I’ve been buying Chapel Down Vintage Reserve Brut for years – an effervescent English white that I think has the edge on many champagnes. It’s become a staple in my fridge for special occasions; likewise, lunch at Richard Phillips’ restaurant in the Chapel Down vineyard in Kent, where it is produced, has become a favourite event for family birthdays, anniversaries or just run-of-the-mill sunny weekend afternoons.
Extended trips to the countryside around Mendoza in Argentina and the Adelaide Hills have shown me that there are few more romantic places to dine than within the grounds of a vineyard, and Chapel Down takes as much advantage of its Kent countryside setting as any winery in the aforementioned locations. The dining room is smart, handsome and contemporary, while Richard Phillips’ kitchen turns out muscular and assured British food. Each dish on the menu – from garden pea soup to baked fillet of brill and slow-cooked belly of Landrace pork – is listed with two wine pairing suggestions by the glass: “first choice” and “adventurous choice”.
For a quintessential Garden of England lunch, I can think of few things to trump a visit to Chapel Down. I certainly can’t think of another destination dining room that allows you to round lunch off with a visit to a flock of very cuddly-looking llamas and the opportunity to pick up a case of Bacchus 2009 before heading home.
From around £30 per person for three courses with wine. Lunch: Mon-Sat, 12pm-3pm. Dinner: Thurs-Sat, 6.30pm-10.30pm. Sunday brunch: 12pm-4pm.