Traditional and European cooking in an old timbered inn
At a glance
AA Pick of the Pubs
Open all year
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); classic paella; 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 suet steak and kidney pudding with swede and carrot mash; ginger chicken with pickled ginger and cream sauce and tempura courgettes; sautéed calves’ liver with bacon, crispy onion rings and mash; and mixed grill with rump steak, lamb chop, sausage, pork steak, gammon, grilled tomatoes and fries. A blackboard displays daily specials. Some of the desserts reveal a continental influence: strawberry and kiwi pavlova stack; syrup sponge and vanilla custard; and crème brûlée. Or choose a selection of British cheeses served with biscuits, grapes and chutney.