RG's at Rowhill Grange, Wilmington reviewed

When you want a mini break but not too far from home, Rowhill Grange has got everything from a new restaurant to comfortable accommodation and an award-winning spa

RG’s at Rowhill Grange, Wilmington reviewed

Let’s face it, January can be a tough month to get through. The Christmas jollities are over and pay day seems a very long way down the line. It’s cold outside and the instinct is to huddle away indoors until Spring.

But there is an answer out there, a way to escape, relax and let someone else do all the hard work for a change. In Kent we’re lucky enough to have some very good hotels offering spa breaks and if you don’t want to wait until Valentine’s, then I reckon this is the perfect month to indulge in a local getaway.

Rowhill Grange has always been a good bet for an overnight or weekend stay, offering all the facilities of a hotel with a small but perfectly formed spa and its own restaurant. The icing on the cake is that the latter has now been revamped and relaunched, so it was to check out the new RG’s that saw My Gorgeous Daughter and I heading out for Wilmington on a wild and rainy Friday evening.

Inside the 18th-century country house hotel, all was warm and snug, we were welcome courteously and after a brief inspection of our comfortable room, we headed down to the restaurant to see what executive chef Luke Davies, who has cooked for The Queen Mother no less, had in store for us.

A recently joined member of food champions Produced in Kent, Luke’s aim is to showcase good, honest, seasonally inspired dishes with priority given to sourcing the very best local produce from local suppliers within a 30-mile radius. So alongside a simple grill menu starring beef from Woodchurch Estate, you’ll find classics such as Kentish pork belly, roast venison and a daily seafood catch from the south coast.

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A colour palette of pistachio, truffle and creams allows rich wall coverings and artwork to stand out, but it’s not until breakfast that you get the real sense of this being set in a Victorian conservatory when natural light fills the large room and the surrounding greenery can be seen.

We relaxed back into exceptionally comfy chairs, hoping for a good girlie catch-up chat in between notes and mouthfuls, but we both felt that the tables were a little too close together for an intimate conversation. It’s a busy place, the majority of guests at weekends certainly are here for an overnight stay and to use the spa facilities, so I wouldn’t advise having a row while dining here: everyone will hear.

Deciding to concentrate on eating instead, MGD went for the Kentish goat’s cheese and fig tart to start served with a micro herb salad, which proved an enjoyable combination and very prettily presented.

My roasted Rye Bay scallops came with a rather unexpected cauliflower pur�e and curry foam but tasted a lot milder than the description suggests and although they were a bit on the tiny side, the scallops were perfectly cooked.

I followed with one of RG’s signature dishes and a personal favourite, Kentish pork belly (Roundwood Orchard organic), served here with creamed cabbage and caramelised apple pur�e. A juicy, tender plateful, a glass of Rioja was the ideal accompaniment and helped cut through the sweetness of the sauce.

MGD didn’t fare quite so well with her main course of roasted sea bass with a pea risotto and parsley sauce: the idea should have worked, but the cream-laden risotto was overly rich and seemed to fight with the fish rather than complement it.

Alas, dessert wasn’t much more successful – her bread and butter pudding was again far too rich and looked more like soggy pastry than this British classic. But the caramelised orange ice cream with it was a big hit and my gorgeous Kentish raspberry souffl� with thick custard ice cream was definitely the highlight of the meal.

It was wonderful to be able to stagger upstairs for a good night’s sleep (great mattresses!) and in the morning enjoy a very good breakfast before donning our robes and trying out the award-winning Utopia spa for the morning.

We both had really relaxing facials then splashed around in the cocoon-like area fitted out like a Roman bathhouse, with stone columns, a Japanese therapy pool, underwater massage beds and a waterfall. We were disappointed not to be able to use the pillared pool with its surrounding mural and great lighting because a fitness class was taking place, which seemed a little odd on a busy Saturday morning – as did a sauna that was still cold by 11.30am.

But these were minor blips on a most relaxing visit and it’s no surprise to see how well-used this popular hotel is – everything under one roof and very efficiently run and managed.

CONTACT

Rowhill Grange Hotel & Utopia Spa

Wilmington DA2 7QH

01322 615136

Utopia Spa Enquiries

Tel symbol: 01322 667433

Typical prices: Rye Bay scallops �12.50, Kentish pork belly �20, 14oz T-bone steak �28, apple tart �8.50

Restaurant open: 12-2.30pm and 7-9pm Mon-Sun

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