The Riverside at Lamberhurst, which opened last Thursday, is a new venture for proprietors Chris Larman and Jana Volkova, who are putting an emphasis on quality ingredients to create appetising dishes. We find out about their love of all things local and what diners can expect.
Tell us how you got involved in the restaurant
We were living and working in London, but decided to move to the country and looked at various restaurants in various areas. We came across this place and fell in love with the area and the idea of being part of this community, so made an offer to take it on. When we came here, we realised quite quickly that, with the supply chain of local food on offer, we could really work with those ingredients to create amazing dishes. It’s fresh produce that’s as local as possible.
Why set up in Lamberhurst?
Lamberhurst is a very tight-knit community that sticks together. Having been here for a few weeks now, we’ve realised it’s probably one of the friendliest places we’ve ever been and there’s a real community feel. Coming to Kent from London, we really saw a market for what we want to do and what works. It’s very affluent and a lot of the people here have high expectations.
The place was previously an Italian called La Dolce Vita – why the change in direction?
We quickly realised that people round here want fresh farm produce. A lot of the people who come here are farmers, local people and landowners, so they want to support local more. We decided to rebrand and create something different, calling ourselves The Riverside at Lamberhurst.
What can diners expect from the new concept?
Our chef was executive chef at the Tate Modern for a number of years. He was quite frustrated with the concept and saw potential to really expand what we did here, so we’ve since broadened our supply chain, looked at a lot more local people, tasted the meat and produce and put a few dishes together to see whether they work. The beauty of this restaurant is that everything’s made fresh, which really makes a difference.
Where does the produce come from?
The lamb comes from Sissinghurst Castle and is proving quite good, as are some seasonal things we have like quinces and Sussex cattle. Fish and seafood is in abundance at the moment and there are great things coming in from Hastings, like plaice, sole and various different fish. Most of the produce from our veg supplier either comes from his own farms, which are local, or his friends’ farms, so very little is brought in from abroad and that’s working really well.
Is there a big demand for locally sourced ingredients around here?
When you speak to the farmers, it’s criminal that almost 80 per cent of their produce is sent abroad. We import a huge quantity of our produce from European countries, when it’s right here in the heart of Kent. When you’re in Kent, it’s very easy to talk to people directly and get them on your side because they’re local.
Will you be offering anything unique or different for your customers?
We have a pianist on Saturday nights and are going to continue that. We’ve got an Abba night, a Sinatra night and an opera night, in November and in December. We have a £15 for two courses menu at lunchtimes and are going to keep that going to encourage people to come in during the week.
Where would you like to see the restaurant go in future?
We want to be part of the community and bring back the locals. We want the locals to feel this is a place where they can just come and have a good meal, but don’t want to be a restaurant that’s just about getting bums on seats; once we’ve reached a certain amount, we’d rather focus on those people and give them the best service.
THE RIVERSIDE AT LAMBERHURST
School Hill, Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8DQ
01892 890 277 | www.ladolcevita.uk.com