The Fish on the Green at Bearsted, near Maidstone, has been creating culinary excellence with fresh seafood for more than a decade, gaining acclaim as one of Kent’s best restaurants.
But what makes diners return again and again to the restaurant, part of Shepherd Neame’s estate, in its unassuming building on the edge of a quintessentially English village green? We met Head Chef Peter Baldwin, who has steered its kitchen to success – and two prized AA rosettes - to find out more.
You’ve been at The Fish on the Green since it opened, 14 years ago. Why is that?
I love this place. Shepherd Neame took over about five years ago, but I was here at the beginning and opened it with the previous owner. It was just a shell of a building back then before we opened!
What do you love about your job?
I like to do things simply and well - we take lovely ingredients and treat them properly. From the Rye Bay scallops and local-landed wild Turbot right down to the chocolate truffles we serve with the coffee at the end of the meal – everything has to be right from start to finish. If after 14 years you’re not doing it right you should probably do something else! It is a team effort though, I cannot stress enough how much it is about teamwork. A really good head chef will always press his team, for sure. But we are a team that focusses on the same goals.
What are the challenges with your role?
It is a lot of work so you have got to love it and want to do it. You have got pretty much die for the cause, really – but find me a successful chef who hasn’t had to make sacrifices!
How did you get to be where you are today career-wise?
I went to catering college in Canterbury and I also trained in Normandy in France. My first job was in the kitchen at Eastwell Manor near Ashford (I live in Ashford). Then I moved to Read’s in Faversham, and I was also Sous Chef at the Wife of Bath for seven years. The great thing about where I am is that while we enjoy the support that comes from being part of Shepherd Neame’s retail estate, they also trust in my vision for the restaurant and give me the freedom to run it like it is my own.
What does a typical day for you involve?
It’s early starts and late finishes. We change the menu around regularly, but we have a bank of approved dishes and some which are always there – because our customers want them. I don’t think in 14 years Lobster Thermidor has ever been off the menu! And Oysters Rockefeller, that is very popular too. All our fish comes from local supplier Chapmans of Borough Green and it’s vital we have the best, and freshest, ingredients we can for our dishes. My wife, Helen Fowler, is the General Manager here, so we can’t help but talk about work at home, but we have two children, so we try to keep it to a minimum!
What is most rewarding about your role?
I like cooking, obviously, and getting it right for our customers and making them happy is very rewarding. I have also had some great chefs that I have worked with. I really love training and developing people. It is great to see what they go on to do. You feel like you have helped them a little along the way. Almost all of them are still close friends of mine.
What advice would you give other chefs wanting to be in your position?
You have got to be critical of your own work. If a customer complains, you really need to talk about it. We have loads of regulars who love it here. We’re always booked up – even on a midweek lunch service you’ll find us fully booked! So consistency is really important as if a customer comes back and it isn’t up to scratch that’s a problem.
You can find The Fish on the Green at Church Lane, Bearsted Green, Maidstone, ME14 4EJ. The simple and stylish interior has a dining room and small pre-drinks bar. In addition to its extensive seafood menu, non-fish and vegetarian options are also available. Open Wednesdays to Sundays, you can view the menu and book at www.fishonthegreen.com or call 01622 738300.