6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Kent Life today CLICK HERE

Kent Life reviews the Hythe Imperial and its Coast Restaurant

PUBLISHED: 19:14 25 January 2014 | UPDATED: 19:15 25 January 2014

Hythe Imperial Hotel

Hythe Imperial Hotel

Rikard Osterlund

You don’t have to wait for summer to head for the coast – the magnificent seafront Hythe Imperial has everything you could desire for a romantic break

Poised majestically on the seafront like a splendid liner in full sail, the Mercure Hythe Imperial Hotel and Spa has stood at the heart of this appealing seaside town since its opening 
in 1880 under the name The Seabrook.

Wonderful in all weathers, I visited during the stormy start to 2014 and it was truly exciting watching the wild sea from 
a warm interior, then venturing outside when the sun briefly shone for an invigorating walk along Prince’s Parade.

So grab your Valentine and book a mini break – the Imperial really has go it all, from a renowned nine-hole golf course 
to a luscious spa and leisure centre, vast bedroom suites and a new restaurant.

Sold to its current owners in 2008, 
the hotel got an exterior facelift in 2011, including a new roof and windows, and was repainted in soft grey. Refurbishment continues inside as well, the most recent change being Coast, its new face of dining.

Once inside you are struck by the sheer sense of scale and elegance. A tranquil lounge is to one side, the spacious Martello bar to the other, while the double-fronted, wood-framed reception desk even makes checking in a rather grand experience.

I stayed in the Hythe Suite, a sea-facing delight at the end of a broad corridor you could hold a dance in (public and private areas are all on a very generous scale).

Decorated in duck-egg blue, the huge bedroom has tall windows and individual pieces of pretty furniture, including a writing desk and dressing table, plus a supremely comfortable four-poster.

The white en suite bathroom has a black and white tiled floor and there’s a generous lobby area with good hanging space. I could have moved in there and then.

My treats continued with a visit to the basement where ESPA Spa offers a range 
of treatments from facials to hot stone massage. Just down the corridor is the leisure centre with a pool and gym.

My mission, however, was relaxation – and I achieved it thanks to chirpy 
young therapist Rachel McConnell, who administered a ‘My Aroma Indulgence’ full body massage: 85 minutes of pure bliss.

Floating on a cloud of scented oils, 
I wafted up to my room for a quick lie 
down (hard work, these massages) 
before meeting my friends for dinner.

It’s years since I ate at the Imperial, but the transformation of the former rather tired dining area is a joy and Coast (which opened last November) looks set to make its mark as a restaurant in its own right.

Contemporary and luxurious, patterned panels of seascape blue are complemented by Italian-designed furniture, Villeroy & Boch glassware and crockery, plus cutlery designed by Robert Welch.

The seasonal modern British menu changes daily and reflects chef Tony Borley’s commitment to local suppliers, from Griggs of Hythe for fresh daily fish and seafood, meat sourced locally from Huntleys of Tenterden to free-range 
eggs from Coastal Eggs in Canterbury.

Tony, 33, grew up in Saltwood, has owned a restaurant for 10 years and has been a head chef since he was 19, so 
he’s a safe pair of hands in the kitchen.

I tried his signature dish of pan-seared scallops on Marsh samphire and crispy pancetta, and while I could have easily managed a bit more of each, it was a tasty introduction to my standout main dish of gilt-head bream on a bed of crushed new potatoes with a red pepper salsa.

According to Greek mythology, this particular fish was considered sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, so do bear that in mind if you’re on a romantic date!

With its sweet tasting flesh, the skin cooked perfectly crisp, this could well be my new favourite bream family member.

Across the table My Talented Writer Friend was getting deliciously messy with her yummy shell-on tiger prawns in garlic and parsley butter, while the one we shall call The Driver was relishing tasty chicken livers pan fried in sherry and mustard.

Their main dishes had the uncluttered, confident style of my bream. Darne (the middle cut) of salmon atop a spring onion rosti, served with pancetta-wrapped asparagus and watercress dressing for MTWR; “beautifully done” venison rosettes for TD, slow roasted with juniper berries and served simply with Rosemary new potatoes, carrots and broccoli.

Puddings were all a little on the heavy side for us, with quite a bit of cream and chocolate involved, but by the time you read this there will be lighter options on the menu ready for February’s diners.

We were looked after very well by restaurant manager Jacob Ovecka, who hails from the Czech Republic and was a great help with wine pairing suggestions from a good Les Grands Vins Mercure list.

Coffee followed in the relaxing bar near reception, then I had the luxury of snuggling down in one of the most comfortable beds ever, while a wild storm raged on outside.

Impeccable poached eggs for me in 
the morning, a tour of the hotel with lovely marketing manager Emma Betteridge and then – reluctantly – I made my way home and back to reality. For a spot of escapism and a romantic winter getaway, I can’t think of a finer place to recommend. n

More from Food & Drink

Artisan spirits are a booming business. You can visit any or all of Kent’s fascinating distilleries in search of your new favourite tipple

Read more
March 2019
Yesterday, 15:27

These Kent hotels all have great restaurants, so you can indulge in locally sourced tasty food before a night in a sumptuous room

Read more

Brought to life by a family team with strong local connections, The Powell is back where it belongs in the heart of its community

Read more
March 2019

We are delighted to announce our seventh Food and Drink Awards and this year have 14 categories in which to make your nominations

Read more
Yesterday, 12:08

Our food and drink newsletter is brimming with all of your local foodie highlights.

Read more
Thursday, February 28, 2019

There are new faces behind the bar at historic pub The White Horse in Hawkinge, which has reopened after a £200,000 transformation

Read more
February 2019
Thursday, February 14, 2019

Join the micropub revolution! This unique style of small, one-room pubs was born in Kent and has caught on with micropubs appearing all over the country. We have selected 12 of the best in Kent for you to visit

Read more

With a fabulous setting in the heart of the city, ABode Canterbury is not only a great place to stay but offers a fantastic dining experience too

Read more
February 2019
Monday, February 11, 2019

Whether you want slow cooked pulled pork, huge steaks or some surf and turf, we’ve got the meat-heavy restaurants in Kent that you need to visit

Read more
Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Cute dogs and beer – do you need anything else? We pick 10 of the best dog-friendly pubs to bring your pooch

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life