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   :)