WLC recommends: The Fordwich Arms

Douglas Blyde visits The Fordwich Arms in Kent and discovers how head sommelier Elliott Ashton-Konig caught the “wine bug”, and discovers the Michelin-starred pub’s unconventional take on an Old Fashioned, combining Hereford beef fat-infused Bourbon with salted maple syrup.

“Food that makes you want to move house,” wrote Grace Dent of the ivy-clad Fordwich Arms, a handsome pub located in England’s smallest town by population across the road from its 16th-century town hall. Overlooking the River Stour, the setting includes a large, wisteria-wrapped terrace which Elliott Ashton-Konig, who started here as a waiter before working his way up to head sommelier, likes to compare to the Riviera. It is, he says, the perfect setting for magnum pours of the local Simpsons rosé, although you could also opt for a more premium Kit’s Coty Chardonnay from Chapel Down, where Ashton-Konig’s cousin is
chief winemaker. During winter months, diners within can perch by no fewer than three open fires, including the inglenook in the front bar, which leads to impressive chimney stacks.

Ashton-Konig is mindful of the tightknit community who expect The Fordwich Arms to remain a “normal” pub regardless of its Michelin star, hence there are a minimum of two ales on draught while the wine list remains “accessible”, especially so the by-the-glass selection. “However, I have been able to add a number of my favourite producers,” says Ashton-Konig. These include: Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey; Sylvain Pataille; Bénédicte & Stéphane Tissot; Marcel Lapierre; Timo Mayer; Adi Badenhorst; Pax Mahle; Daniel Landi; and the wares of former nuclear engineer, Eric Texier.

Having caught the “wine bug” while tasting Jim Clendenen’s entry-level Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, Ashton-Konig developed a fascination for California, clearly evident in his confident below-retail-price listings including Napa Albariño (Ferdinand) and Sine Qua Non Shakti Ventura Grenache.

Apéritifs are nonetheless esoteric, with a recent addition being the botanically infused Chenin Blanc and Muscat “caperitif” (or “Cape apéritif”), referenced in The Savoy Cocktail Book and brought back into being by winemaker Adi Badenhorst. “The other drink which would give caperitif a run for its money is our house beef fat old fashioned,” notes Ashton-Konig. For this, Hereford
beef fat-infused Bourbon is mixed to order with salted maple syrup.

Ashton-Konig pairs the popular duck liver parfait served with beetroot, redcurrant and Sauternes jelly – by head chefs Daniel Smith and Kieran Bellerby – with sprightly Fritz Haag Spätlese from the Brauneberger Juffer vineyard in the Mosel. “A lovely start
to the tasting menu, the wine’s slight sweetness offsets the richness of the parfait and the naturally high acidity helps match the fresh crunch of beetroot, while cutting through the warm, savoury doughnuts on the side.” Newly acquired in the summer of 2021, Asthon-Konig also does the list at The Bridge Arms a few miles south.

Score: 94 Value: 94 Size: 93 Range: 94 Originality: 93 Experience: 96

To pick up your copy of the 2022 Wine List Confidential guide, click here.

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