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Restaurant review: The Minnis, Kent

The Minnis
The Parade, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9QP
Cuisine: British
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Jason Freedman's menu is rich with cured meats, fish and preserves and inspired by the ancinet Romans.
 
Cured, smoked and preserved...Foodtripper unravells the inspirations behind Kentish restaurant The Minnis' innovative specialities from head chef Jason Freeman- and discovers they reach far beyond the obvious.
 
Jason is a meat man. And a fish guy. Actually, the only foods that don't float his boat are celeriac and raw tomatoes. He's okay with cooked. It's lucky, then, that Freedman is a Kent-based boy, with access to all the bounteous produce the 'garden of England' has to offer.
 
Freedman has been in cheffing for 26 years. He's seen the molecular movement, embraced it, tired of it and moved on. With his latest experiments, he's looked back to Roman times to create a menu rich with house-cured meats, fish and preserves. Fittingly, the Minnis overlooks the ruins of the 2,000 year-old Roman fort at Reculver from its Birchington vantage point.
The beachfront venue buzzes throughout the summer, but it was the quieter off-season which enabled Jason to develop his range of wares.
 
Experimentation came first- inspiring a lust for research into the period in the chef. He talks about an old book called 'The Manual of The Traditional Bacon Curer' he's been looking to for tips on technique, and adds that the methods employed in the restaurant are largely traditional.
 
There's a place for modernity, though- Freedman cites the home made salt beef, which uses sous vide technology over a 24-hour period to yield a moist, perfectly textured result. It's strange, we agree, how much better it sounds in Latin. As Jason jokes, 'nobody ever got 3 Michelin stars putting 'boil in the bag cod' on the menu'!
 
It's almost, he muses. as if food trends get so futuristic that chefs are forced to look back in time for fresh inspiration- it all goes full cycle. And where food fashions are concerned, he's refreshingly more concerned with the result on the plate than jumping on the latest bandwagon. Recent Japanese travels have inspired him not only to work on a new range of desserts, but also in the preparation of his cured fish. Classic cocktails re-worked as puddings are the next project.
 
It seems Freedman is a real culinary magpie- drawing influence from various eras, cuisines and countries to present quality local produce in truly innovative ways. On the menu, he's most proud of the cured meats- salt beef, chorizo and pastrami, liking the simple expression of his skills on the plate. Jason states that if he sees one table empty, 'we're not busy enough'. It seems fair to speculate that won't be the case this year - this is one chef whose star's rising fast. And not a moment too soon.
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4 April 2011
By: Zoe Perrett
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