Timeless elegance at the Chilston Park Hotel
An opulent building steeped in history, my guest and I were first wowed by the Chilston Park Hotel when we turned off of the quiet country lane from Lenham, a small village between Maidstone and Ashford, and into the winding tree lined driveway.
Our arrival at the tail end of the icy cold ‘Beast from the East’ meant the 22 acres of parkland that are home to the beautifully restored country house hotel had an even more magical, whimsical feel. Crisp snow underfoot, the grand lake a giant mirror of ice, and the fountains at the top of the driveway utterly still save for the glimmer of sun reflecting off their freezing wonder. The gallery of images of Chilston Park on the website are beautiful enough, but seeing it like this was breathtaking.
Check in was smooth, friendly and courteous and we had the pleasure of staying in Gilt, one of the seven feature bedrooms found in the main manor house reached via the grand split staircase. It offered stunning views across the grounds, courtyard and lake from its original feature windows, a wonderful canopied four poster bed, original fireplace and dark wood and gilt furniture.
Settled in and after an exploration of the grounds, lounge and bar, we had built up an appetite suitable for experiencing Culpeper’s, the hotel’s 2 AA Rosette restaurant. We perused the evening menu in front of the roaring open fire while supping a classic bellini and a rather apt Chilston Old Fashioned, choosing to upgrade (which can be done per course or for the whole menu) from the classic table d’hôte menu to the alluring à la carte offering.
Warmed by the hearty root vegetable soup amuse bouche – the perfect start to dinner on a cold, spring evening – we were ready for our starters of breaded risotto ball – sticky rice, crisp crumb and hints of wild mushroom offset by charred cauliflower – and seared South Coast scallops accompanied by a delicious sweet red pepper jam.
For mains, the roasted rack of lamb – perfectly cooked and generous, the braised shoulder croquet full of soft deeper tasting meat and the pomme anna offering a enviable crisp potato side – and the grilled fillet of dry-aged English beef with fondant potato and braised oxtail, which added a rich meaty flavour to the dish.
A pause between courses meant that we had room for dessert, but just missed out on the evidently popular banana tarte tatin, and so opted instead for the white chocolate parfait, which was smooth, sweet and moreish with honeycomb ice cream.
Retiring up the grand staircase sated by wonderful food and good clean country air we slept like babies in our four-poster bed roused only by the promise of breakfast – an appetite whetting mix of fresh pastries, cereals, continental buffet and wholesome freshly cooked options.