High Street, GOUDHURST, Cranbrook, TN17 1AL
From The Star & Eagle's lofty position in this Wealden hill village, some of the orchards and hop fields that originally earned Kent the sobriquet 'Garden of England' stretch out below. The parish church next door is higher than the Star, but only just. The rambling inn dates from the 14th century, when surviving vaulted stonework suggests it may have been a monastery. Four centuries later the infamous Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers and thieves drank and plotted here, until angry villagers finally sent them packing. Always on offer in the bar are Harvey's Sussex from its brewery in Lewes, guest ales, Biddenden cider and 14 wines by the glass. Suitably armed, as it were, with a full glass, choose between fine traditional and European dishes prepared by head chef Scott Smith and team in the big-beamed, split-level restaurant. An Iberian influence evident in tapas, such as gambas al ajillo (king prawns sautéed in garlic, chillies and white wine); hot Spanish chorizo, avocado and lime on toast; and house speciality of Rioja-braised shoulder of lamb, owes much to owners Enrique and Karin Martinez. But if you prefer to stay on home soil, mains include Cumberland sausage, sage, chive mash and onion gravy; ginger chicken with white wine cream sauce, rice and wilted spinach; sautéed calves' liver with bacon, crispy onions, chive mash, butter, cream and cracked black pepper; and Scottish salmon en croûte with creamy mushroom sauce and herb-roast potatoes. A blackboard displays daily specials. Some of the desserts reveal a continental influence: tiramisù sundae; warm Belgian chocolate pudding; and crème brûlée. Or choose a selection of Kentish cheeses served with biscuits, grapes and chutney.