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Great Italian cuisine in Garden of England

The onset of dark nights may have left you looking for a short break.

If so, a visit to Kent – the “Garden of England” – is well worth consideration.

Kent is easily accessible to Belgium, of course, and, with a great mix of things to do and see (plus some surprising connections to Belgium) it makes for a lovely getaway.

If you find yourself in the county it should also include a call at Tenterden, a typical Kentish village and a short drive from Dover, the traditional gateway to England for Belgian visitors (2023 marks the 70th anniversary of the Port of Dover).


The rail station at Tenterden has been used for many film and TV locations such as the famous Downtown Abbey.Tenterden hosts some great local events for visitors for the remainder of the year,notably the Christmas Tree Lights and Christmas Market which will showcase international (including Belgian) cuisine, artisan grocery foods together with ethically traded and handmade, arts and crafts – all ideal for Christmas gifts and those stocking fillers.

The Kent and East Sussex Railway, based in Tenterden, will run “Santa Specials” over the festive season (there’s nothing quite like the pleasure of a steam train ride knowing your child will meet Santa and receive a gift).

The area abounds with Belgian links: up the coast is Walmer, former residence of one Arthur Wellesley – the Duke of Wellington. He spent 23 years living at Walmer Castle which still has the armchair in which he died and the bed from which he plotted the demise of Napoleon on the fields of Waterloo in Brabant Walloon.


After expanding all that energy you may have worked up an appetite and a really great local place to sate any hunger is Montalbano, a terrific Italian-owned restaurant, conveniently located close to Tenterden rail station.

The restaurant, on the town’s high street, has been a huge success since it opened with both locals and the many British and foreign tourists who flock to the town and has also managed to withstand the twin ravages of the health pandemic and ongoing economic crisis.

A delightful, family run restaurant, it serves traditional and regional Italian dishes, all with touches of Sicily. There are also live music and tribute acts you can enjoy during a meal.

The menu is packed with a terrific and homemade choice of pasta along with fish and meat dishes. These might include Arancinetti misti Siciliani (Sicilian rice balls); Calamari Fritti, Tonno Mazara (grilled tuna steak), pan-fried calf’s liver and Pappardelle al Ragu (braised beef). If you are up for it you should also try the very tasty 28-day matured fillet of beef. Other recommendations include Italian cured meats, deep fried squid and calamari.

The food really is both authentic and delicious and, given the high quality, very reasonably priced indeed.

The place, open over 6 years now, is run by Ana, who hails from Romania, and her Sicilian-born husband,Salvatore.

Their aim is to combine the warmth of the south of Italy with great traditional homemade flavours.

The couple, backed by a very hard working team including family members like Rome-born Adrian, have introduced several exciting initiatives for diners, including “December Music Nights”, a “Sicilian Night” plus a special Christmas Day menu.

Along with the particularly friendly welcome and very good food, another speciality here is the fabulously fresh Italian gelato, an artisan product that follows the great Italian tradition of ice cream making. This is made daily by Ana and Salvo’s qualified gelatiere.

Called “Bottega Montalbano” the Italian deli and gelataria is just round the corner from the restaurant and serves breakfast, lunch and traditional Italian cakes.

The owners source fresh milk and cream from a local farm and only use fresh fruits and natural based ingredients. There are also gelato packs to take away.

Sam, who has worked here over two years, lovingly guides you through the menu.

This is a fantastic authentic restaurant (seating up to 60 inside and 40 on the terrace and open 7/7) either for lunch or dinner and you really should try to include it on your itinerary if you find yourself in this part of Kent.

The town is just up from the port of Dover which, for 70 years, has stood as an integral connection between the British Isles and Europe.

It is home to one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world so why not join the tens of thousands of travellers who ply its waters each year and make a beeline for this smashing part of Kent for a relaxing short break this autumn or winter?

If you do, you are sure of a very friendly welcome, not least from Ana and Salvatore (and team) in Tenterden.

More info.

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