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Abode, Canterbury

Location: 30 High Street, Canterbury. UK. Near the bridge over the Stour.

I'd already had a really good morning. The lecture went well, I finally saw St. Martin's church, and the twenty minutes of so sitting in the cathedral refreshed me. Next up: lunch at the restaurant in Canterbury which currently holds its highest Good Food Guide rating, the restaurant at the new Abode hotel.

My lack of reservation was no problem. Indeed, the front desk even called through to the restaurant - visible from where we stood - to confirm they had space for me. That level of attentive service was apparent from the start, offering to take my backpack as well as my coat and diligently checking on each dish after it was served. Diligence went astray twice, in the end. The first was because the waiter had the misfortune to ask how my appetizer was just after I'd taken my first, hasty bite of the freshly-delivered cheese soufflé - and burnt my mouth on it. I was in transitory pain and couldn't taste a thing. The second was when the kitchen accidentally delivered my dessert for a second time. (As it happened, another staff member was talking to me at the time and turned it away on my behalf. Oh well.) Still - I certainly wasn't neglected!

The restaurant has a really good lunch deal, part of what decided me in its favor that day, £12 for three courses. It's positioned as a grazing menu, light portions, with extra courses available for a consistent £4 each. I found the default three courses a very comfortable lunch. It offered three choices for each course, with meat, fish, and vegetarian options for the first two. Even the wine deal was competitive - sommelier-chosen course matches for the first two courses for a total of £6. (Note that it's more expensive for all other meals.)

Back to that soufflé - it was elegantly plated, a nicely-sized portion, with clear notes of cheese (once it had cooled down a little). The accompaniments added depth and interest, particularly the fruity richness of the smear of raisin-caper purée. The Australian Stickleback-blend wine was intriguing on its own, but became a rather duller drink once balanced out by the food. I had the same problem with the chablis brought to match the main; it wasn't an inept match, but the wine was stripped of its mineral personality. The buttery, crisp-skilled cod was sided with a tangle of dilled fennel strands and a pudding-like densely cooked down tomato. Each clear flavor layered nicely with the others.

My passionfruit bavarois was a wobbly little tower sitting on stripes of mango and vivid green coriander sauces, but the real fun was in the chocolate and coconut "crumble". Finely-chopped chocolate and coconut, each retaining its crunch, littered the plate, good for sticking to a bite of coconut ice cream or the more-sweet-than-tart gelled tower. The bar was, alas, out of fresh mint, my favorite form of infusion, so I settled for an oddball, almost grassy, mint and strawberry tea. Unlike the wines, it worked much better balancing out the sweetness of three varied petit-fours than it did on its own.

The room is whites, creams, and warm woods, with half maroon chairs (the top half). It's light and spacious, with white linened tables, and single red flower stems in vases to provide contrast. Tall windows and a wall-sized mirror behind the wide, curved niche of the bar add to the sense of space and light.

Good service, pleasant space, and fine food at extremely reasonable prices all make it worth going back for. The wine matches faltered, and a surfeit of good intentions provided minor complications along the way. All in all, however, a very pleasant experience.