Thursday’s Autumn Feast at the Goods Shed was just that, a feast! And more.

Rafael Lopez (chef owner of the Goods Shed restaurant) regaled us with dishes cooked with fresh local produce  chosen by him on the day: pastrami, flounder, duck, crown prince squash, mushrooms, and tomatoes seasoned with Goods Shed herbs. His guiding principles — imagination, attention to detail and serving “fresh food cooked in a simple way with flavour” — shone through.

Spirits already high on the mouth-watering aromas wafting from Rafael’s kitchen, were further heightened by Clive Barlow’s masterful selection of sparkling, white and red wines, mainly from Sandhurst Vineyards in Cranbrook. Clean and clear as the maritime air we enjoy here, they complemented not only Rafael’s courses but also the hard and soft cheeses produced by Cheesemakers of Canterbury.

(Clive is Master of Wine of Press Wine Services and is based at the Goods Shed. Cheesemakers of Canterbury also has a stall there.)

Rafael is a man of many passions. Before Thursday’s meal he described his love and respect for insects: “We underestimate bees, ants, beetles. They work for their communities, building huge constructions with complex engineering systems. We should learn from them.”  This drove to the heart of what the Autumn Feast and our efforts to save the Westgate Hall are about.

What was exciting was how sharing great food and wine and conversation by the light of flickering candles brought together twenty-four longtime Canterbury residents and newcomers from Holland, France and London now living in Beltinge, Wye, and further afield. Wine, food, almost-song (a lot of laughter) had made friends of strangers with newcomers sprouting fresh roots in Canterbury’s community.

And with this came donations and offers of help for our efforts to save Westgate Hall for use as a community centre.

Thanks to Rafael, Clive, Ann, Tom and Jane, the Goods Shed team, and all our new friends for improving the Trust’s finances by £160! And for donating all your time and goodwill.