Review: The Who’d a Thought It? near Maidstone
- Credit: Archant
A plethora of crystals and crushed velvet greeted Kent Life on an overnight stay at The Who’d a Thought It? inn just outside Maidstone. Pictures by Manu Palomeque
If bubbles and bling are your thing, you’re going to fit right in at The Who’d a Thought It? tucked away in Grafty Green.
Because there’s plenty of both – bubbles in the shape of a Champagne bar in the pub and in the private hot tubs outside seven of the 19 lodges, a short walk from the main building.
And bling is everywhere, from the disco ball light in my suite above a Swarovski crystal-studded standalone bath to the chandeliers hanging from old beams in the restaurant draped with diamanté-edged satin curtains.
Originally a 16th-century inn, it’s been in the hands of the Mallett family since 1973 when current mine host Joe Mallett’s parents first acquired it and gave it its distinctive name.
Joe, his sister and mother are responsible for the design of the rooms, which are all individually themed and mainly named after different Champagne houses. These range from the Krug Suite, with hot tubs inside and out plus a shower steam room, to the ‘Champagne & Shoes’ suite which boasts erotic prints on the wall, a circular bed, mirrored ceiling and even a dance pole. I kid you not.
I stayed in the Ace of Spades and once I’d showered and put on my LBD, practically disappeared into the decor. Black textured wallpaper studded with black fabric panels by the vast bed (backed by a monotone New York skyline), crushed black velvet curtains and upholstery, a black-clad bathroom.
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Sparkle comes from the aforementioned bath, positioned just a bit awkwardly to not-quite-see the giant 60in TV screen, an art-deco-style mirrored shard bar, a funky glassed dressing table. The lighting is good – controls allow umpteen different ‘mood’ settings – but don’t forget to leave your exterior light on when you make your way back up from the main. And your key. You don’t want to be tottering back up or down again in those heels.
So, it was off to the bar to meet up with my dining companion for the evening. Naturally we sought out the Champagne & Oyster Bar, which turned out to be just a small area off the main bar where Joe served us both a glass of pink fizz from his collection of 64 different varieties of Champagne.
Leading off from here, the dining room was a riot of leopardskin, from carpet to upholstery, with one long table down the middle where sat, somewhat incongruously, a group of senior ladies seemingly undaunted by the dazzling row of chandeliers above their heads.
MDC and I were put in a high-backed booth at one end of the room, which rather restricted our view but at least it was intimate; however, this is more of a couples place than a couple of girlfriends out for a meal and a gossip.
The à la carte menu reads well – seven starters, eight mains, with a showy plateau rouge clearly the (pricey) star for couples-on-romantic night-out: £90 for two to tuck into a feast of lobster, crab, prawns, smoked salmon and crayfish.
I opted for the deep-fried goat’s cheese to start, which was not hot enough for my taste and rather oddly paired with beetroot and thin slices of raw apple. It was also a very small portion, as was MDC’s lukewarm, pan-fried scallops with wedges of chorizo, dollops of roasted red-pepper sauce and some rather pointless micro lemon balm, which added nothing but a nasty taste to the dish.
My main of seabass with root vegetable rosti was a distinct improvement and the rosti excellent, but MDC’s slab of Scotch beef fillet was neither tender nor cheap at £28.
She had raspberry sorbet for dessert, while I enjoyed the crème brûlée, which was nicely executed, didn’t need the chunk of shortbread on the side really but I ate it anyway. To drink I had a glass of Sauvignon Prestige Vigne.
And so to my dark cavern for a night of dark dreams and an eerie quietness about the place when I trotted back to the main building for breakfast before heading off to work. Alas, everything was still locked up, I later realised from the website that breakfast doesn’t start until 9.30am (not useful for weekday visitors) and had Mr Mallett senior not turned up, I wouldn’t have been able to check out. I guess after all that Champagne and pole dancing most guests are too worn out for an early start.
Anyway, we had a nice chat in the car park and the original owner told me that their first pub sign back in 1973 was of a man gazing up in wonder at a space rocket. Today it’s of a teeteringly high stiletto shoe. How times have changed.
Where: Who’d a Thought It? Headcorn Road, Grafty Green, nr Lenham ME17 2AR
What: Pub with restaurant and separate lodge-style accommodation
How much: pan-fried scallops £9.95; roast rack of lamb £20; chateaubriand (for two) £65