The grade II-listed, 16th century venue in Canterbury was one of two pubs to be granted one Michelin star in the 2022 Michelin Guide last Wednesday (16 February).
The site, previously called the White Horse, was taken over by Daniel and Natasha Smith in 2021, the couple behind the award-winning Fordwich Arms in Kent.
It felt “amazing” to be representing pubs on a restaurant-dominated list, said the chef-director of the pub, Daniel Smith, who believed the pub to be the heart of any community. This was the reason the couple chose to run pubs rather than restaurants.
“It’s not to say that the food isn’t restaurant-quality but people feel a lot more relaxed and at home within a pub environment,” he said.
“You can bring your dog and have lunch, and you can sit at the bar with your wellies on after a walk. It’s a place you can come and make yourself comfortable while have amazing food at the same time.”
A cut above the rest
According to Smith, the Michelin star was an award for the whole team, who celebrated with a party. “We couldn’t do it without any one of them,” he said. “They’re the ones that pull everything together and they all work just as hard as each other.”
For the chef-director, quality of food, consistency and good service were what made his pub a cut above the rest. “If the food on the plate is good then that’s half the battle. Our food is good and our service is friendly and attentive, and that’s the most important thing in our eyes,” he said.
According to the Michelin Guide, the food at the pub, which is inspired by Basque cuisine, is “gloriously nourishing and comforting but that’s not to say the dishes don’t boast a certain elegance thanks to the quality of the ingredients and the skill of the kitchen.”
Daniel added: “Consistency is also extremely important. You can have an amazing meal somewhere but if you go back and it’s not the same quality or consistency, you defeat the point.”
That Smith’s other pub, the Fordwich Arms, also holds a Michelin star, helped him aim for these high standards. “Once you’ve got one place in the guide, they're going to come inspecting your other venue,” he said.
“To be on their radar is incredible. It makes me strive to keep trying to do better each day and to maintain the standards and the consistency that’s required.”
Daniel did not expect to achieve Michelin star-status at the Bridge Arms due to a host of issues caused by the pandemic.
Plans to open the venue in Christmas 2020 were thwarted due to the Kent variant of Covid and when the venue finally opened in April the following year, restrictions meant they were limited to trading outside.
However, since the site has been open, the reception had been “amazing”. Daniel said: “We’ve had incredible support from everyone in the village, local customers and those from further afield.”
Winning the star was a springboard of opportunity, according to the chef. The pub’s future looks bright with plans to hold a summer food festival and a guest chef season. “We want to keep things fun, interesting and enjoyable,” Daniel concluded.