Monday, 9 March 2009

Wallett's Court Country House Hotel

Westcliffe, Dover, Kent CT15 6EW
M: Google Map
F: (01304) 853430
T: (01304) 852424

It may seem like Gavin Oakley’s family hotel has been around forever, but that’s not to say it’s dated. The seventeenth-century farmhouse may have a certain historical gravitas (the estate figures in the Domesday Book), but it is run as a modern country-house set up. Steve Harvey’s food is modern, too, but not aggressively so, its backbone of fairly conservative dishes enlivened by a few surprise elements, such as pomegranate molasses and ras el hanout with chargrilled quail. Timings and seasoning do not please all reporters, but successes have included venison loin with juniper, blackberry, port jus and bitter chocolate, and herb-crusted salmon with a julienne of leeks and carrots and champagne velouté sauce. Finish, perhaps, with hot chocolate brownie and peanut butter ice cream. An individual and instructive wine list brings fine growers to the table. Bottles start from £15.95.
Set in pretty gardens in a peaceful location on the outskirts of town, this country-house hotel is based around a lovely Jacobean manor. The restaurant - a dinner-only affair - is formally laid with white linen and high-backed chairs, set to a backdrop of oak beams, inglenook fireplaces and evening candlelight. Walls are hung with original art, and there are carved pillars dating back to 1627. But there's nothing remotely historic about the cooking. The accomplished modern British repertoire - driven by a commitment to quality local seasonal produce, including ingredients from the hotel's kitchen garden - comes fashionably dotted with European influences. Try breast of pheasant with parsnip mash and a port, chestnut and cranberry jus, or fillet of Miller's 30-day matured Aberdeen Angus, served with blue cheese butter, roasted pumpkin, a bacon wafer and crushed mustard seeds.
Lovely Jacobean manor situated in a peaceful location on the outskirts of town. Bedrooms in the original house are traditionally furnished whereas the rooms in the courtyard buildings are more modern; all are equipped to a high standard. Public rooms include a smart bar, a lounge and a restaurant that utilises local organic produce. An impressive spa facility is housed in converted barn buildings in the grounds.
Set in The Heart of White Cliffs Country, this 17th Century Manor House Hotel with Restaurant and Spa is simply beautiful. Luxurious bedrooms have antique four-poster beds, vaulted beamed ceilings and some rooms afford distant views of the English Channel. The restaurant noteworthy in its own right is mentioned in many major food and hotel guides and serves some of the finest cuisine in Kent.

The Spa which is set in the landscaped grounds at Walletts Court, houses an indoor pool, sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy spa, a fitness room and outside is an all weather tennis court. Just over a mile away is St. Margarets Bay with its stunning views to the French coastline. Relaxed and secluded, yet only 3 miles from Dover, Walletts Court really is the perfect hotel in which to stay if you are touring The Garden of England, starting your Continental holiday early with a night or two before crossing the Channel, playing golf on one of the championship courses in the area or just spending some time relaxing in luxurious surroundings. B&B from 45 pp, Dinner from 20.00 Rooms 2 twin, 9 double, 4 four-poster/suite all ensuite, AA 3 star, 3 rosette, Open all year.
A glorious retreat close to Canterbury in the heart of white cliffs country. Wallett's Court is owned and run by the Oakley family, who first discovered the building, near derelict, on a summer's day in 1975. It was listed as the Manor of Westcliffe in the Domesday Book, and its history embraces such luminaries as Bishop Odo of Bayeux, Queen Eleanor of Castille, historian Edward Gibbon, Admiral Lord Aylmer and Prime Minister William Pitt. Today, Wallett's Court is a family home and country house hotel with 16 large, comfortable bedrooms.

The style is homely; you can settle in the old leather sofa by a blazing fire, hear the grandfather clock ticking or relax in the conservatory. The indoor pool, sauna, steam and fitness rooms, as well as the luxurious health spa housed within a Kentish barn, add an attractive dimension to the hotel. As, indeed, does its location: close to Canterbury and on the doorstep of the Continent - the ever-expanding Cruise Terminal is only four miles away. The surrounding area is designated as being of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A mile away is St Margaret's Bay, and on a clear day you can see France. History enthusiasts can visit Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and the secret wartime tunnels of Dover Castle.
This Grade II listed house was found in ruins in the late 70’s by the Oakley family, who thankfully picked it up and put it back on its feet. In the main house the Jacobean staircase leads to one of the three traditional 4-poster bedrooms and across the courtyard there are 14 contemporary rooms housed in converted Kentish hay barns. On top of excellent hospitality there is a spa complete with hydrotherapy pool and treatment cabins set in the woods. The restaurant is deservedly popular locally and local ingredients are important - try the St Margaret's Bay lobster or Romney Marsh lamb. You can practice clay pigeon shooting with a professional or have a round of golf atop the White Cliffs or simply relax here for a day or two before heading over to France.
Wallett's Court is one of those quintessential English houses that feels uniquely lived-in. It's a lovely seventeenth-century residence not far from Dover's white cliffs, and it holds a special place in the annals of The Mobile Food Guide since it was the very first establishment to receive a full published review. The hotel's in-house spa is in tune with current trends, but the rest of the place is much as before. Guests can sometimes glimpse the English Channel from their bedrooms windows, and there are also pleasing views of the Kent countryside from the dining room.

Chef/patron Chris Oakley recently bowed out of the kitchen and handed over the reins to Stephen Harvey, who is following in his mentor's footsteps. Raw materials from the 'Garden of England' and supplies from elsewhere are used for a repertoire of dishes with a modern slant. Menus glide along with the seasons. In spring, there might be roast rack of new season's Romney Marsh lamb with mushroom duxelle, sweetbreads and Madeira jus, while autumn could see the arrival of roast loin of wild boar with pickled white cabbage, sautéed Bramley apple and Tewkesbury mustard velouté. On the fish front, expect inventive ideas such as confit of brill, pan-fried in goose dripping with 'lie de vin' sauce, while desserts have spanned everything from gingerbread crème brûlée to poached pear with hot-spiced Pinot Noir and blackberries.

The atmosphere is a relaxed as ever, service is still 'swan-like' and the extensive wine list is a very decent collection of respectable names (20 are available by the glass).
This lovely old country manor house, mentioned in the Domesday Book, is set in beautiful grounds near to Dover, and is a celebration of the Elizabethan era. Built in 1627, Walletts Court Hotel features a carved porch, original wall painting, even a priesthole, and many historical associations, its homely lounge with open fire, sofas, grandfather clock and piano complement the nearby conservatory popular for pre-dinner cocktails. The award-winning cuisine, chosen with a Jacobean flavour, offers excitingly varied menus in the beamed candlelit restaurant. Bedrooms are divided between the main house and converted barns whose comfortably furnished rooms are named according to original usage such as 'Dairy' and 'Stable'.
Check yourself in for a treat-filled weekend at this charming little hotel, restaurant and spa combo. Set in a converted medieval barn, the beamed dining room has been carefully restored, its traditional features enhanced by proper linen and tableware. Menus are primarily based on local, organic produce and change frequently, always including excellent fish and seafood. Kentish woodpigeon and hare, as well as venison and wild boar from Wadhurst Park are seasonal highlights, treated expertly by the innovative but classically trained chef. Best in winter, when candles and open fires lend a warming glow.
It wasn’t the response I’d expected when I’d phoned to book a post-new year bolt hole last month. “We’re very busy around new year,” said the receptionst, “but I could put you in the hut.” It was, she hastened to add, a very nice hut — and as I’d heard very nice things about Wallett’s, and liked the idea of nice walks along the cliffs by Dover, I went for it. It was, as Chris Tarrant might say, the right answer. The “hut” looked from the outside like a garden shed on stilts beside the car park. But inside it was a cosy double room with a small gallery with a comfy mattress for a third person.

The “hut” is one of Wallett’s Court’s 17 en suite rooms, the majority being in the main house — parts of which date back to the 11th century when William the Conqueror’s half brother Odo was in residence — while some are in a converted barn. The feel is rural-but-smart, great for a weekend. Some rooms have four-posters with styles that range from tastefully antique to contemporary Noughties. Inside the main house there are timber beams and exposed brick walls, while on the first floor landing original painted frescoes on the plasterwork date to the early 1600s and beyond.

Blowing off the festive season cobwebs was easy. After a good two-hour walk past Second World War gun emplacements along the cliffs to Dover, with France visible across the Channel, I was ready for a soak in the spa’s hot tub and then for dinner. My honeyed fig and Vulscombe goat’s cheese starter was bland, but the main course of roasted loin of cod with tempura vegetables and chilli and ginger jam filled me so sufficiently that I skipped pud, even though the glazed coconut brûlée definitely had my name on it. The next morning I had one of the best breakfasts I can remember, followed by an hour’s reflexology massage (£25) in the spa, which was relaxing but could have been a bit more forceful, although maybe that’s just my masochistic side. I left full of beans and ready to face 2005.

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