Wildwood – Maidstone
Wildwood is Earl Street’s new restaurant addition. The building itself has homed a number of incarnations over recent years, with the last being DimSum, in which its title cleverly reviewed itself. Now, with another interior guttering and redesign of the décor, Wildwood is a smartly furnished restaurant with clean brick walls that carry downstairs and arch the old town’s wine cellars. There’s real warmth to the interior with the dark wood table and chairs, green cushions and mellow, natural lighting from the large bay windows.
The following statement will not surprise those who know me, but I see an apparent theme here, an appreciation of the British mod icon, Paul Weller. Even as I walked through the door I was surprised to hear an acoustic version of Shout to the Top by The Modfather. There’s the restaurant’s name – that also of Weller’s 1993 solo record (placed at number 77 by Q Magazine in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever) – then there’s the Eton Mess on the desert menu, perhaps drawing on The Jam’s political anthem from 1979, Eton Rifles. But then again, I’ve always read into things far too much.
The menu is a mixture of pastas, salads, grilled sections and stone-baked pizzas. My baked Portobello mushrooms (£4.95) with gorgonzola cheese, spinach and walnuts, was modest in size with the large mushroom diced into tiny pieces and baked with the cheese and remaining ingredients. It wasn’t pleasant and lay deep in watery moisture from the mushroom and cheese.
My main of ravioli filled with Italian cheese and pine nuts (£7.95) was served with tomatoes, goat’s cheese and pesto sauce, and was a warming and delightful dish. It was light, buoyant and enough to fill me for lunch. The ravioli was large and cooked perfectly, with the melting goat’s cheese oozing from its doughy cocoon and mixing with the pesto and added parmesan.
Other main offerings include: spaghetti with oak roasted salmon (£8.95), peri-peri marinated boneless chicken (£11.95), a mixed grill (£15.95), spicy meat calzone (£8.75) and even fish & chips with minted mushy peas (£10.95).
The wine list is humble with eight whites and eight reds, yet with some interesting offers: a £26.50 Chablis, a £17.55 Valpolicella and a Rioja Crianza at £18.45. I was surprised to see on my visit that an Amarone (my favourite red) was the days Special offer at £29 a bottle, however this was not available on usual day-today menu. As difficult as it is to resist, I was visiting for lunch and chose a small glass of Valle Antica Chianti priced at £4.45 that was fine with the ravioli, if not a little tense and overpowering.
There are three Wildwood restaurants: Hornchurch, Gerrards Cross and Maidstone, each offering homely surroundings and honest food. They’re a small collection of restaurants, not the large high street chains like Pizza Express, Prezzo and Zizi’s, yet do serve in a homogeneous tradition. It’s fine for lunch and a small tipple, and would satisfy an evening meal or assemble with friends.