Restaurant review: The Yarrow, Broadstairs
PUBLISHED: 15:56 14 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:57 14 August 2017
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With training at its heart, The Yarrow in Broadstairs is a first in the UK
Now an elegant Grade II listed building, The Yarrow was built in 1895 as a convalescent home for children by shipyard owner Sir Alfred Yarrow Bart, a friend of Dr Barnardo. He was inspired by his own daughter’s convalescence abroad to want to help people of modest means who were put into straightened circumstances by family illness.
Originally designed for 100 children who were to spend much of their time in the fresh air and sunshine of Broadstairs, you will notice that the corridors are wide enough for them to play indoors when the weather was bad and that the stairs all have shallow treads, perfect for 100 pairs of little feet to run up and down.
During both World Wars the building was requisitioned as a convalescent home for soldiers, later becoming part of Thanet College. And almost exactly a year ago, The Yarrow opened as a 28-room hotel on the East Kent College Campus, following investment of £9.5m from the Skills Funding Agency.
With a wealth of talented students on its doorstep, the hotel is able to operate as both a professional hotel and a hospitality training centre, providing an ideal learning environment for skills relating to event management, hospitality, travel and tourism.
As general manager James Redshaw explains: “It’s a unique concept – the only one in the UK. The college owns the hotel and we work together in tandem.”
So put aside any concerns about ‘students running the place’ – although of course that is highly possible in the future, as training on the job offers invaluable experience.
James gives me a tour and I am impressed how immaculate public areas are, from the airy reception, elegant function room that comfortably seats 100 to the welcoming bar and lounge – where James is keen to see more local people popping in for a drink or a bite to eat. There is even a spa complete with Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, while the beauty salon offers facials, massage, hairdressing and manicures and, from September when students will be in on two days, rates will be much lower for some treatments.
The restaurant is hung with fascinating old framed photos of The Yarrow in its wartime convalescent role; the chandeliers are formed from real wine glasses hung upside down and the room itself opens out onto a solarium extending the length of the building.
The building has a B rating and is not far off an A, which is excellent for a new hotel in an old building and indeed the design has already picked up numerous awards. Arriving on a hot summer’s afternoon, air-conditioning throughout the hotel is most welcome.
Disability access has been carefully considered. There is a lift to the first floor, a ramp to the front entrance will be in place by the time you read this and there are two specially adapted accessible rooms which interconnect to a twin bedroom where two carers or family members could stay.
My junior suite is generously sized, with a separate seating area by the period tiled fireplace which gives the largely neutral bedroom character, and a striking monochrome photograph of Viking Bay above the very comfortable bed. The smartly contemporary bathroom has a black and white tiled floor, bath and large walk-in shower.
By the end of the year look out for espresso coffee machines, safes, slippers to go with the bathrobes in every room – and students’ artwork adorning the walls.
Later on, while while waiting for My Dining Companion in the bar I enjoy a delicious Chatham Dockyard Gin and tonic before we adjourn to the restaurant, where Thomas looked after us beautifully throughout service.
You can opt for the seven-course tasting menu or do as we did and choose from the à la carte, which offers five starters, six mains and three desserts plus cheese. MDC couldn’t resist the tantalising-sounding cucumber salad with grapes, frozen yoghurt and cucumber gazpacho, the ideal choice for high summer and while lacking a little eye appeal, it couldn’t have been more refreshing. I had the very local (Sevenscore) asparagus served with a poached egg and rather too brittle crispy bacon, a classic rendered slightly odd by the addition of fresh orange slices, which to my taste didn’t blend too well with the egg.
To accompany I used the tasting menu, which recommends wines per dish, to select a glass of Westwell Ortega (the only Kent wine offered), which worked extremely well.
Mains included a whisky aged rib of beef for two to share, which we looked at longingly but hadn’t factored in the cooking time, so instead MDC chose the glazed pork belly with fondant potato, apple and quince purée and roast shallot jam. Rich and satisfying it was too.
I had pan-fried cod with new potatoes and a red pepper fondue and saffron sauce, which I found a little bland but the fish (landed in Broadstairs boats) was so fresh it bounced.
Puddings really shone – MDC seized the raspberry soufflé before I could bag it, and wonderfully light, pink and airy it was, while my crème brûlée topped with a pistachio and cherry sorbet and surrounded by a pool of port-poached cherries was a very grown-up finale.
Thanks to the highly efficient air-con, I slept right through a hot night, but my new-found energy was slightly diminished by a half-hour wait for a cooked breakfast. Fortunately the (good) coffee was in plentiful supply.
This is a brave new venture for pioneering Kent and one to be supported, with friendly staff very willing to show you around.
Where: The Yarrow Hotel, Ramsgate Road, Broadstairs CT10 1PN
01843 460 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Boutique coastal hotel with spa and beauty salon
When: lunch Mon-Sat 12pm-2.30pm, Sun 12.30pm-4pm; dinner Mon-Sat 6.30pm-9.30pm, Sun closed
How much: Tasting menu £60 per person, cucumber salad with frozen yoghurt £7.50, glazed pork belly £16.50, raspberry soufflé £8
Meet the chef
Ben Williams, head chef, The Yarrow
Tell us a bit about you
I’ve been a chef for more than 15 years and have spent time in Michelin-starred restaurants trying to truly learn as much as I can in every section in a kitchen, including the pastry sections, so I could be that complete chef. I love handing down information and really teaching the students and staff real skills that will give them a solid foundation from which to grow. The journey that some of the guys have come on this year is incredible and some my staff, who have been employed directly after finishing their courses are cooking at a far more advanced level than even I could have hoped for. My level 2 apprentice can now run a 20-cover service on the sauce section to the standards that I demand, which is great to see.
Main local suppliers?
We use Fruit de Mer for all our fish needs (the fish is landed in local Broadstairs boats) and Chandler and Dunn butchers provide us with incredible lamb and beef from their farm. We specially age their ribs of beef on the bone and in whisky soaked muslin clothes for our rib for two people. The results are incredible, the harsh alcohol evaporates and leaves a beautiful peaty whisky flavour in the beef that brings a smile to everyone’s face.
We also work in proud partnership with MK Ltd, a family run business who help us with all our crockery needs; their service is impeccable.
What’s your signature dish?
I have dishes I am particularly proud to have created, like my paneed smoked eel soldiers with soft-boiled duck egg that I had on the menu at The Yew Tree all those years ago. It has a beautiful balance of textures the salty eel and the rich, warm, oozing egg yolk is so unctuous. We just try to cook with the seasons and get the nicest ingredients and treat them with respect. Great dishes on at the moment are the cucumber salad with grapes, almonds and frozen sheep yoghurt, roasted sea trout, barbecued langoustines and of course the whisky aged rib of beef for two.
Top cookery tip?
Cook with a smile on your face. The food will always taste nicer.
Who has influenced you most?
I truly had my eyes opened when I worked for Phil Howard at The Square. His passion and technical skill was mesmeric, but more importantly he never lost sight of what made dishes truly delicious. He would never put technique over flavour. His then head chef Robert Weston was also an incredible guy to work for, so focused on accuracy and consistency and deliciousness. When it comes to pastry, I owe a lot to Regis Beauregard, now at Balthazar in Covent Garden; he was my pastry guru.
All of this could not have been possible without the time and foundation that I received from David Pitchford at Read’s restaurant. It was here that I got my hunger for the fine dining world.
Must-have kitchen gadget?
Tasting spoon. If it doesn’t taste good then there’s no point.
Your breakfast this morning?
A banana and a double espresso.