Friday, 4 July 2014

Supporting Local - Why we do it and why you should to!

One of the things we are most proud of, is the fact that our menus are created using seasonality as the theme. Locally and ethically sourced produce also plays a big part and we are passionate about it.

Because of our passion for local, we like to visit those producers who supply us daily with all the wonderful ingredients that are used in our menus. Recently we have returned from visiting one of our suppliers, Chegworth Valley.

Many of you will associate them to the award winning single variety and blended fruit juices they create – all of which are pressed on the farm using hand selected orchard ripe fruit, more often than not, within hours of being picked. The range includes pure apple and pear juices along with special blends using their own raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants and rhubarb to name a few. These juices are all unique in flavour and are all lovingly pressed and gently pasteurised to retain the flavour and nutritional properties of the fruit.

There is another side to Chegworth however, one that tenderly nurtures the growth of all kinds of salad leaves, tomatoes, beetroot, cucumbers, aubergines, squash, peppers, runner beans, fennel and much more, not to mention the large selection of fruits, all of which are picked by hand and carefully sorted and bagged for selling at the various market stalls and farmers markets across the county and into London.

Chegworth Valley is a family owned and run fruit farm. It was established in 1983 when David and his wife decided to give up work and start a farm. The site had previously been a dairy farm forming part of the Leeds Castle Estate. In the beginning, apple and pear trees were planted, which were followed by strawberries, other soft fruits and eventually salads and vegetables.

In the very beginning, the farm supplied fruit to supermarkets and large wholesalers, but it was soon clear that their interest was in the shape and size of the fruit only, not in the way it had been grown it or how it smelt and tasted. David and his family are passionate about producing real fruit with the best possible taste and smell that isn't full of harmful chemicals. They also wanted to deal with customers directly who had a passion for real food and drink and would prefer to support smaller produces than the big food manufacturers and supermarkets who some feel have devalued the great produce available here in the UK.

Their passion for the produce they supply to us is something our Head Chef sets out to capture and echo in all of the menus he creates, whilst adding in his own passion for food and Sussex and Kentish produce. Our Chefs work with the farms on a seasonal basis so we know we are getting the produce at its very best, where it has been grown in the best conditions and will have the best flavour.

If you are, as we can all be, guilty of the convenience of the supermarket, then we suggest you give your local farmers market a go. Use your local butcher and talk to them, find out exactly where your meat is coming from. Talk to the local fishmonger and make sure you are getting the best of the catch. Everyone of these specialists in local food will love nothing more than to talk to you about their passion – the produce they work with. Create your own passion for the produce grown and reared in Kent and off of the coast and cook with it, you will be amazed by the difference in quality and flavour. If you want to see for yourself, just how amazing this local produce is once it has been cooked, then come and visit us at Verandah Restaurant and let our Chefs turn these wonderful, local, raw ingredients into an experience to be remembered.

To see more photos from our visit and learn a little more about the workings of the farm, come and find us on Facebook and have a look at our album Supplier Visit - Chegworth Valley

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

25,000 Tulips

Part of our job is to be able to advise guests on where to go and what to do when visiting us. We can always suggest the obvious, perhaps a trip on the Eastbourne City Sightseeing Bus which will take you as far Beachy Head amongst other places. We would also suggest a visit to Sovereign Harbour and the Towner Gallery, perhaps a show at the local theatre, however we also want you to visit some of the hidden gems that East Sussex has to offer, none of which are more than 45 minutes away, and so this blog is about Pashley Manor Gardens, just one of those gems that you really ought to visit...

Open only from the 1st April until October each year, Pashley Manor Gardens offer so much to see throughout the short season that  one visit just won't be enough. We were lucky to attend, just towards the end of the Tulip Festival which lasts for around 2 weeks and what a sight to see, 25000 tulips in bloom, it really was beautiful.
The gardens are split with different walkways, secret paths and peaceful waters. There is a lovely walk through some woods, known as Bluebell Walk, and it was clear why. Although we visited just as they were going over, you could see that when they were in full bloom it would have looked almost like you were walking through water.

As you walk around you spot all the different flowers and grand old
trees that's are unfolding in the Spring weather, the grass is so green and the trees are coming back to life after their long winter sleep. Rhododendrons are in full bloom and the weeping willows dip the tips of their branches into the waters surrounding them. Just below the wall of the enclosed Elizabethan Garden the Magnolia Soulangeana is also covered in huge rosy buds which will eventually open up into cream and pink flowers.

Carefully placed around the grounds are sculptures of animals and people.  A lady sat by the water reading a book with her trusted dog by her side, a family of pigs playing on the grass and some cheeky otters splashing about on the waters edge. Don't miss either the Stag, hidden in the trees watching a Doe grazing.

In the Pool Garden there is a family relaxing, a boy reading a book on
the diving board, a lady drying herself with a towel, a young girl watching her sister play by the pool. This area of beautiful flowers with these beautiful sculptures really brings the small garden to life, and you can almost hear the laughter of a family as they played in the sun in days gone by.

Pashley Manor is more than just beautiful gardens, it has a lot of history with it. This Wrought-iron bridge the leads over to the Island in the Moat where the original manor house would have stood back in 1262. On this island you will see a sculpture of a loan woman. This woman is none other than the famous Anne Boleyn, wife to Henry VIII for just 1000 days, who's family owned Pashley and used it as a hunting lodge in the 16th century.

I could go on with this blog, but I feel I can stop here, knowing I have given you a taste for what it is like without telling you everything. You really ought to visit these amazing gardens because I can't do them justice through photos or words. 
There is an exciting programme of special events at Pashley Manor Gardens, starting with Bluebell Walk and the Tulip Festival as previously mentioned, to the Rose Weekend and the Kitchen Garden Weekend, followed by Lily Time in August and finally the Sussex Guild Craft Show. So, when you come to visit us, please try and find the time to visit Pashley, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Pet Friendly Hotels

We have seen many people walk through our doors over the years, mostly of the human variety, but over the years we have more and more people enquiring about bringing their pets with them, and being a pet friendly hotel, we do tend to favour our four legged friends! It's not just dogs that we cater for either, we have had cats, snakes, rabbits and parrots in the past so we are not new in appreciating the love you have for your animals. A fellow Best Western Hotel even agreed to give a pet pig a bed for the night!

Most of our staff have their own furry friends and it brightens their day when they see you bringing your pets on holiday with you. Our receptionist has a sausage dog called Bruce, Christine our General Manager in Canterbury has a cat called Princess Sophie and Daniel our director has a Cocker Spaniel called Monte and a King Charles Spaniel called Carlo. The General Manager of the York House even used to breed German Shepherds!

So, be sure that when you arrive, if you have your furry friend with you, all our staff will make as much fuss over them as they will over you!

We have specially designed rooms that are only allocated to guests bringing pets, and they are large enough for us to be able to provide them with a bed of their own and water bowl. We also offered over Christmas back in 2012 a Doggie Gourmet Christmas Dinner which consisted of Kobe Beef, (generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture) Fillet Mignon, (a tender steak cut of beef taken from the smaller end of the fillet) and Porterhouse, (cut from the rear end of the short loin and includes more fillet) now what other hotels can claim they will do that?!

We allow pets into most areas of the hotel, the only places we have limits is in the pool at the BEST WESTERN York House Hotel and in the restaurants, I am sure you can appreciate the reasons behind this, BUT we will set you up a table in the bar or lounge if you don't want room service and will happily serve you our restaurant menu there so you don't miss out.

We have invested in large vacuums that are specifically designed to cope with pet hairs to ensure the rooms and public areas appear as if we have never had an animal in the building and you can be assured that your rooms will be as clean as those that have never had a pet in them.

Just so you know, the next four legged friend due in is a Guinea Pig called George checking in later this week. His owner called to see if our pet charge of £10 per night would apply, it does of course and he will be sleeping in a pet tent in his owners room and will have access to all the pet friendly areas of the hotel on his harness (he is small so this is just a precaution, we don't want him getting stuck anywhere!) Hopefully he will make friends with some of the other pets staying that week and you never know, there could be a new romance blossoming between the visiting Great Dane, Dolly and George the Guinea Pig   :)

Friday, 19 July 2013

Dealing With The Difficult and Demanding...

Dealing with difficult and demanding guests after the initial thought of 'where is the cellar key!'
One of the many challenging roles of being a General Manager or indeed a Duty Manager of a hotel, and unfortunately or maybe fortunately in my case I/ we are not on duty 365 days 24/7 hours of the day, is dealing with the demanding.
You must also realise that in our industry we command little 'respect' amongst professionals however you must also understand that we do deal with humans, children, alcohol, families and a few other subjectives that may not be appropriate to mention – oh and by the way we have to be experts in the fields of nutrition, health and safety, sleep patterns, psychology and what colour the duvet needs to be!
I could tell you a story or two of 'professionals' when they are clocked off but I better not.
Thankfully they tend to be few and far between but there is always one or two.
A challenging guest could be a celebrity or a VIP, they could just be an ordinary person like you and me. You also have those regular normal humans that whilst on the coast of Eastbourne really feel the need to let it all out and colour one of my bedrooms with red hair dye which is really not acceptable in a 'blue rinse' area but as they say no day is the same in hospitality!
So, how do we deal with guests like this? Well, it helps to remember that challenging guests are easily stressed or have eclectic or unreasonable expectations. It is key to stay calm in such a situation and try to understand exactly what point the customer is trying to make so we can do our best to resolve the situation if we can. On the other hand however, the guest may take your calmness as an indication you don't care as much as they do, so serious people reading skills are required. Politicians note 'conflict resolution' come to us for advice! Ultimately you need to make them see and feel you are taking their issues seriously. By doing what you can to help, it will with any luck turn their unfriendly and challenging behaviour around and in turn their experience will become a more positive one. Sadly however the 'unhinged' guest sometimes just have to be put up with until they leave but look on the bright side it gives the staff something to bemoan instead of me! More often than not in our case they then continue to return, mumble and grumble, but still refuse to stay elsewhere even if we offer to assist them out!
We can occasionally be our own worst enemy and so it is important to manage our guests expectation where we can. People handling is not for the feint hearted and it is therefore possible that you misread. For example, we use the BRA theory (Best Room Available) which means, if we have a better room available when you check in, we will upgrade you automatically which should put you in a good mood. This goes down well and helps create advocates for us, however there are those that then expect it to happen on all future visits, and of course if we can't the guest can turn into a bit of a sulker. This is where the unrealistic bit steps in. We have in the past had an offer that the guest would be happy to let the situation drop if we turn their room in to a deluxe whilst they wait. Quite a serious suggestion that took us all by surprise!

All of our hotel managers and the staff will always do their best to accommodate and make your stay as pleasant, comfortable and enjoyable as they can and we do our best to rectify or find alternative solutions for you wherever possible. Ultimately we want all of our guests to leave us happy and planning their return visit! What is the point of us 'deliberately' going out of our way to annoy you? Sometimes contrary to suggestion we are not 'Basil'.

*With thanks to our guest writer Mark Cotman for helping with this blog.


Thursday, 20 June 2013

When in Eastbourne...

What will you do? Even more importantly why should you visit us here and not go somewhere else? Well we can help answer that for you as we have a list of the 10 top attractions to visit whilst you are here, all perfectly suitable for couples, individuals, groups and families!
(This list I should point out has been voted for by you the public... the loyal travellers who come to Eastbourne and post their comments on Trip Advisor.)

Image Daniel Clements Photography
Attraction Number 10 – The Towner, an award winning contemporary art museum for South East England presenting major exhibitions of UK and international contemporary art along with a renowned collection of art from across the ages. Laura Cumming from The Observer described it as “One of the most creative and brilliantly run institutions in visual arts anywhere”

Attraction Number 9 – Congress Theatre. A purpose build modern theatre with shows booked throughout the year such at High Society, Swing Session 11, The Johnny Cash Roadshow, Crazy for You, London Philharmonic Orchestra and much, much more. There is always something on for all ages!

Attraction Number 8 – Treasure Island. This Pirate themed adventure park offers a unique mix of indoor and outdoor activities providing a great day out whatever the weather. So why not join in with the adventure... If you dare!
Attraction Number 7 – Sovereign Harbour. Sovereign Harbour Marina and Boatyard is Eastbourne's best kept secret. Perfect for Yachts and motor boat cruisers alike, this family friendly, award-winning marina offers first class berths and facilities. It also has a delightful choice of relaxing waterfront cafés, wine bars and restaurants.

Attraction Number 6 – Birling Gap. This part of the famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs which is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped coastline on the South Coast. Birling Gap provides a point of entry for delightful walks and you can find a National Trust café here on the cliff top. The beach below is ideal for picnics with its rock pools and areas of pebbles and sand. A great example of a marine nature reserve.
Attraction Number 5 – Redoubt Fortress & Military Museum. This is one of the south coasts most historic landmarks. Built to defend the south coast from Napoleon's forces it still stands as a monument to that time and now houses the largest military collection of its kind in the South of England.

Attraction Number 4 – Eastbourne Pier & Bandstand. The Pier has a variety of shops, there’s the chippy, arcade, the waterfront, camera obscura, atlantis nightclub and much, much more.
The Bandstand which was built in 1935, has fast become the south coast’s most popular outdoor music venue, hosting something to suit all ages and tastes.

Attraction Number 3 – Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway Adventure Park. Travel behind the famous one-eighth scale miniature locomotives as they meander for nearly a mile around the beautiful country park. With a 5 acre lake to stroll around and prize winning tea gardens where you can relax with a Cream Tea in the railway style café.

Attraction Number 2 – Museum of Shops. “How we lived then” has over 100,000 exhibits laid out over 4 floors of authentic old shops, room-settings and many various displays which have been collected over the last 50 years, jointly by the owners, Jan and Graham Upton. The collection appeals to people of all ages, pure nostalgia for the older generation and history for the young.

Image by Dave Heart

Attraction Number 1 – Beachy Head! Beachy Head and the surrounding area offer much more than just beautiful coastline. Thousands of visitors flock to the vicinity for gentle walks, challenging hikes, cycling, horse riding and canoeing. Activities at Beachy Head can be as adrenalin-filled as you like.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Lost Property

Managing lost property is an interesting one at a hotel. When something is found it is logged in our lost property book, with the date, time, where it was found and by whom. We will then wait for the phone call from the owner who has forgotten to pack or mislaid their item, be it keys, a phone charger (quite a lot of those), make-up, perfume and other such items. We then take a description, make sure it's definitely theirs and then we will arrange for the item to be returned...

Over the years we have had a lot of the usual suspects, some of which have already been mentioned, but I want to share with you some of the other, more 'unique' items should I say, that get left behind. Some of which get claimed and some that don't. As you can imagine, the items that remain lost are usually a bit too embarrassing to ring and ask for.

The normal lost property items...
Books, phones, laptops, chargers, house keys, clothing, radios, soft toys, suitcase, fancy dress costumes, photo albums, and toothbrushes.

The more memorable ones...
False teeth, glass eye, bicycle wheel, artificial limb, inflatable sheep, wig, toupee, underwear, handcuffs, rampant rabbits and other such cheeky items! Use your imaginations!

We have also discovered over the years...
Pet stick insects, a wedding dress, life size skeleton, a single shoe, and how about this one... A portable douche complete with rubber tube!

Having searched the internet for other hotels stories about lost property, here are a few more things that you managed to leave behind recently...
Breast implants, pilots manual, pet python, 200 Queen Elizabeth masks, Persian kitten, diamond encrusted dentures, £50k Rolex watch, £10k engagement ring, stamp collection worth £250k, winning Euro millions ticket, pop up spray tanning booth and keys to a Bugatti.

I would like to confirm that all of these items were returned to their rightful owners, but how on earth do you manage to leave this all behind? Perhaps it's because you are too busy squeezing our towels in to your suitcase?? ;o)

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

What Souvenirs Do You "Borrow" After Your Stay?

According to the latest survey by not all of us Brits are as honest and trustworthy as we make out. In fact a huge 69% of you admitted to stealing items from hotels when staying away!
This survey does represent the most popular items to be taken and I thought I would share it with you. So here it is... the top ten things that you like to smuggle out when staying with us.
At number 10, it's The Bible! Now then, what does the 8th Commandment say... “Thou shalt not steal.”

Coming in at number 9, it's the books from our library...15% of you do this and that's all very well, but perhaps to keep it fair you might consider in future leaving the one behind, just to even it up...

At number 8, it's the kettle. I hope you emptied the water out before you tucked it into your suit case. 19% of you admitted to this one!
In at number 7... The curtains! Apparently 27% of Britons admitted to this. We are flattered you like how we have dressed the rooms, but surely they will be too big or too small? How on earth did you get them out without being noticed?

Number 6 is the artwork. People wonder why we started screwing our paintings to the wall and nailing the sculptures down. No longer can we make use of the traditional picture rails, you simply can't be trusted ;o)
Number 5 is slightly more concerning...It's the picture frames. A little bit strange, but hey, who are we to judge! Over half way through the list and number 4 is the cutlery. 45% of you admit to taking the cutlery from the hotel you are staying in. I want to know, did you manage to pinch a whole 8 piece set before you got caught?

Coming in at 3rd place is food and drink. Over 51% of you admitted to stealing from the buffets, mini bars and stocking up in case you got hungry before lunch.
The runner up and in 2nd place is the batteries and light bulbs...57% of you like to nab these. Question...Did you get the bulbs back in one piece?
The winner however at number 1 is the towels and the linen...Fluffy dressing gowns, slippers, fluffy bath towels, bed sheets, cushions and blankets. A whopping 68% of you openly admit to taking these!

Something to bear in mind, we will be watching you!!