A Festive Feast at Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club
As the nights draw in and the cool autumn air turns that little but colder, it can only mean one thing, Christmas is coming! And of course with Christmas, comes eating! Not just heaving fridges and cupboards of festive fayre, but a host of Christmas-inspired nights out – family reunions, catch ups with good friends, and of course the infamous work Christmas do.
It’s always a little stressful to choose just where to host your festive gathering, however; finding somewhere that offers the right balance between setting, atmosphere and of course quality food, can be tricky. There is nothing worse than a churned-out dinner of lacklustre potatoes, a soggy sprout and a miniscule slice of meat covered in some runny gravy that all too often passes as Christmas menu fodder. My guest and I were intrigued as we went for a sneak sampling of the new festive menu at Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club – and…drumroll…we have found a contender!
Set within 186 acres of rolling Ashdown Forest, the hotel is a truly magnificent building that dates back to the 19th century; steeped in history, it is as welcoming as it is impressive. No two rooms are the same due to the unique shape of the building and its former incarnations (not least as a convent) – and the result is a relaxing and comfortable place to stay that feels a little bit different. It is also home to the award-winning Anderida Restaurant.
As well as offering à la carte and table d’hôte menus to guests and visitors, the team are also the masters behind Ashdown Park’s festive package, which features a range of classic, but classy Christmas celebratory temptations including luncheons, party nights and Christmas holiday menus. These are offered not just in the Anderida Restaurant, with its high beamed ceilings, pretty bay windows and cosy fireplaces, but also in the converted chapel – a breathtaking space of stained glass and beamed ceilings; the perfect space for a unique party.
My guest and I were dining in the Anderida at a beautifully positioned window table (be sure to request one if dining before sunset as the views are incredible!) and were soon presented with our delicious amuse bouche of chicken veloute; a rich, thick warm broth dressed with walnut crumb and truffle oil, and a great precursor to the menu ahead.
For starters we sampled the salmon, a classic festive menu favourite, but this time served as a tartare of smoked salmon with a punchy horseradish mousse and – the winning aspect for me – sharp thin strips of pickled cucumber, the flavours of which were further enhanced by a refreshing, crisp glass of sauvignon blanc.
Palates cleansed by a refreshing orange sorbet, there was of course only one choice for our main – turkey! What appeared was a beautifully presented dish of huge, juicy slices of roasted local turkey perched on a bed of savoy cabbage with smoked bacon lardons, a delicate apricot and sage stuffing, the largest chipolata I’ve ever seen, seasonal veg, and of course roast potatoes. It was utterly delightful – praise indeed from my guest who proclaimed before dinner not to like turkey, and from myself who I like to think of as a bit of a roast dinner connoisseur.
With just enough room spared, it was time for dessert, and for our first break from tradition as we were presented with a vanilla and ginger parfait. The perfectly formed parfait – more vanilla than ginger – with its sweet caramel disc, was set upon a pecan crust, dressed with huge pecans and caramel-glazed bananas, although for me the apple espuma was the triumph.
The whole menu was well-conceived, beautifully presented, tasty and fulfilling, and was delivered with a natural ease of service. What more could one wish for?
Of course, the gentle stroll back to our master suite reminded us of the fact that not only had we just eaten some fantastic food, but that the whole setting here is incredible too. Our generous suite with panelled ceiling offered a lounge area, four-poster bed, stunning stained glass windows, and extra wow factor found in the bathroom found in the form of a whirlpool bath and double vanity, all framed and lit by a large window.
Definitely eat, and stay if you can, but either way factor in time during your visit to take in the grounds. Wth its lake, golf course and rolling countryside, you won’t be disappointed.
Festive luncheon from £18.50; dinner from £42.50.
Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club
Nr Forest Row