Lucy Self enjoyed wine tasting and a cosy pub with rooms during a weekend break in Kent
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That saying about not appreciating something when its right in front of you is true on many counts, but it is especially true for us when it comes to London’s surrounding counties. Sure, we’ll drive for five plus hours to visit the craggy peaks of Dartfordshire, or pay £100 in train fare to eat Cornish crab on the beaches of Porthminster. But when it comes local jaunts, we get a bit pathetic.
Tenterden in Kent or ‘the garden of Eden’, which probably communicates its bountiful bucolic stretches of English countryside better than we could, can be reached from London’s Charing Cross in under an hour and a half.
With a journey shorter than some people’s commutes across town, it’s the perfect length for a weekend away. Still need persuading? We see you the award-winning winery, Chapel Down and raise you boutique hotel and restaurant, The White Lion.
Whilst we wouldn’t call ourselves experts, we do love a nice drop of vino. And no English drop is better than Chapel Down – generally considered to be the UK’s most successful wine company. As well as a slew of awards, they’re stocked in such reputable restaurants as Dabbous and Roast; and their Sparkling English Rose was even served at Kate and Will’s wedding reception.
Chapel Down’s home, a few miles outside of Tenterden, offers winery tours, shop and deli plus The Swan, a glass fronted restaurant overlooking the surrounding countryside. Just an hour long (good for those who like wine, but can only stand so many facts about fermentation), the tour takes small groups for a leisurely wander across the neat planted rows, through the huge warehouses where you’ll learn such words as ‘dosage’, basically the sugar added to champagne and finally back to the shop for a tasting.
Booking into lunch at The Swan after is a great opportunity to try Chapel Down’s wines with dishes that are designed to match them. It also gave us the opportunity to discuss our recently found knowledge over the seasonal menu of local produce. We tried a soft-fleshed, crunchy-skinned filet of hake, with char-crossed lamb heart lettuce and vibrant pumpkin puree and a warm salad of wild mushrooms. Washed down with Chapel Down’s most famous blend, Bacchus Reserve, of course.
Here at ETL, we’ve never hidden our fondness for a pub with rooms. There really is nothing better than hitting upon a charming country boozer boasting not only a comforting menu of classic dishes, but a short but slickly-designed selection of boutique-style bedrooms upstairs.
The White Lion on Tenterden’s main high street is a brilliant blend of both – from the higgledy piggeldy interior (formerly a 16th Century coaching inn) to the 14 stunning rooms, with plenty of luxe design touches to tickle even the most haughty of hotel connoisseurs.
Our top floor room, with slanted ceilings and original beams, had so many pleasing quirks. A wooden chandelier that looked like antlers, bed side shelves made from rope and antique books and a shabby chic teal dresser.
The White Horse’s menu may include a predictable list of British comfort dishes, but it does them very well. We started off with a steaming bowl of fresh mussels and seasonal salad of pea shoots, plump asparagus and a panko-coated poached egg. After this, we went a little off piste, ordering from The White Horse’s ‘extra’ menus if you will. An excellent smoke-soaked ribeye cooked in their very own charcoal oven and a surprisingly good pizza from their dedicated menu.