Kent: A day in the English countryside
Time is necessary for a holiday, and this is something I have little of, and unfortunately I don’t believe I am the only one. As a result of this, we have seen the boom in weekend breaks and nights away. I decided I would join the troops of Londoners getting away from the heat of the capital.
Royal Tunbridge Wells, just an hour outside of London, was where I found myself on a particularly gorgeous and sunny day, experiencing the perfect day of gastronomic and wellness delights.
Set within 17 acres of perfectly pruned shrubs and manicured lawns, as well as less formal garden areas, with some of the most unusual and beautiful trees and A Monet-like lily-pad filled lake, is the equally elegant and picturesque Spa Hotel. Originally dating back to 1766, this family owned and operated 70 room hotel blends traditional hospitality with a modern approach to service ensuring all guests feel at home.
This hotel is an ideal wedding location, with so many spots in the garden where you think ‘oh that would be a perfect bride and groom shot’. I was, however, not here for a wedding, but for a mother-daughter day, a place to catch up and get a bit of well-earned respite. A real feature, apart from all of the above, was the spa attached to the hotel, brimming with Guinot and ESPA products.
The facilities were compact but ideal for an hour’s treatment before lunch and a wander around the grounds. With spa treatments, I have always been predictable in my choosing, either a facial or a sports massage, but here I tried something totally different and I must rave about how soft my skin felt afterwards! Before my massage, I had the most amazing skin softening ESPA spearmint body polish treatment, to remove the dead skin and cleanse the body. This was followed by a tailored back, neck and shoulder massage, which managed to remove many of the knots in my back which is quite a feat!
Just a stone’s throw away from this tranquil setting, The Pantiles is home to some unique salons, bars and restaurants and the go to place for furnishing your home, with shops selling kitchens, futons or furniture on every corner. Living in London, and having a culinary explosion on my doorstep, with every type of cuisine easily available, it is impossible not to find something to tickle your taste buds. The same can’t be said when you are 40 miles or so outside of London where, despite the availability of fresh produce being reared or grown in fields in the vicinity, restaurants do not come by the dozen. Finding somewhere that competes with the London restaurant elite is something to shout about and here I am yelling from near the North Downs in the Garden of England…….
Thackeray’s Restaurant has been making its mark for the last 15 years, and its quality place it amongst some of the best in the world, holding a Michelin star. Thackeray’s Director, Gary Beach, has spent 10 years creating the best wine and food menus, to ensure the standards of excellence are maintained for any discerning foodie.
From Octopus, Chicken and Chorizo Ballotine to Roast Fillet of Rare Breed Beef, Thackeray’s menu is highly inventive. With delightful staff serving you and being able to confidently advise an indecisive customer – “to go for the Cornish turbot or the chargrilled loin of Kentish Pork” – with every course my meal went from strength-to-strength. Head Chef Shane Hughes’ food is seasonal with a modern twist. Nothing is done conventionally, which makes the menu so exciting and the food so mouth-watering. The restaurant offers two menu options, the Menu Exceptional and the Market Menu – the former being an eight course tasting menu, which was being enjoyed at a neighbouring table and looked like a feast the Romans would have relished.
I opted for the Market Menu, a three course meal, with added surprises. Everything was served to perfection. A real wow moment was the exquisite Thackeray’s Cherry Forest dessert – a carefully sculpted forest scene including chocolate bark, mushroom shaped meringues, cherries and pistachios. Everything about this meal made you think you were eating at one of London’s best restaurants, until you glanced out of the window towards Mount Ephraim and the green and pleasant land of Tunbridge Wells.
Before my visit to Kent, having worked 20 days in a row, I was questioning whether I had the time to focus on me for a day, but how happy I was to be feeling knot free with the softest skin I have had in years and having enjoyed a superb meal.
Main image at the top of the aricle credit: David Hodgkinson