart’s Ramos Fizz-inspired cocktail is like a herb-accented liquid lemon meringue pie, playing its part in a citrus double act alongside a lime-and-Gin-Mare cheesecake whose proportions are daunting but, I find, entirely conquerable.

Having clearly had his fill of clear spirits, Mark cracks open a bottle of sherry cask-aged brandy. A slice of olive oil and salt dressed chocolate tart appears, as do dishes of creme Catalan fudge, tiny churros, and coffee.

It’s not quite evening, but it’s late enough to begin entertaining notions of moving on to tapas, and then one of those aged steaks and all its associated trimmings. Mark lets slip that there’s an empty room upstairs. Summoning all our resolve, we manage to take our leave. But not until 9 o’clock. And not until after a few – too few – tapas.

Details: A selection of Gin Mare-infused dishes and cocktails are currently on the specials menu and will be available until the end of June.
Where: The Wife of Bath, 4 Upper Bridge Street, Wye, Kent TN25 5AF. Find out more here.

All images courtesy of (c) Tom Bowles (@tomsdinners). To view more, click here.

Share Button

About The Author

Web Editor

Web Editor for Good Things