Deeson’s: Quality in Canterbury (July 2016)

When Deeson’s opened in Canterbury in 2009 many believed that it would help restore the city’s culinary reputation. Since then, and in common with many other prosperous towns with tourist attractions in the south east, the dining scene has moved on. More competition has come to the market, resulting in a general improvement in quality levels and dining options. While a short weekend break in Canterbury only afforded us one evening on which to dine out, we had no regrets about our choice of Deeson’s. Beyond the positive experience itself, just a simple look at the menu here suggests a more exciting approach to cooking than that which its closest local rivals (Abode, Ambrette, Goods Shed etc.) have to offer. The emphasis at Deeson’s is firmly on British cooking and the fairly priced menu sees starters come in at £7-9 and mains at £17-25, with a choice of about 8 options for each. The ambience is relaxed and service friendly, mostly professional and enthusiastic. While considering our dishes we enjoyed a glass of local (Chapel Down of Rye) sparkling wine, crisp and refreshing with pleasant floral notes. My starter was an innovative pairing of (again locally sourced) wood pigeon with pickled wild mushrooms and gooseberries. The more astringent flavours of the latter two ingredients worked as a perfect foil to offset the richness of the meat. For my main, pan-fried sea bream in a cream tarragon sauce was much less trend-setting, but what the dish lost in inventiveness, it gained in preparation, with the piece of fish cooked to perfection and among the most succulent I have sampled anywhere recently. My comrade praised her dishes too, particularly rating the delicacy and combination of ingredients in her cheese soufflé main. Our food was accompanied by a reasonably decent bottle of new world Chardonnay, although I would suggest that there is some room for improvement in the wine list, which could benefit in particular from a broader range of options in the £40-60/bottle bracket (i.e. price points above and below this were covered, but less so here). Our meal concluded on a high note as we shared Deeson’s crumble of the day, in this case, an excellent rhubarb version. Overall, it was hard to find fault, and beyond the cathedral and the city’s wide selection of great pubs, Deeson’s should be a must for any visitor.