Hush Heath wine event at the Hotel Du Vin

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Private dining experiences are the perfect recipe for enjoyment, as Eileen Leahy discovered when she visited the Hush Heath event at Hotel Du Vin

There can be few things as enjoyable in life as dinner out with friends and family, but if you’re looking for something a little bit extra special, then how about attending one of Hotel Du Vin’s monthly private dinners?

Personally speaking, I’ve always been a huge fan of the Hotel Du Vin, which has now been serving Tunbridge Wells for over 20 years.

Whether it’s popping in for a warming glass of red on a cold winter’s evening or dining al fresco at lunchtime in the boutique hotel’s glorious lavender-lined gardens, it always hits the hospitality spot.

The fact the Hotel Du Vin now also offers a monthly private dining experience adds another string to its culinary bow.

When I was invited to its latest one, held on a beautiful summer’s evening, it was the turn of local wine producer Hush Heath to showcase its impressive array of viticultural offerings made at their state-of-the-art winery in Staplehurst.

On arrival at the hotel, I’m ushered into the elegant lounge, where I meet Adam Williams, Sales Director at Hush Heath Estate. He swiftly hands me a chilled flute of Leslie’s Reserve, a sparkling white wine named after the wife of Richard Balfour Lynn, who started Hush Heath in 2001.

It’s rich, bone dry yet boasts buttery hints, and thanks to the fact it’s made using the classic Champagne triptych of 55% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier, it tastes as good as any of its expensive French counterparts – and is the perfect accompaniment to the smoked salmon blinis, nuggets of ham hock terrine and mini broccoli and stilton quiches being offered around.

As more guests drift in – we are ten in total – people start to chat, and despite the fact I’m the only one here who hasn’t come with a spouse or family member, the group is friendly and clearly passionate about wine, or learning more, as they ask Adam all sorts of questions regarding ‘terroir’ and the best vintage years.

Soon we’re in the hotel’s delightful ‘Havana’ private dining room to enjoy our three-course dinner, which will be accompanied by a different wine for each course.

Sitting at the elegantly dressed table – complete with starched white linen cloth, gleaming glassware and polished silver cutlery – we start with a light French-inspired dish of cured Bayonne Ham with a creamy celeriac remoulade.

This is paired with a Skye Chardonnay 2016.

We’re told by Adam this is ‘England’s answer to Chablis’, and named after the producer’s eldest daughter. It’s an ideal accompaniment to the starter as its zingy fresh citrus character cuts through the dish’s intense flavours.

Next on the menu is pan-roasted red mullet served with crushed saffron potatoes, seasonal asparagus and a basil beurre blanc sauce.

As the chatter around the table becomes more animated, we are poured a glass of Balfour Brut Rosé 2014 – the jewel in the Hush Heath crown.

It was the first wine they launched as a rival to the likes of France’s Laurent Perrier or Billecart Salmon.

A glass of Manor ‘Pinot Noir’ 2016 is then presented alongside a board of both British and French cheeses, and it boasts a pleasing ruby red colour with buckets of fruit on the bouquet.

Although I feel pretty full by now, there’s still one more course to savour – a traditional tarte tartin with créme Normande.

I’m happy to report it’s deliciously sweet and sticky and the Sparkling Apple Wine rosé Adam proposes to go with it is a light and refreshing foil to the dessert.

When I ask Adam what he enjoyed most about talking about his wines and the food matches, he told me that the Hotel Du Vin was ‘the perfect venue to taste great English wines matched expertly with great food’. I have to say I would certainly second that, and look forward to returning.

The next private dining experience at the Hotel Du Vin is a Gin Dinner on Friday, August 10, with Slingsby of Harrogate at 7pm. Tickets, which include a three-course dinner paired with a selection of gins, welcome drinks and canapés, costs £50 per person. Visit:

Hush Heath hosts a special event exclusively for its Wine Club members on July 28. This will be a smart cocktail party – an evening with a dressy code in their new winery, where the team will be making cocktails for members. For more details on this and other events, visit:

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