Restaurant review: Broome Park Hotel

Shepherds well spring lamb trio (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Shepherds well spring lamb trio (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

This stately country house hotel is on the verge of huge change that will enhance its already considerable appeal

Grade I-listed Broome Park (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Grade I-listed Broome Park (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

First impressions of Broome Park are of an imposing mansion with a sweeping gravel drive to the entrance, surrounded by 250 acres of grounds including an 18-hole golf course.

Grade I-listed, the house is regarded as one of the finest examples of Carolean architecture in England. It also boasts as one of its many previous owners Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener of Khartoum. And I’m staying in a suite that bears his name and is simply ginormous...

Home-cured whisky and citrus salmon (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Home-cured whisky and citrus salmon (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

But I’m leaping ahead – and the vast panelled entrance hall with its two fireplaces and jaw-droppingly ornate ceiling that’s like an inverted iced wedding cake demands you linger.

Then it’s through what feels like a secret door in the panelling and on up to my suite, one of 18, where the four-poster bed seems positively tiny amid the acres of floor space and marbled pillars.

The imposing entrance hall (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The imposing entrance hall (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

A quick nose around and I meet up with director John Woodward, who commandeers a golf buggy to whisk us round the grounds.

I’m glad of the ride because there’s lot to see – including 14 self-catering woodland lodges, the parkland golf course (apparently challenging), a formal Italian garden where weddings can be held and a large fixed marquee that’s used for receptions, parties and events.

The magnificent Kitchener Suite (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The magnificent Kitchener Suite (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

Most Read

At one point John airily waves at some outbuildings and mentions a new hotel is going to be put up there. He’s been in place just five months – like his young head chef – and has an ambitious five-year development plan led by a crucial need to add more accommodation, including catering for disabled guests.

And the whole place really does need an overhaul – it’s glorious, but has a faded grandeur, with carpets, soft furnishings and decorating all needing an update when you start to look closely.

Dave Cook (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Dave Cook (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

The grounds too are disjointed, with some odd buildings popping up unexpectedly, like the health club and holistic centre, and the curious Flint Cottage near the walled garden where General Kitchener preferred to stay.

It’s nearly time for dinner and I settle in a comfortable armchair in the entrance hall to await My Work Colleague. I would have gone to the bar but at the moment it’s quite ‘blokey’ and was full of golfers: John has plans for a more contemporary space going forward, which I approve of!

We’re shown into The Kitchener dining room which, like my suite on the floor above, overlooks the gardens. Dominated by an ornate chandelier, currently it’s a formal space with deep pink patterned walls, cream seating and linen-clothed tables.

Already aware of chef’s current favourite dishes, my choice was easy. I just went for the menu he served his mum on her recent surprise big birthday party.

And the prettily presented home-cured whisky and citrus salmon starter, pickled cucumber, gin and tonic caviar and lemon crème fraiche was the ideal starter on a hot summer night, the G&T caviar giving the dish a real kick. Perfect with a light Picpoul.

I followed with an unusual Shepherds well spring lamb trio of Middle Eastern-style spiced breast, confit shoulder bon bon and a char-grilled cumin-infused cutlet. A real explosion of flavours with multiple textures, I just felt it lacked a vibrant hit of crisp green vegetables to accompany. A Monte Clavijo Tempranillo was spot on.

Across the table MWC enjoyed her subtly flavoured smoked haddock and crab fishcake served with a tomato and shallot salad.

Sometimes the real test of a kitchen comes when you strip away the sauces and fancy bits and get down to the quality of ingredients – and when ordering a 45-day dry-aged Sussex cattle rib-eye, there’s nowhere to hide.

But this Anderson Farm beast passed her exacting steak standards, as did the accompanying cooked vine tomatoes and a hefty wedge of Caesar salad with Parmesan.

A separate cheese menu was hard to resist but instead I opted for a lemon ricotta cheesecake with burnt orange jam and berry sorbet, all a bit too sweet for me and not quite set. Should have gone for the Ashmore after all.

And so to bed – a hot but comfy night, despite a single fan not really touching the vast space.

An intriguing place, both chef and his former executive chef, now GM, have huge ambitions for the hotel and its restaurant and I for one can’t wait to return to see their efforts rewarded.

The essentials

What: Country house hotel

Where: The Broome Park Estate, Canterbury Road, Barham, Canterbury CT4 6QX, 01227 831701

When: Serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and an all-day lounge menu until 9pm

How much: Chicken liver parfait, red onion chutney, toasted sour dough, £6, saddleback pork belly, dauphinoise potatoes, sauté greens, red wine jus, £17, mixed berry ricotta cheesecake, berry sorbet, burnt orange jam £6.50. Two course £24, three courses £30

Meet the chef

Dave Cook

Tell us a bit about you

With 18 years’ experience in the kitchen, I have a passion for delivering great food and service and with Cook as my last name, I had no choice but to become a chef! I first trained at a tapas restaurant from the age of 16, doing college part time, and then spent most of my working years with DeVere hotels, moving my way up from chef de partie to senior sous chef at Latimer House. I’ve been at Broome Park five months now and love the challenge of it being a complete blank canvas, training my young team and watching each individual chef start to shine.

Your main local suppliers?

We have made some great contacts at The Goods Shed in Canterbury; they literally do everything in there. We use Carl Worgan butchers for our lamb, steaks and pork, the guys at Cheesemakers of Canterbury do our amazing cheeseboard, with their world-famous Ashmore Farmhouse cheddar at the helm, while The Wild Bread Company from Faversham supplies us with the best natural sourdough.

Who has influenced you most?

Gordon Ramsey, as I’m addicted to most of his shows, and my old executive chef John Woodward, who pushed me in my early years and believed in me enough to put me through my chef’s academy when I was just a cocky CDP. He is now my GM and gave me the head chef job at Broome Park.

Who would you love to cook for?

I would love to do a royal banquet, and I’d love to cook a bad meal for Gordan Ramsey – just so I could get roasted afterwards!