Chilston Park Hotel, Lenham, Kent: restaurant review

Indulge in some delicious dining this month, whether to celebrate the feast of St Valentine or simply to lift winter spirits, at beautiful Chilston Park

For those among you looking for full-on romance this February, then it doesn’t come much classier than Chilston Park Hotel. You have to be particularly sharp-eyed to spot the signs for the hotel as you drive through the medieval village of Lenham, especially on a very dark night, but your persistence will be rewarded by the most elegant of settings.

A handsome 17th-century, Grade 1 listed country manor with a grand entrance drive set within 22 acres of rural parkland, you feel special before you even cross the threshold. The spacious two-Rosette restaurant, Culpepper’s, is in the original dining room and with its ornate ceiling, antique furniture and framed oil paintings and crisply white-clothed tables, it has a definite sense of occasion.

As we studied the blissfully short menu, just six choices per course, we were tempted with a selection of canap�s – mussels in hollandaise, tomato and basil soup in a glass, smoked trout on tiny squares of home-made bread, all beautifully presented and a great whet to the appetite.

I decided to put myself in the hands of the attentive waiting staff and went with chef Gareth Brown’s recommendations of the evening, starting with a twice-baked goat’s cheese souffl� served on a carpaccio of beetroot, the sharply contrasting colours not only giving great eye appeal, but the warmth and gentleness of the cheese thrown into clever relief by the tang of the beetroot.

Try it with a glass of Chilcas Vineyards Chardonnay from San Rafael, Chile – the wine supplier is Bibendum, which means you get a mixture of classed growths as well as funky, unusual stuff and rare bottlings.

My dining chum, The Hungry One, was surprisingly restrained in his choice of a rather dainty but delicious east coast crab timbale, again served with seasonal beetroot, this time laced with an orange pur�e – I could have bet money on the roasted wood pigeon or slow-roasted duck terrine, but he was “saving himself”, apparently, for a thoroughly meaty main course – courtesy of supplier Aubrey Allen, the quality of whose beef has been described by the Roux brothers, no less, as “unrivalled.”

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Hovering over the confit of port belly, THO finally could not resist the 28-day aged sirloin steak, which he deemed “an appropriate amount of animal” on his plate and set to with gusto. Accompanied by very symmetrical carrot and cumin gratin, for all the world like orange bookends, and watercress velout�, this was a hungry hunter’s dream dinner, nicely matched with a robust Spanish Rioja, all toasty spice and sweet oak notes.

I had been edging towards the poached and roasted partridge, but was rather firmly steered towards the Dover sole, which I don’t think I have ever ordered. I opted to have it boned at the table, simply out of curiosity really, and it is quite a test of skill – especially when you’re being watched by a couple of journalists jotting down notes about your performance.

But all was safely delivered and the plump white fish, from the renowned M and J Seafood, was succulence itself and needed no further adornment than simple parsley butter, seasonal vegetables and a glass of Italian Pinot Bianco Alois Lageder.

I kept it traditional with my pudding choice of a sort of mini tower of apple and blackberry pie with vanilla ice cream (excellent pastry), while THO lapped up a selection of yummy fruit sorbets with every sign of enjoyment. 

And so to bed… well, not us, obviously, we work together for heaven's sake, but if you do want to make a night of it then Chilston Park can offer you four-posters, suites and ‘classic’ rooms, all exquisitely decorated and, I am assured, sumptuously comfortable.  Check out our reader offer below.

Chilston Park Hotel

Sandway, Lenham, Maidstone ME17 2BE

Tel: 01622 859 803

Prices: typical � la carte bill, �40, set menu, �28.95

Open: lunch Sun-Fri, 12pm-2pm, closed Sat lunch, dinner Sun-Thu, 7pm-9.30pm, Fri and Sat, 6.30pm-9.30pm

 Reader offer

Enjoy dinner, bed & breakfast at Chilston Park Hotel, mid-week Sun to Thur, from �119. This exclusive offer to Kent Life readers represents a massive saving of 42 per cent and includes: accommodation, breakfast and a three-course dinner for two from the daily menu.

Please book via www.handpickedhotels.co.uk/chilston using the promotion code RELAX to access this special rate (or call 0845 458 0905).

Terms & conditions

Subject to availability. Price applies to Classic room category. Prepayment required.

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