RG’s at Rowhill Grange Hotel & Spa, Wilmington, Kent DA2 7QH
It’s been quite a while since we had a formal meal, especially a local one. Most of our latest reviews have been at the more ‘of the moment’ London restaurants, lots of small plates, no bookings kind of thing – where the food doesn’t look too pretty, but it sure does taste good!
Rowhill Grange is advertised as a luxury boutique hotel and award-winning spa set in an 18th century country house, snugly surrounded by acres of gorgeous gardens and a picturesque lake (with resident ducks – the ‘caution of crossing ducks’ sign on the way in made us chuckle), all deep in the heart of the garden of England… It is only about a ten minute drive from our house so we were curious of what the impressive hotel had to offer. I’d eaten there about twenty years or so ago when my old MD would take all the heads of department out for a bi-monthly ‘thank you’ meal and drink (back in the good old days of publishing) and also attended a couple of weddings there too. Never been to the spa though, maybe soon!?
Back to 2012… RG’s restaurant, under the guidance of head chef Luke Davis it has changed beyond recognition, Luke has worked at The Milestone, Capital hotels, under Jean-Christophe Novelli and even for the Queen mother. From memory the old dining area and bar was like a traditional gentleman’s club – dark heavy tables, leather armchairs and flock wallpaper (you get the picture). It’s a lot different now, crisp white table linen, delicate cutlery and modern muted tones continue the decor theme through from the spa. Even the ‘chill out’ music wouldn’t be out of place if you were on a treatment table having a deep tissue massage!
The clientele were very mixed, a teenage boy out to impress his girlfriend, a group of 40+ year-old ladies, a lone business man with only his laptop for company, a woman who’d spent the day at the spa (nursing her water and a salad!) and a rather attention-seeking couple, the woman flaunting her designer bag and shoes! (Mulberry and Christian Louboutin if you must know darling!)
Once at our table we were shown the shortest wine list ever, with only a choice of four reds… Although the Merlot had already sold out and later we overheard from a guest that another red from the list was ‘no longer available’. We chose the 2011 Australian Shiraz – Tooma River Reserve, £25. This is our only major criticism from the evening, the rest of the meal went without a hitch… The menu had a Kentish twist to most of the dishes, seasonal produce with a majority of the ingredients coming from within a 30-mile radius. For example the fully matured beef comes from Wood Church Estate whilst fish is supplied by Chapman’s of Sevenoaks.
I started with the Goat’s cheese & fig tart fine £7.50. I don’t normally go for a vegetarian option but, as stupid as this sounds, it comes with roasted pine nuts and I love pine nuts… The pastry was light, crisp and buttery (almost sweet). The sharp crumbled Goat’s cheese went perfectly with the thinly sliced fig. As well as the roasted pine nuts the tart was served with a thick and sticky port reduction and a refreshing herb salad (the dill was the most prominent taste). Saff went for Roasted wood pigeon £9.50, smokey, tender sliced bird, again served with a sweet port reduction, fig and also a smear of parsnip puree.
For my main I had to order the belly-busting RG’s mixed grill £24. Let’s do a brief rundown on each item… 1) Chargrilled rump steak, a tad thin (I prefer my steaks smaller but thicker) and very slightly over-cooked (I ordered medium rare) but the quality of the meat was obvious and the flavour amazing. 2) Lamb chop, perfectly cooked, delicate and tender. 3) Sausage, a good thick and meaty banger with plenty herbs and seasoning. 4) Chicken, quite a small piece of char-grilled breast, it looked very dry but was moist and went really well with the black pudding that was ‘donated’ from Saff’s meal and the white wine and mushroom sauce (£2). This was served with ‘Jenga’ hand cut chips, which were crisp and crunchy on the outside but light and fluffy inside and a mushroom stuffed tomato. Believe me after all that I could barely move!
Saff opted for the Assiette of Kentish pork £20. Assiette means the same ingredient, in this instance pork, served different ways. Pork belly, unfortunately without the crackling, good thick slices of loin and a nice big serving of black pudding (as mentioned above, Saff gave this to me. Her loss was my gain – this was one of the best blood puddings that I’ve had in a while. These came perched upon some steamed spinach, potato fondant and creamed cabbage and served with a dollop of apple sauce and a drizzle of cider jus… Delicious!
Dessert was an easy decision for me, Peanut butter brittle £7.50. Caramel ice-cream sandwiched between two crunchy discs of peanut brittle served with the obligatory salted chocolate sauce, some sliced caramelised banana and a few tiny piles of chocolate ‘soil’ (which tasted very, very similar to crumbled Oreo biscuits!). Saff had what would have been my second choice, the Tasting of Kentish apples £8.50, which she’d been thinking about all day. A trio of mini apple dessert variations. The Tatin was basically the apple bit of an apple tart, a very nice and not too sweet pile of stewed fruit. The Panna cotta had a lovely appley taste although Saff said the texture was a little too artifical and blancmange-like. The star of the dish was the crumble… Apples pieces cooked soft on the outside yet kept crunchy in the centre with a sweet buttery crumble topping – this went perfectly with the cinnamon Angliase. This apple crumble and ‘custard’ could and should be up-sized to a dessert on its own, perfect for Spring/Autumn comfort food.
As we mentioned at the start of this post, we hadn’t been treated to formal meal for a couple of months, it was made even more special by the fact it was just around the corner from our house, we are seriously lacking in eateries around here. Presentation was beautiful, very similar to dishes at Waterlillies at Lifehouse spa, we were surprised how busy it was for a Tuesday evening. A very friendly service, almost overwhelmingly so, our waiter was so passionate, and the wine was steadily topped up throughout the evening. Before we knew it, we’d been there for two hours, such a good meal and a really good laugh. It felt quite strange jumping in the car after rather than the usual hour or so train journey home, we’ll be back soon to try the bargain lunch deal – a two course lunch with a glass of wine for £15!
RG’s at Rowhill Grange Hotel & Spa,
Kent DA2 7QH
Telephone: 01322 615 136
Driving: When using sat nav to find Rowhill Grange, use postcode BR8 7SQ
Bookings: Click here
Nearest station: Swanley, which is around 2 1/2 miles away.
London Victoria to Swanley takes around 30 minutes.