By Kukua Akumanyi
Entering the town of Sandwich in Kent is like stepping back in time, so it was fitting that as I walked into the reception of the Salutation hotel, it also felt like the history of this wonderful building had been lovingly restored and brought into the twenty-first century.
After my check-in I was shown the drawing room and bar which have been tastefully decorated and in keeping with the period of the house, I was then shown to my room. Now I have visited many hotels and to be honest you do become a bit blasé and it takes something really special to make you go wow, but as I enter the room my eyes just light up.
The light flooding in from the four dual aspect windows danced across the room highlighting the wonderful king size bed that dominates, but not because it sucked up all the space, there was plenty of that to do my early morning yoga stretches without injuring myself. There is a period sofa sitting at the foot of the bed and a large mirrored double wardrobe and two chest of drawers all in keeping with the period themed furnishings.
I am shown into the bathroom and again my face just breaks into a smile, the focus is on the double bath that sits in a purpose-built unit with a stunning bronze framed mirror that reflects the light streaming in from another large window.
The house was built in 1911 when banking mogul Henry Farrer – a partner at Barings Bank – commissioned Edwin Lutyens to design a weekend home and country retreat for members of his family. The room I am staying in is Henry’s room and he obviously picked this because it overlooks both the bowling green with St Clements church as its backdrop and the award-winning garden, with its perfectly shaped round hedges that stand like sentries protecting the wonderful variety of flowers with their magnificent colours in full bloom.
Having just won an award at the Chelsea Flower Show and with the sun high in the sky I decide to take a closer look and take a slow stroll and I am so glad I did. These gardens are not just to be looked at and admired from your hotel window they need to be explored, the many beautiful fragrances of mother nature make your senses dance with joy. There are some beautiful hidden parts of the gardens with perfectly placed benches so you can just while away your time with a book or like me just close your eyes and drift off as the church bells chime away.
A dining experience to remember
It takes a distinct level of confidence and talent to cook in front of your clientele, and this was evident with the Michelin-starred, award winning Chef Shane Hughes and his team at the Salutation Hotel in Sandwich.
Maitre d’ Jason Parilla led us through the building into what could be considered the heart of The Salutation hotel, an open plan galley style kitchen walled off by large sheets of glass, this beautiful vision served two functions; a view for us to watch the master at work as well as encasing all the aromas of the kitchen from the diners experience, but my personal joy was the feeling that I am part of the team.
We are seated in a beautiful stone floored space at a large dining table, which would be ideal for large parties. The warm down light shades made the space feel warm, cosy and inviting, I can’t help but smile at all the staff through the curtain of glass as they work in their perfectly organised area. I can feel my excitement levels rising and I can’t wait to see how each dish would be created.
Jason brings us a flute of Mosaic Brut, a refreshing light bubbly summer drink, so light you could almost forget that you were drinking alcohol!
The taster menu starts with a selection of the House Breads, a lightly toasted brioche, an aromatic Guinness slice and a seeded poppy slice, served with a soft rolled butter. it’s not very often that an establishment considers the diners experience of serving butter that doesn’t destroy the bread before you have had the pleasure of tasting it.
The first dishes arrives and its Mac and Cheese croquette with chilli puree and a bean pod filled with marinated (fill in as I can’t remember). Perfectly crisp and the mild chilli is an excellent accompaniment.
Next up is a delicate light dish with a trio of flavours and heady palette of a warm moose and a chilled puree of Pea Veloute scented with truffle with a hen’s egg and Parmesan galette, what a sensation.
My taste buds are dancing in anticipation as the Seared Scottish Scallops arrive and are accompanied by Asian Spiced Lentils, Pea Veloute and marinated Artichoke, this was paired with a French Sauvignon ‘Val de Loire’.
What looks like a slice of wood arrives and holds an artistic plated poached Quail egg, Foie Gras baked in the lightest melt in your mouth pastry with Morel Mushrooms, and asparagus with a Sauterne jus served with an Italian Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Barrique.
Next is an award-winning dish of perfectly Chargrilled Saddle of lamb, Confit Shoulder served with Moroccan Spices & Asparagus this has been paired with a red Cotes du Rhone Syrah wine. Having never really been a fan of lamb, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy its rareness, but it is beautiful, seared to perfection and the meat was light, delicate and beautifully juicy.
A dish that I hadn’t expected but was pleasantly surprised was the lobster Dog, served in a fluffy Chinese Laverbread Bun, with Fermented Fennel & Mustard Vinaigrette. What a great and unexpected combination made even better with the paired Spanish Casal Caeiro wine.
To prepare for dessert a refreshing Raspberry Jelly & Kumquat Aperitif arrived served with a Sauternes dessert wine, with a fruity, sharp yet sweet flavour, from Bordeaux, France
Last minute change
When the executive chef decides to make a last-minute switch to the menu who am I to argue, I am sure the Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Chocolate Sponge would have fared just as well. However, to be served with a beautiful light and scrumptious pumpkin soufflé with a Chocolate and pistachios ice-cream was the kind of off-piste thinking I could get very used to.
The menu offered so many delights and took us on a tour of some of the wonderful vineyards of Europe, as well as a global fusion tasting adventure. It’s an award-winning menu that like me will have your taste buds jumping in sheer delight, from your first taste to your last spoonful.
England CT13 9EW
T: +44 1304 619919