All in good taste
13th June 2019
Eileen Leahy tries the Hotel du Vin’s new seasonal menu which is inspired by the fantastic produce of Kent
The Hotel du Vin in Tunbridge Wells has long been a reliable dining destination thanks to its traditional Gallic epicurean offering, excellent wine list and pleasantly authentic bistro surroundings.
During the 20 years it’s been in town it has been the place to enjoy a robust cassoulet or indulgent chateaubriand this side of the Channel, but now its head chef James Sherwin has decided to up its gourmet game a little further and shine a spotlight on some of Kent’s sensational produce too.
James has pushed hard for, and succeeded in creating, a special regional menu that differs from those you’ll find in other Hotel du Vin locations such as Brighton or Cheltenham. Two courses cost £19.95, or £24.95 for three on the prix fixe (or set) menu, but each dish on it has its culinary roots firmly entwined in Kent.
Some of the tempting treats James and his team have dreamt up for foodies to savour this summer at the four-star hotel include smoked ham hock croquettes using meat from Pembury Porkoo and a crispy polenta and ratatouille confection which showcases Staplehurst’s Kentish Blue cheese as its star ingredient.
In addition to finding a slew of locally produced goodies plucked from the Garden of England, guests can also savour the many drinks made here too – either in some of the dishes or as a perfect liquid accompaniment to lunch or dinner.
Drinks from Tenterden’s Chapel Down feature strongly on both the bar and prix fixe menus. When I visited recently to sample the new menu I particularly enjoyed the Bacchus gin-cured salmon dish served with a cucumber and dill salad.
To follow I had a deliciously plump poached haddock fillet and fragrant samphire risotto which was further enhanced by the addition of a Curious Brew cider velouté. But the slow roasted Kent pork belly with confit fennel and Spitfire ale black pudding sounded equally as good.
I finished my tastebuds’ tour of Kent with a decadent serving of Chapel Down and rhubarb jelly, which sees one of Kent’s finest sparkling wines infused into layers of pretty, poached rhubarb shards. Now if that isn’t a taste of Kent – and of summer – I don’t know what is…
Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells will be hosting weekly Sundowner Sessions from Friday June 28 between 5 and 7pm. As well as live music being played on the terrace, guests can enjoy a range of Chapel Down sparkling wines and gin cocktails at special prices.
On the menu
Various tweaks have been made to Hotel du Vin’s à la carte menu too. Now you’ll find a bigger selection of British, Mediterreanean and vegetarian dishes such as breaded Gloucester Old Spot escalope served with a hen’s egg and aubergine and halloumi parmigiana bake alongside the usual French staples of garlic prawns with Pastis and aioli, sole meunière and Roquefort, pear and walnut salad.
The inclusion of some local info on the à la carte menus – think a brief history of famed architect Decimus Burton and the Chalybeate Spring in The Pantiles – is a nice touch for any visitors to Tunbridge Wells. And, like the new regional prix fixe menu, it helps the Hotel du Vin in Tunbridge Wells feel far from being just another link in a chain of UK-wide hotels.