Eastwell Manor review
PUBLISHED: 12:06 24 October 2015 | UPDATED: 12:06 24 October 2015
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
With a chef called Byron creating sheer poetry on a plate, plus excellent service at every level, the already glorious Eastwell Manor has scaled new heights and is the perfect winter retreat.
With the rain lashing down and a chill in the air, I couldn’t get across the stone-flagged courtyard and into Eastwell Manor quick enough. And once through the huge oak doors the smell of woodsmoke from the all-seasons log fire and the quiet courtesy of the reception staff made all right in the world.
I love this place, visit it often throughout the year but for me, it really comes into its own in the winter, with its carved panelled rooms, massive baronial stone fireplaces and tapestries on the walls positively oozing history and character.
But all it not quite as it seems. Although the Manor’s origins date back to the Norman Conquest, it was in fact torn down in 1926 and replaced with the faux ancient building you see today – which was undoubtedly the saving of a house that had fallen on very hard times.
The rebuilding was done with such taste and attention to historic detail that the Manor feels as if it has remained untouched for hundreds of years. And with a typically Eastwellian touch, the 23 individually designed en-suite rooms and suites are all named after people who have played a part in its history over the centuries.
I stayed in a suite named after the Countess of Middleton, who managed the estate with her son from 1928 until it was acquired by the Bates family in 1977. They restored and modernised the mansion, which was bought by the present owner Turrloo Parrett in 1995, who continues to take a passionate personal interest in the development of this historic jewel of Kent.
Guests can also choose to stay at Eastwell Mews, beautiful cottages in the grounds of the Manor that have been sympathetically converted from original Victorian stables, all en suite and with kitchen, sitting room and dining facilities
I wrote this piece at an elegant desk in a lounge that’s big enough to comfortably hold a dining table, bureau, TV, sofa and chairs. There’s fresh fruit and even two different sorts of Sherry.
Leading off is the four-poster bedroom with dark wood furniture, mullioned windows and modern touches that include a second TV and trouser press. A positively decadent bathroom boasts a bath in its own panelled alcove, a chaise longue, glass-fronted cabinets filled with choice china and a separate dressing area up secret stairs.
The lure of dinner eventually tempted me out, however, and I studied the menu in the oak-panelled bar overlooking the immaculate lawns while sipping a deliciously minty Mojito.
The award-winning, wood-panelled Manor Restaurant is everything you would expect and more; formal but intimate, the resident pianist a fabulously Eastwell touch, the linen starched to perfection, the bow-tie clad young staff anything but stiff. In fact they were all lovely, welcoming, knowledgeable and didn’t make me feel at all weird dining on my own (my BF had to call off at the last minute with a nasty winter bug).
I was in for a real treat as chef Byron Hayter truly is a poet in the kitchen and has elevated dining at The Manor to new heights.
He tempted me with a seven-course tasting menu that began with a stunning trio of garden beetroot terrine – pretty layers of rich, earthy root vegetable interleaved with delicate, mousse-like Rosary Ash goat’s cheese blended with textures of beetroot. Paired with a glass of Bauchet Origine Brut Champagne (wines are recommended throughout and I’d definitely opt for that route), this was an unusual, delicious beginning.
To follow was another unexpectedly brilliant flavour combination: Dorset crab with avocado, so far so lovely, was given an extra kick with the addition of zingy pink grapefruit which just exploded the tastebuds. A tricky one to pair, but Westwell Ortega Classic coped magnificently.
Game terrine came next, which I was fearing would be too heavy with a meaty main to follow, but a light and airy Black pudding bon bon on the side and textures of apple and mustard cutting through made this another hit.
After a perfectly judged pause, in came the main event – a magnificent plate of juicy Kentish beef fillet paired with lobster claw, baby vegetables and lobster bisque, the latter a bit of a surprise, I admit, but how well it worked.
A posh surf n’ turf I guess, but with practically all my favourite things on a plate, this was a real standout dish for me. Only a big, juicy red could cope and the Central Valley Apaltagua Merlot Reserve proved another winner.
If you can find space, pudding ushers in a splendid spiced pumpkin pannacotta and a dark chocolate fondant with sour cherry ice cream, a lovely sweetness at the end of a memorable meal and perfectly judged for a late-autumn feast.
In the morning I really should have headed over to The Pavilion (overnight guests get to enjoy the facilities at the health, beauty and fitness centre), but instead the smell of toast and coffee proved irresistible. Breakfast it was, then, impeccably and thoughtfully served.
Thoroughly restored, I finally left, in glorious sunshine; naturally, Eastwell Manor had even organised the weather.
MEET THE CHEF
Byron Hayter, Executive Chef
Tell us a bit about you
I have been at Eastwell Manor for a year now, and am still finding my feet! I started my career in Sandbanks in Dorset, close to my home town of Sherborne. Food has always been in my blood, with my grandmother and my Mum particular influences. I like my job at Eastwell not only because of the golf course but because the owner Mr Parrett, affectionately known by the staff as “Mr P”, is very passionate about the hotel which wears off on the other staff. Having the support of the owner of the hotel makes being a chef that bit easier.
Your local suppliers?
I use Eastwell Estate Game, Griggs of Hythe and Chapmans for fish, Perry Court and J&H for fruit and vegetables, T&L Coopers for meat and Turners Fine Foods.
What’s your signature dish?
Fillet of line-caught sea bass with scallops, lobster and caviar risotto. Having spent so much time in the Channel Isles, this combination of flavours is a match made in heaven (especially finished with a nice glass of cold white wine)
Your top cookery tip?
Never be frightened to try new things - and always have salt and pepper to hand
Who has influenced you most?
This is a very hard question, as a child I was brought up around food, baking cakes in my Grandmother’s kitchen, but I also remember Ready Steady Cook in the afternoons after school and being always amazed at what could be achieved from one little bag.
Your must-have kitchen gadget?
It’s not a gadget but I have to say my kitchen team, it is very settled and I’m always pleased at what is achieved by them.
Who would you like to cook for? Who
I’ve been very lucky, I have cooked for a lot of very famous people but if I could have one person for dinner it would be Raymond Blanc!
What did you have for breakfast?
The chef’s breakfast of choice is black pudding, potato, Parma ham and rocket.
Where: Eastwell Manor
Eastwell Park, Boughton Lees
Ashford TN25 4HR
Dreams Beauty Spa
What: family run country house hotel.
When: lunch Mon-Fri 12pm-2pm, Sat and Sun 12.30pm-2.30pm, dinner 7pm-9.30pm
How much: game terrine £18.50, fillet of wild sea bass, shellfish risotto, samphire and lobster tail £34.95, apple and blackberry Baked Alaska with blackberry sorbet £7.50
Coming up …
20 November 2015: Moët and Chandon Black Tie Gourmet Dinner
£125 per person
14 November 2015: Murder Mystery Weekend
£295 per person (based on two people sharing a twin or double room)
For further details or to book, call 01233 213020 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org