Curious Brewery, Ashford: restaurant review
Try oysters in Kent wine, bitterballen spiked with Curious porter and fresh-as-they-come beers at this new Kent brewery, bar and restaurant
Looking for restaurants in Kent? Read our review of brewery, bar and restaurant, Curious Brewery, and check out more suggestions for eating in Kent here.
Curious Brewery in a nutshell
Curious Brewery is a multi-million pound, state-of-the-art brewery serving up fresh takes on pub grub in a cool, industrial setting.
Who’s cooking (and brewing)?
Chapel Down winery, one of England’s leading wine producers and where Curious began, is a mere 15 miles away in Tenterden and the Chapel Down Gin Works is a further 60 miles away at King’s Cross. Curious Brewery’s new location, right next to Ashford International railway station, has allowed them to brew their own beer for the first time, alongside a tap room, bar and restaurant.
With staff being pulled in from breweries such as BrewDog, Old Dairy and The Wild Beer Co, the company is championing creativity and innovation. This extends into the kitchen, where seasonality and provenance are of the utmost importance.
What’s the vibe like?
Being a brewery, the vibe is distinctly industrial but wide benches covered in faux fur throws and shelves with modern table lamps and indoor plants soften the hard lines.
The open-plan room is divided into sections, with high tables and stools for guests wanting to enjoy a drink and snacks, or long communal tables for those eating in the restaurant. A mezzanine level offers a quieter atmosphere with a view over the main room, while a big glass window at the far end allows guests to see the master brewers at work amongst the huge stainless steel tanks.
There are also benches outside the downstairs tap room and shop, where you can sit on a sunny day. The landscaping has been planted with barley and hops and eventually hedges will block the view and noise from the adjacent road.
What’s the food like at Curious Brewery?
Head chef Rob Richards, formerly of Fish on the Green in Bearsted, is taking a hyper local, low-waste approach to your typical pub menu. Yes, there’s a burger – but the beef comes from a local farm where the cows are fed on the spent grain from the brewery. Yes, there’s fish and chips – but the batter is made with Curious IPA. And amongst the classics-with-a-twist there’s a large and varied bar snacks menu that you could easily spend the afternoon working your way through.
Blistered padrón peppers come served with gentleman’s relish and is a mighty match for the Curious Apple, a cider reminiscent of the appley white wines of Spain. The salty freshness of ‘popcorn’ cockles and rock oysters with Chapel Down pinot noir dressing remind you that you’re just miles from the coast.
Comforting Kentish rarebit with Lord of the Hundreds cheese and apple chutney is the perfect match for a Curious Brew, while rich, gooey bitterballen are packed with slow-cooked beef with a background bittersweetness from Curious porter.
Vegans and vegetarians are equally well catered for with offerings like a heritage tomato salad, burrata with courgette ribbons and basil pesto or the tahini roasted cauliflower with quinoa and harissa.
And the drinks?
The beers change seasonally depending on what’s being brewed on site, so try the “tank beer” – there’s a pipe directly from the brewhouse to the bar. Although Curious mainly brews lager, worth trying are the Brut IPA and the Curious Apple. Helpfully, a few of the dishes have recommended drinks pairings listed on the menu.
The wine list is mostly Chapel Down white varieties but try the fruity Chapel Down pinot noir (available by the bottle only) if you want a great, easy-drinking red. Otherwise there are a few specially-selected European wines on offer, and three distilled options from Chapel Down: bacchus gin, chardonnay vodka and pinot noir gin.
Enjoy a brewery tour before your meal to get the full picture of everything Curious is doing. Then wander upstairs to taste the fruits of the team’s labour and decide what you’re going to buy in the shop on the way out.
Words by Pami Hoggatt
Photos by Ashley Gendek (interiors) and Pami Hoggatt (food)