THE DIRTY HABIT | Hollingbourne

With thanks to the people at Google, they really did good this time. Once the initial scare of losing a few days of our holiday because of a traffic accident with another car, or worse, missing out on the rest of our U.K. road trip and sheepishly returning to Amsterdam, we got our groove back with a short drive from home base in Leeds Castle to dinner 3 miles away. From out of the blue an online search for a decent restaurant close by came up with the most interesting, bordering on unbelievable, pub-restaurant I’ve come across. Incredibly, an establishment that’s been around since the 11th century – let that sink in for a moment – is still around serving locals and visitors alike. With such a rare pedigree and close proximity it became the choice for our last dinner in the county. There is a medieval gastropub and, over narrow pavement and hollowed out bush, we found it in Hollingbourne.

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At 5:30 p.m., we were the first diners for the evening and had the run of the place for the first hour or so. Our waitress, probably uninspired by our early dinnertime selection, warmed up after a few minutes and gamely suggested our meal options that ended up being the house burger for Teko, and steak and lobster for me, lobster being a choice I rarely get and try to enjoy as many times as possible. Marveling at the low ceilings, wood paneling, and general appearance of the place, I asked our waitress whether the Dirty Habit was really that old and yes indeed it was, she said. And there are ghosts too, she added, rambling on about her experience while living upstairs in the same building as well as stories from colleagues that left me a bit alarmed. Good thing I liked the food, and said so a few times – quite audibly.

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The steak was good, the lobster better, the sweet potato fries addictive, and the cherry tart wouldn’t let me put my fork down. In the end my waistline was wider, and my mind a bit perplexed. How a place this unique isn’t in a Michelin guidebook or better yet in a world heritage site list is beyond me. At least I know where to find the Dirty Habit when another opportunity  comes.

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