“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside”…
Just a stone’s throw from the rippling golden dunes of Camber Sands is a nautical inspired 20-room boutique hotel, The Gallivant. The single storey hotel from the outside looks very reminiscent of an American motel. Inside makes way for décor that’s light, chic and driftwood themed. The bedrooms vary a little and I stay in a welcoming carpeted double room facing the dunes. The room has mod cons like a big flat screen TV, and in contrast has retro touches like an old telephone. Most importantly, it has a bed so comfortable you’re in dreamland in seconds.
Before sleep though, I can’t talk about The Gallivant without mentioning the food, where not only the hotel guests eat, but where people go specifically to dine. The nautical driftwood theme continues into the restaurant. During the day the light and airy décor works well, but could benefit from having some warmer hues dotted about to make evening dining that little bit more comforting. However, the vibe is unpretentious and relaxed.
Recently promoted head chef, Ben Fisher, previously of The French Laundry, heads their 2AA Rosettes ‘Beach Bistro’. Most of the produce is locally sourced and the menu reflects this with reasonably priced dishes designed around land and sea. Beautifully cooked Winchelsea salt marsh lamb with truffled beans, aubergine and mash showcase the menu wonderfully and so too do an inspired pigeon breast and confit leg with kale and cauliflower couscous.
There are a couple of niggles; the pasta in the crab ravioli is a little too thick, and the chocolate and peanut butter slice with milk ice-cream is far too sweet, but this doesn’t distract from an overall pretty amazing meal. The food is paired with local Chapel Down Wines – a zesty and crisp Bacchus Reserve 2012 in particular is a great taster to the wines I’m to learn more about on the following day’s wine tour.
After a good night’s sleep quality levels don’t stop at breakfast. A home cooked selection on top of a very attractive buffet spread of cereals and homemade granola certainly hits the spot. For those feeling a little delicate from the previous night’s drinks *coughs* a ‘recovery station’ awaits with the necessary essentials like Stoli to make your hair of the dog – such a cool idea! Or, if Stoli is not quite your thing a Chapel Down Town tour might just be.
A twenty-minute drive into the village of Tenterden is home to the Chapel Down winery and onsite restaurant, The Swan, which is worth going to also – if only to have the chocolate fondant. Chapel Down offer a wine tour where you’ll learn how wine is produced from press right through to bottling and then, best of all, you get to taste some. The most inspiring thing I take away from the tour is that great wines really can exist in England.
A trip to The Gallivant along with the Chapel Down wine tour is a full on gastronomic treat set against nature’s finest back-drops with excellent food in excellent surroundings – it’s simply a breath of fresh air.
The Gallivant and Chapel Down Wines package includes: overnight accommodation in a small double, 3-course a la carte dinner, breakfast, transfers to and from Chapel Down, vineyard tour, lunch, tasting and a packet of Chapel Down truffles!
Prices from £335, based on two people sharing.
Food I Fancy was a guest of The Gallivant and Chapel Down Wines.
New Lydd Road
East Sussex, TN31 7RB
Tel: 01797 225057