Oh, I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside

by Sam Bilton on March 10, 2016 No comments

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Camber Sands offers a sandy reprieve from the pebbly beaches that adorn much of the East Sussex coast. Even if you’re a non beach lover like my husband it’s hard not to fall in love with it during the off season months when it is largely empty save a few dog walkers, runners and kite surfers. A walk along this sparsely occupied shore is just the ticket after a lovely evening at the neighbouring Gallivant hotel.

A lot of restaurants pay lip service to the locally sourced moniker with a few items on their menu being cherry picked from suppliers close to their establishment. The Gallivant is rightly proud of it’s menu which is 95% populated by fresh ingredients found within 10 miles of the hotel. This achievement has been much lauded and has led to a Three Star Sustainability Award by the Sustainable Restaurant Association and has been shortlisted for the ‘People’s Favourite Award’ at the annual Food Made Good Awards.

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Another popular word bandied around in the restaurant trade is ‘homemade’. Despite what some places seem to believe this doesn’t mean cooking a part-baked croissant or bread roll on the premises. If you’re a cook you can usually tell if the wool is being pulled over your eyes with fake ‘homemade’ items. If on the other hand you find somewhere that really does serve homemade food you’re in for a treat. There was plenty of homemade fare in evidence at the Gallivant’s breakfast from honey madeleines; sticky, cinnamon infused raisin swirls and a gluten free banana bread. The previous evening I had enjoyed a rather delectable breakfast martini concocted with the hotel’s own marmalade. Fortunately, I only had the one (although I was very tempted to go for a second, and probably could have easily been persuaded to have a third) so had no need to partake of the recovery station the following morning.

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Scallops seemed to be the order of the day, particularly as I’d missed out on neighbouring Rye’s Scallop Week. Served with a cauliflower purée and crisp beignets they were soft with a beautifully caramelised exterior. I did feel a little twinge of food envy when Billy’s Winchelsea beef carpaccio arrived attractively adorned with brown shrimps, micro-herbs and a touch of wasabi.

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We both had the Romney salt marsh lamb for our main course. I didn’t feel any pangs of guilt about eating the peer of one of the sheep I had seem gambolling in a field at the end of the road leading to the Gallivant. Simply served with some al dente pearl barley, root vegetables and a smattering of lamb consommé, the accoutrements allowed the succulent sweetness of the lamb to shine through. A bit more of the consommé wouldn’t have gone amiss particularly as a soup spoon had been provided but was entirely redundant.

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In keeping with the local theme it seemed right to have a selection of south east cheese before dessert. And what a selection it was. Lord London, Kelly’s Goat, Mayfield Swiss, Tornegus and Kentish Blue served with two homemade chutneys. It was going to be a tall order to fit dessert in after this cheese-fest. We managed to squeeze in some banana parfait with coconut cream which was surprising light with a nice tart undertone after the rich cheese.

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And so to slumber. The Gallivant has recently refurbished it’s garden rooms. With the muted sea-green paneling the rooms have the feel of a beach hut albeit the most luxurious kind. A comfortable king size bed sits centre stage and there is a roll top bath in the bathroom. It’s the little touches that appealed to me – the vintage swimming costumes framed on the wall or the fact there were cookery books in the shelves next to the bed (like a home from home…). The staff are helpful without being obtrusive and the rooms are stylishly decorated without feeling like show rooms where you expect to find a “do not touch” sign on the dressing table. There is a friendly, relaxed vibe at the Gallivant. Just as it should be for a seaside bolthole, although once there, you’ll be reluctant to leave.

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Thank you to the Gallivant (where I stayed and dined as their guest) for their hospitality.

Sam BiltonOh, I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside

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