July 10th, 2006

Fishy Circumstances

Comparative Dorm Rooms

After two nights at the University of Kent Canterbury, it is practically decadent to stay in halls at the Leeds suburban campus where the annual International Medieval Congress is held. It goes beyond the rooms here being renovated within memory. There was no room to move in the shower without accidentally adjusting the water. The walls were no defense against sound. The worst of the logistics were entirely the fault of the University of Kent's hospitality services, which thought it a good idea to interleave historians at an academic conference with English camp teenagers on their last program night, complete with a disco. None of this is the fault of the conference organizing committee, but it did give me the impression that Kent is not as practiced in hosting conferences as Leeds. Of course, relatively recent renovations help as well.

Here in the (relative) lap of luxury, the weather is mild and clear, the computer room has air conditioning again (unlike last year), and thanks to changes in security settings somewhere in the system, I can't access email.

I hadn't meant to watch the World Cup Final, but there were screens in the restaurant, and eventually all remaining tables gave up the pretence of ignoring them to watch the last minutes and then penalties as Italy won.

The Goods Shed

Location: Next door to Canterbury West train station

The Goods Shed is a local farmer's market, open six days a week for a generous number of hours. It offers vegetables, herbs, meats, local ciders and apple juices, charcuterie, imported French and Spanish goodies, and in-house produced pastries, sandwiches, tarts, and salads. When I went back for a second time on Sunday, I had the best sausage roll of my life from the stand just inside the doorway, thrown in as a freebie with my lunch for the train: sweet, tender pastry coddled quality, lightly seasoned meat.

Good as that is, that's not all the Goods Shed is. It's also a restaurant. The market and restaurant were built together in a symbiotic relationship where 95 percent of the restaurant's produce comes from the farmer's market, and its support helps draw in the crowds, and keep all the small businesses going. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner with an ever-changing menu written up on the chalk board.

I started with a revelatory pear-mint-lime juice which showed me what non-pulpy pear juice can do well. (Plus it got me wondering how many other dishes can be made only from ingredients which all have the same number of letters in their names.) The gazpacho was tart and sweet and smooth, redolent of summer freshness. The rabbit burger was competent, sided with mustard and tomato relish, tender, buttery potatoes and a mixed veg grill which successfully included whole spring onions. Chocolate mousse was appealing, fluffy light, dark but not too strong, a gentle finish.

Service was leisurely and friendly which suited my needs just fine. The restaurant is on a raised platform overlooking the spectacle of the market, flowers and salves, eco-friendly cleaners, recreation historic railway engine, restored old beams supporting what looked like a more recently updated ceiling.