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

Restaurant review: Wallett's Court

PUBLISHED: 14:42 27 June 2015

Wallett's Court

Wallett's Court

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Diners and residents at Wallett's Court can now not only enjoy the joint talents of Oakley and Fowler, but also learn how to cook at the feet of the two master chefs

Right in the heart of White Cliffs country in the little hamlet of Westcliffe lies the welcoming and gracious Grade II listed manor of Wallett’s Court. In 1270, the house gave board and lodging to Edward I on his way to France, and if you look closely at the carvings and frescos in the hallways and corridors, you’ll discover the remnants of an early 15th-century Wealden Hall house hidden by a Jacobean restoration.

Fast forward to 1975, the manor was near derelict when Chris and Lea Oakley fell in love with it, bought it and restored it over the years, gradually turning Wallett’s into a centre of gastronomy in East Kent. Trained by the Roux Brothers, Chris is still going strong in the kitchen as ‘Grand Master Chef’ but has very recently taken on a resident chef, the very talented Michael Fowler, who grew up in Deal and shares Chris’s passion for the sheer bounty of local ingredients and suppliers around them, while also bringing the panache and inventiveness of the contemporary chef.

Fish are landed in Deal and Folkestone, Aberdeen Angus cattle graze on the White Cliffs as do Kentish sheep in the shadows 
of Dover Castle. Herbs, fruit and eggs come from Wallett’s own garden; lobster, seaweed and samphire from the beach.

Now keen gourmands can learn at the masters’ feet, as Oakley and Fowler are launching cookery workshops and Grand Masterclasses from this autumn – and Kent Life got to have a trial run. A few tweaks are still needed to timings, but I found the experience fascinating as two guinea pigs and I learnt how to skin and fillet a Dover Sole and remove the fillet from a vast sirloin of aged prime Kentish beef.

The best bit was watching Michael at work in the kitchen as he added his twist to Chris’s signature dish Fillets of Sole Leonara (named after his wife), then eating the results topped by our own individual fish-shaped baked puff pasty creations.

I had to pace myself, however as I still had the delights of a multiple-course dinner at the Chef’s Table to come; in hindsight, I should really have gone for a jog around the lovely landscaped grounds or at least a swim in the indoor pool ….

In the meantime, time to explore. My Queen Eleanor room was one of three large en suite oak-beamed bedrooms in the manor, all with four-posters and fireplaces.

There are also Stable Block Snugs, Cosy Cowshed Boltholes and Kentish Barn Suites in the converted barns around the house, while tucked further away are Hidden Hideaways and Gorgeous Glamping Places.

An indoor pool, hot tub, sauna and steam room are within the grounds, and you get to stroll across the meadow and into the woods to cosy cabins for body treatments.

Back to the main event, however. Sipping Prosecco, I awaited My Work Colleague in the comfortable, traditional lounge with its solid dark wooden furniture, bar and two fireplaces. We then adjoined to the cosy dining space where I’d skinned a very large fish just a few hours earlier, which was slightly surreal, and prepared to sample Michael’s brand-new tasting menu. Chef not only cooked for us exclusively all night but brought in most courses himself and talked about them, which was a real treat.

All nine courses were on the small side, but it was a lot of food and I think my capacity impressed the kitchen! However, delights such as a fab cucumber sorbet with Gin and Tonic foam (too alcoholic for my teetotal chum, but perfect for this Gin fan) and fresh prawn toast adorned with a radish, fennel and dandelion salad slipped down a treat, especially with a glass of crisp Mansion House Sauvignon Blanc.

Other favourites included slowly braised lamb with Rosemary and garlic and a tangy salsa verde to dip the meat into, and an unusual vegetarian take on steak tartare using smoked tomato with an avocado ice cream decorated with dainty pea shoots.

Michael promises for the future a vegetarian masterclass and tasting menu and, if this feast is anything to go by, he’ll have veggies queuing around the block.

Star of the show, however, was the tender, flavoursome 56-day aged beef fillet served with Parisian gnocchi, wild garlic and asparagus (try it with a bold Malbec).

My joint favourite dish was St Margaret’s Bay lobster ravioli with radish and apple in a rich bisque I’d ‘helped’ prepare earlier.

But do make sure there’s room for Michael’s sublime take on egg and soldiers: white chocolate mousse with a mango sorbet yolk served in a sugar shell with shortbread soldiers. Witty and brilliant.

The next morning, after a lovely breakfast of Eggs Benedict in the airy conservatory, I thanked Michael for his tuition and cooking and said I couldn’t believe I’d eaten all nine courses. “Actually, Sarah, you ate 10,” he said. “You finished off your friend’s lemon curd soufflé …”.

Waste food this good? I think not.

MEET THE CHEFS

Oakley & Fowler

Chris Oakley was trained by the godfathers of Great British Cuisine, the Roux Brothers and then worked at Le Poulbot with Albert Roux in London. He has worked as head chef since buying and restoring Wallett’s in 1975.

Continuing as ‘Grand Master Chef,’ Chris has been joined by Michael Fowler, the new Resident Chef, lately of The Lodge at Prince’s in Sandwich.

Michael grew up in Deal, but trained under Marco-Pierre White at The Criterion in Piccadilly and with Rick Stein in Padstow among other five-star kitchens worldwide.

THE ESSENTIALS

Where: Wallett’s Court, Westcliffe, St. Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, Dover CT15 6EW

01304 852 424 or mail@wallettscourt.com, www.wallettscourthotelspa.com

What: Hotel, restaurant, cookery classes, spa, wedding venue, glamping and more

How much: three-course lunch £19.50, Mon to Sat; three-course Sun lunch £23.95, three-course Native Kentish Menu £39.95 or a Tasting Menu (five courses) n

More from Food & Drink

Yesterday, 16:21

Drink in the sight and smell of our native blooms on one of these wonderful wildflower walks

Read more
Tue, 16:58

There's nothing like finding a quiet spot in a beer garden with the sound of a river running along beside you. We have picked 10 places to do just that

Read more

Award-winning chef-patron Dev Biswali on the joys of southern Indian cusine and expanding his Kentish empire

Read more
May 2019
Thursday, April 25, 2019

Visit the grounds of the historical Kentish manor house this summer for The Food Fest, a two day festival of food, music and fun

Read more
Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Picnic baskets at the ready because we have gathered 10 of the best places to enjoy a picnic in stunning rural Kent

Read more

Fine Art graduate Arianne Mills on having quite possibly the best job in Kent

Read more
April 2019

A great location on Folkestone's famous Leas, a dedicated young team and really tasty food awaits at The View Hotel

Read more
April 2019

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
Thursday, March 21, 2019

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

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