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Restaurant review: Romney Restaurant, Mote Park

PUBLISHED: 08:45 25 May 2013 | UPDATED: 13:43 01 July 2013

Romney Restaurant

Romney Restaurant

Manu Palomeque

Within Mote House at the heart of a luxury retirement village deep in Mote Park, the elegant Romney Restaurant is well worth seeking out for its fine food and grand setting

So, how on earth am I going to describe this restaurant, I asked Ashley Danes, head chef at Romney Restaurant, as we chatted before dinner.

It wasn’t such an odd question, as My Dining Chum and I had just spent several confused moments trying to locate this slightly out-of-the-ordinary venue that’s part of Audley Mote House Retirement Village, a luxury development of 100 cottages and apartments near Bearsted.

Situated in the 450-acre splendour of Mote Park, at the heart of the village is Mote House, a Grade II-listed Georgian mansion that has been restored to its original beauty. Inside Mote House is the Audley Club – with a health club, swimming pool, library. And restaurant.

However, we weren’t entirely sure we were on the right track as we got further and further into parkland but, lack of signage apart, it’s hard to fault this place.

The house is breathtakingly elegant and the Bistro and Bar, where we enjoyed cocktails, is a peaceful symphony of pale greys, burgundy accents and lofty ceilings.

The dining room also lived up to our by then high expectations, with comfortable chairs around well-spaced, immaculately laid tables, family portraits on the walls and dramatic burgundy-edged curtains framing an uninterrupted country view.

Romney Restaurant has previously only been open to residents and members of Audley Club, plus those wishing to hire it for special family occasions such as Golden Wedding anniversaries.

The owners are now encouraging the er, more-mature diners in the surrounding area to enjoy what it has to offer on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening. Don’t worry, you won’t be turned away if you’re under 55, it’s more a question of dressing and behaving appropriately for a setting where some of the customers are also going to be residents.

We shared the restaurant with just one other couple for some of the evening, but then it’s early days for Audley, who only opened here last July. Sunday lunches are the busiest time of the week, but I don’t think the restaurant will remain a secret for long, especially with the fabulous setting working so well for summer diners.

As you’d expect from a member of Produced in Kent, the emphasis is on locally sourced produce and Ashley uses The Butcher of Brogdale, Linton Seafoods and Kingsland & Son among other suppliers, with wines from Berry Brothers, though chef is in talks with Biddenden Vineyard about adding some local wines.

Menus, presented in smart wooden covers, are short and sweet with just four starters, six mains, four puds and cheese.

I chose a pretty tian of salmon and crayfish to begin, the mild flavours given a kickstart by the addition of a zingy tomato and pickled cucumber concasse. MDC enjoyed the combination of a blue cheese salad with his expertly executed warm confit of duck leg and Weald smoked duck.

To follow I had herb-crusted cod fillet on a bed of lemon and thyme couscous, roasted vine tomatoes adding a splash of colour to a rather monochrome plateful, but the whole dish was expertly cooked and a stunning hollandaise sauce, fragrant with tarragon, proved a real highlight.

For his main, MDC seized on the chance to try chef’s favourite dish – Brogdale pork, pan seared, wonderfully tender and served with a sage and sweet apple gravy atop the delightfully named, cheese-laced rumbledethump potatoes.

Desserts are worth saving space for. MDC enjoyed a brandy basket with mixed berries and home-made ice cream; my vanilla and orange panacotta flanked by a dark chocolate case filled with mascerated strawberries and rasberries and a chocolate wafer basket with pineapple was equally delicious and had great eye appeal.

Cooking is undeniably skilled, sauces are a particular highlight and presentation is first class, if a little over-precise at times.

It will be fascinating to see how the restaurant develops in its second year and I anticipate diners heading to Mote Park not just for the views but also to enjoy a locally sourced, skilfully prepared evening meal in a sumptuous setting.

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