Great BBQ, No Bull… | The Bull Pit at The Bull Hotel, Bull Lane, Wrotham, Kent TN15 7RF
Any regular readers will know, we live in a part of Kent that means weekend dining choices are pretty non-existent (unless we go to Bluewater, our town doesn’t even have a Pizza Express (not that we want it to), Wimpy is as good as it gets around here. Occasionally we find a little gem, like Pizza 1889 (although our last visit there was tarred by shoddy service). Beggars can’t be choosers though, so no doubt we’ll still return through gritted teeth (and because we love their pizza).
When we heard that The Bull Hotel in Wrotham had gone and gotten themselves a Big Green Egg and launched a Smokehouse menu – ‘The first real smokehouse menu in Kent’, we were intrigued. Britain has gone crazy for smoked food as Adam Richman‘s new programmed BBQ Champ just goes to show.
We partly expected to be disappointed, possibly even embarrassed, after all, London is heaving with people doing BBQ food, and doing it really rather well. You just don’t tend to get the same kind of quality out in the sticks where we are. Further towards the coast, yes, but not in that vast area in between. If anyone knows different, we’d happily be put right,
We’ve been to The Bull a few times, a really sweet little 600-year-old coaching inn with a great outside terrracey area just across from the car park (it looks a hell of a lot better than it sounds). It has 2AA Rosette and Michelin listed chefs and isn’t really somewhere you’d expect to get down and dirty with barbecue food.
The new menu is enticing and you can tell they haven’t just cobbled this together quickly, they are serious about barbecue, it’s not just pulled pork brioche buns and ribs (although they do them also). There’s a section of Pub Classics with a BBQ twist too like ham, egg and chips, we’re holding out for them unleashing a smoked Sunday roast menu or even a Christmas dinner.
We were given a selection of their best bits from the menu to try, starting off with the Nibbles section. Loved The Bull Spicy beef banger (£2.50) – made locally and exclusively for them and the Chargrilled chorizo (£2.50) along with some Hand cut chips (£3) with a few pots of great homemade sauces, the BBQ mustard was ace.
Then it was onto the main event, a Pint of fruity chilli chicken wings (£7) – huge, sticky and tender, just as they should be. Smoked ox cheek on toast, horseradish and pickled mushrooms (£7.95) was a stand out dish, this was the moment we knew we were onto a winner. With charred edges but still incredibly tender inside, we could have eaten this all day. The obligatory Pulled pork (£9.50) didn’t disappoint either – smoked for 10 hours and served in a brioche bun with apple mustard sauce and chips.
Eight-hour smoked brisket in brioche with BBQ sauce, sauerkraut and chips (£9.50) was equally as good but Ade was still raving about the ox – I know what he’ll be ordering next time we visit.
I can usually take it or leave it when it comes to slaw, but I couldn’t get enough of the light and creamy Green chilli slaw (£3.50) with a perfect level of heat from the flecks of green chilli. The Red slaw (£3.50) was sweeter and more barbecuey. It felt that just as much thought had gone into these little additions as the more ‘important’ dishes.
Also from the Sides section of the menu was BBQ’d leeks with grated Comte (£3.50). A perfect balance of salt and smoke and another surprise veggie hit with Ade, or maybe he’ll eat any vegetable if it’s smothered in stringy cheese.
If you’re doing to do a London influenced Smokehouse menu then you’re going to need London beers… The landlord of The Bull drives up to London himself to bring back kegs from The Kernel Brewery and such. I really enjoyed my Wu Gang Chops The Tree from Pressure Drop with hints of banana. Plus there’s some great bottled beers on offer too from the likes of Beavertown, Redchurch and Camden Town breweries.
This is probably the only occasion that we didn’t even look at the cocktail menu. Drinking cocktails in a pub is just a bit weird, it just didn’t seem right. If wine’s your thing, there’s a 36-page concise menu to choose from, including Greek wines, they’re good apparently. Who knew?
Unfortunately there’s no barbecuey desserts but you can choose from the ‘normal’ A La Carte menu. Things got even better at this point, although my Roasted chilli cured pineapple, tarragon lime sorbet, grapefruit jasmine shot (£6.50) was a tad too spicy for a dessert, the idea and flavour combination was outstanding, not to mention the presentation.
Ade’s Summer fruit mille-feuille, mango puree, raspberry puree (£6.50) showed off the pastry chef’s skills. Again the presentation was beautiful – the layers of thin pastry, thick whipped cream and fruit were stunning. He would have licked the plate clean of the delicate blobs and swirls of purée had I not slapped him!
The quality of food at The Bull along with the service and passion of the staff and co-owner Martin Deadman, reminded us of The Ship, Wandsworth. They have a similar set up of both an informal BBQ menu and the more refined restaurant too. It just doesn’t have the riverside location and swarms of pretty young things though, you’re more likely to spot a couple of cycling enthusiasts stopping off for a snack.
It can take a lot to get us excited these days but finding a spot like this, that just so happens to be close to our house in Kent certainly has. I wanted to go back the next day. Now we actually have a really decent pub to go to at the weekend, not just somewhere tolerable when we’d rather save our money for something better.
Bull Lane, Wrotham, Kent TN15 7RF
Telephone: 01732 789800
Opening hours: The Bull Pit (until 28th September 2014)
Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat 12-9 and Sun 12-8 all day.
Book a table online
Nearest station: Borough Green & Wrotham (24 min walk or 5 minute taxi journey)
We ate as guests of The Bull Hotel, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.