A shared passion in quality ingredients has helped Lee Jones and Emma Dowling to create Salt, the new restaurant in Palace Street, Canterbury.
Chef Emma, 26, who has worked in a number of kitchens, including those with Michelin stars, has been with Lee for seven years and as their relationship developed, so did their shared love of good food.
Lee, 36, explained: “Salt is the result of two years of trying to figure out what we thought the industry needed, then constructing a business plan and finding the premises that suited our personalities and the food and drink that we were going to serve. It was a long and careful process and we were getting frustrated at the lack of the right place.”
Salt was set up in February and launched in June, since when it’s been full-on for both Lee and Emma. They live in Medway, where Lee is from, but although the lengthy commute and long working hours are exhausting it’s been well worthwhile. If everything goes to plan, the couple hope to find somewhere to live in Canterbury.
“We’ve met some fantastic people and we’re getting customers coming back, so we must be doing something right,” says Lee, who explains that the idea behind the restaurant lies in its name: “As an ingredient, salt is fundamental in the cooking process, and an essential mineral for life. This is the ethos we look to follow as a restaurant. We strive to offer a stripped-back dining experience, offering the bare essentials, letting the quality of ingredients do the talking.”
To achieve this, the restaurant offers one menu, which is changed daily, to reflect what is in season. This ensures the freshest and best quality ingredients are served at their best. Emma, who is Danish, uses her extensive knowledge to create imaginative and tasty dishes which keep the customers coming back. Lee does “front of house”, which means managing the business, greeting visitors and ensuring they have everything they need.
Lee added: “The kitchen team uses local and seasonal produce as regularly as possible. The suppliers we have chosen have been carefully selected due to their shared passion in Kentish produce, which, as the Garden of England, we believe is the very best in the country.”
Complementing and enhancing these Kentish food flavours are ciders from Biddenden and Bekesbourne, as well as flavoured gin and vodka from a company called Nip from the Hip in Maidstone. The restaurant also serves a wide range of Continental beers and wine.
Lee and Emma are passionate about keeping food miles to the minimum and wherever possible they use producers from within a 15-mile radius of the restaurant. These include Canterbury Meats, Griggs of Hythe, Hole Street Farm, Kingsdown and Quaives Farm, Wickhambreaux. The “local is best” theme is followed through with music. Bands from the Canterbury area are regularly offered a performance slot on Sunday evenings.
Salt is open from 12 to 4pm every day, except Tuesday, and also from 6 to 10pm Thursday to Saturday. Sunday opening hours are 12 to 3 and 6 to 10.30, although food service ends at 8pm, to allow live music to be performed from 8.30 to closing time.