The Riverside in Lamberhurst is emerging as one of the area’s most popular restaurants. Eileen Leahy chats to its owner Chris Larman about his passion for creating quality food using locally sourced ingredients and providing his guests with the perfect dining ambience
What could be better than sitting on a sun soaked terrace savouring some exotic culinary delights as ducks bob happily by on a gently flowing river?
This idyllic scenario is usually reserved for holidays in the sun but readers of the Times will be pleased to learn they can actually enjoy this experience – weather permitting obviously – just a few miles from their doorstep.
The Riverside in Lamberhurst may have only been open for eight months but it is already gaining a reputation as a fabulous dining destination thanks to its picturesque location, quality cuisine and excellent service.
Run by business entrepreneur Chris Larman and his partner Jana Volkova, who has worked for some of the capital’s top eateries, The Riverside has been totally transformed from its most recent guise as an Italian to a fine dining restaurant that’s garnering five star reviews on Trip Advisor and seeing a trail of foodies traipse to the pretty village of Lamberhurst in order to indulge in treats from its impressive menu.
Although Chris isn’t a trained chef he has made his lifelong dream of running his own establishment a reality.
“My passion’s always been food and it’s been an aspiration of mine to have a restaurant for as long as I can remember. When we were looking to move to Kent, we came to Lamberhurst and really liked it. We saw La Dolce Vita was up for sale and we just thought ‘Why not?’”
The first thing the couple did was to get on board with the local suppliers and farmers.
“We quickly realised we wanted to make the most of all the amazing produce we have around us,” says Chris.
“It would be a real shame not to take advantage of the abundance that is on our doorstep. We’ve been sourcing as much as we can like our pork and cheese from the area. We’re not focused on particular trends. We gravitate more towards using fine ingredients that are presented in an artistic way.”
Chris’s culinary vision is brought to life by his head chef Mihai who works with two sous chefs to devise a menu that boasts eclectic yet beautifully presented offerings such as tea smoked duck breast, seared sea bream with lime risotto cake and ham hock ballotine.
“Mihai is very passionate and puts his heart into everything,” Chris comments. “I love to cook too so together we have created a very nice menu which we change regularly. We’re forever developing and growing with the seasons.”
And it’s not just the presentation of the dishes that will impress diners. The restaurant itself has had an elegant makeover – think stripped back wooden floors, exposed beams, period paintings and crisp white linen cloths and gleaming silver cutlery on every table.
It’s clearly a combination that has worked as plenty of residents and satisfied customers from further afield are coming back to the 16th century establishment on a regular basis.
“People have been very happy with what we’ve done. We have some clients who dine here on a weekly basis as they have certain favourite dishes such as our tiger prawns and Sussex Cross filet steak. The restaurant’s beautiful location is another big draw and something that is quite unique to us.” The Riverside’s excellent service has also been a vital factor of its success. There are five people in charge of looking after the front of house alone.
“We’re very hot on all that,” reveals Chris. “We do pay a lot of attention to our customers as we want them to enjoy a first class experience.” But it’s not all about dining à la carte. Chris and his team have recently started offering classic roasts too which he says are ‘going down a storm.’
“The new Sunday menu offers sirloin of beef, huge homemade Yorkshire puddings, tangy apple sauce made on the premises and the crispiest of crackling to go with our pork.”
So as the weather turns more clement and the days stretch out just that little bit longer it would seem that The Riverside is the perfect place to be.