April marked our first birthday, so we decided to celebrate the only way we know how – with some mouth-watering modern British dishes and wines to match! But this wasn’t just any tasting menu, as we invited a selection of our most loyal diners to get back to nature and eat local by retrying the best of Kent with a round-up of real food from year one at The Small Holding.

On the Friday of our anniversary weekend, diehard visitors enjoyed a one-off 10-course meal with wine pairings. These 26 hungry guests savoured some of our seasonal favourites to date, as we reflected on all things field-to-fork and how far we’ve come, winning Chef of the Year at the Kent Life Food and Drink Awards, and Restaurant of the Year at Produced in Kent’s Taste of Kent Awards.

And with a more relaxed party vibe on the Sunday, we got to commemorate the occasion with our nearest and dearest, and welcome lots of new faces to see in the next 12 months and beyond with us…

BBQ & first birthday celebrations at The Small Holding

Guests were treated to live music and delicious food over the course of our birthday weekend

Our menu’s greatest hits
From beetroot and goat’s cheese, to miso cod, leek and burnt butter – via Tenterden potato, cottage cheese and chives – the Friday’s 10 courses were introduced by chef Will Devlin and sommelier Sally Murphy, who enthralled guests with the inspirations behind each organic, locally-sourced plate and accompanying wine pairing. Other highlights included egg, honey and caviar, beef, onion and gherkin, and apple, cobnut and pine, which all went down an absolute treat!

Guests of honour
Of course, we owe much of our success to our beloved customers, many of whom have been supporting us from the very beginning. It was an honour to host so many familiar faces over the weekend, and hear their stories of the time they’ve spent and enjoyed at The Small Holding to date.

“We first came here fairly early on, in May last year, not long after the restaurant opened, and have been coming a lot ever since,” says nearby resident Julie, who dined with partner Andy. “The food is just fabulous, and the staff make us feel so welcome, like members of the family. It’s been a year of fantastic memories for us, and a lot of them have been here. It’s the perfect local restaurant.”

Agrees Andy: “We’ve been quite a few times for some fabulous evenings, all of which have been memorable, and we’ve never had a bad meal or dish. We brought my mum for the first time recently, and she absolutely loved it, saying, ‘Well, that’s something I haven’t done before!’. She said it was one of the nicest meals she’d ever had – and she’s 86, so has had a few meals!”

A thank you to our suppliers
Alongside the sustainability of our farm and homegrown ingredients, the weekend presented an opportunity to showcase the producers who keep our Kilndown restaurant stocked up. Wineries like Chapel Down in Tenterden, Squerryes in Westerham and Hidden Spring Vineyard in Horam all made an appearance on the menu, as did farms including Lower Ladysden in Goudhurst and Morghew Park Estate in Tenterden. We wouldn’t be where we are without them!

Firing up the barbie
On the Sunday, we opened our doors once again for a more casual celebration. With a barbecue on our outdoor terrace, we welcomed locals and visitors alike to grab a bite to eat and take advantage of some delicious dishes on our barbie, accompanied by live music from Amber Titchener, James McMaster and Lewis Ross. It was an unforgettable afternoon of friends, family and food to cherish with our loved ones.

Down to the team
A year later, we’re incredibly proud of the Small Holding staff. Everyone brings something different to the table to ensure each service is the best it can be, with sommelier Sally and front of house team Becca and Craig making the customer experience one to remember.

In the kitchen, chefs Harry, Duncan, Marcus, Chay, Mo, Phoebe and Anna always put their heart and soul into every dish, while farmer Marc ensures that our crops and animals are well-tended. It’s hardly surprising that they’ve all come to hold such a special place in our customers’ hearts.

“We’ve got to know the team here quite well since they opened,” explain long-time patrons Dave and Laura. “Will’s a great chef, and Matt’s excellent with front of house. We really like what they’re doing here, because we know exactly where the food comes from. We can also highly recommend their rhubarb Bellini – it’s excellent!”

“We love the team and think they’re fabulous,” add regulars Bob and Mary. “They’re so warm and lovely, and the minute we walked in here, it was such a nice place to be. The food is amazing, and Will is a very talented chef. It’s so nice to find a place that’s so good, with service that’s so warm and friendly.”

Thank you to all our customers, staff and suppliers for your overwhelming support in our first year; it’s been an absolute pleasure and we’ve loved every minute so far. But you ain’t seen nothing yet, as there’s so much more to come from our Kent restaurant – watch this space, and don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter below for regular updates, offers and events, or book your next table here!

© WILL AND MATT DEVLIN