Locksbottom, close to the better knownOrpington, places Chapter One Restaurant comfortably within the M25 and the journey time from London was 40 minutes, about the same time it might take to get from the City to the West End. It does means however that rather than being a bucolic ideal, it is in fact set back from a rather busy road, and firmly in Greater London.
So far so good, but why choose Chapter One as my dining venue anyway? Because a trusted friend tells me I should and Andrew McLeish (Chez Nico, The Ritz), Head Chef at Chapter One since 2000, has earned the venue a Michelin Star and 4 AA rosettes (both The Square and Helene Darroze have four rosettes but I note with some surprise that Le Gavroche has only three). That also makes Chapter One the most decorated restaurant in Kent. On the face of it then, it promises a seriously high standard of cooking.
While the cooking might be the equal of London's West End, the prices however are not. For the lunch service, both a la carte starters and desserts priced at just £5 and mains £16 despite serving up temptations like Josper Roast Sika Venison (dinner menu £37.50). And if that's not good enough value for you already, the menu du jour with three choices for each of the three courses is just £19.95.
Service throughout the meal is professional but friendly and staff, rather than being automatons, interact to exactly the right level with the guests and smile. Personally, I think this is a better approach than the rigid unsmiling formality seen at some top restaurants and overall it made for a more enjoyable experience.
As for the food, both Michelin and AA rate it as highly as what Mayfair offers and I concur, it was an excellent meal throughout, no weak dishes, and with ingredients that are both local and seasonal, something which was a pleasant surprise - my recent journey around the UK had suggested that even in top rated restaurants, it's not always the case.
Given that it is so close, it took us a long time to discover Kent's most decorated restaurant. Kent is in every way a fabulous county, and maybe Chapter One is its best kept secret of all.
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