Is there anything more inviting than a pretty pub garden on a summer's day? This was my first thought as we parked up at the Duke of Wellington in Ryarsh. From the car park, you can see not only its unusual pétanque court but its well-tended gardens and patio area. On a hot day in June, it was very appealing indeed.

The Duke of Wellington proudly celebrated its 500th anniversary last year and for a pub that's been open for business since Henry VIII was on the throne, it's looking great. Inside, the wealth of character, low ceilings, beams and GTON fireplaces make it a cosy village pub. It's easy to imagine Sunday roasts next to the roaring fire in the winter months, but on a sunny day we jumped at the opportunity to eat outdoors.

The welcome we received from owner Helen Sutton made us feel at home immediately, and we settled ourselves at a table on the patio. Covered by a pergola and surrounded by plant pots that had been freshly planted for the season, there was almost a Mediterranean feel to it.

As locals arrived for their lunch around us it became obvious that this pub is the centre of village life. Our charming waitress told us she had a full-time job elsewhere but that she still worked at the pub on her days off because she loved it so much.

The menu was large, with light bites and tapas, as well as a specials board. Having considered starters including baked camembert and stuffed field mushrooms, my lunch partner and I decided to share a crayfish salad. A twist on a classic prawn cocktail, the crayfish tails were served in Marie Rose sauce on a bed of salad leaves, chopped sweet peppers and cucumber. It was refreshing and we agreed we could have eaten the dish again for our main course.

Next, I chose the fish pie, with my partner picking the pork and leek sausages. My fish pie, served with vegetables, was a mix of cod, smoked haddock, salmon and boiled egg, in a white wine sauce and generously topped with mashed potato and cheese. Simple and tasty, the pie was well cooked and filling. My partner's pork and leek sausages were served on a wholegrain mustard mash with puy lentils and gravy. A rustic dish bursting with flavour, it was as good to look at as it was to eat.

Jon and Helen Sutton have owned the Duke of Wellington for 13 of its 501 years and it's obvious they take great pride in caring for this historic pub. Appealing to families and lovers of good, traditional food, it doesn't put a foot wrong. Add in a great selection of Cask Marque accredited ales and a fine selection of wines, along with regular live jazz and quiz nights, and they have found the perfect recipe for a great pub.










The Duke of Wellington
Birling Road
West Malling
Kent. ME19 5LS

Tel no: 01732 842318