Wednesday, 8 August 2012 9:35 AM
Holly Tuppen visits this five-star restaurant with rooms – discovering a delicious stop off point, whether you’re touring around Kent or simply feel like a foodie night away
It is safe to say that after huge investment into its tourist infrastructure and marketing, Kent is firmly back on the ‘staycation’ map. And with good reason. Retro seaside towns, warehouses full of vintage goods, several country parks and Areas of Outstanding Beauty are all very well connected to London and The Continent. But perhaps the most tangible draw for visitors is the food. Often referred to as ‘the garden of England’ Kent is a huge producer of everything from cherries and wine to oysters and game, making this county a foodie heaven, especially for those who like products to be as local as possible.
Knowing that The Marquis had recently won the Taste of Kent Restaurant of the Year Award, my husband and I headed here primarily for the food. The fact that the restaurant has 10 boutique rooms within easy stumbling distance from the restaurant was an added bonus.
The Marquis was once Alkham’s village pub, a whitewashed flint house sandwiched between the village green and church, on the road linking Alkham with Dover and Canterbury. In 2008 the new owners of The Marquis undertook a huge refurbishment project, turning the run-down and dark pub into a light and airy restaurant with rooms in the main house and in a modern extension at the back. The boutique and town-house feel of the interior comes as quite a surprise given the very quaint English setting – an intriguing contrast that has helped put The Marquis firmly on the Kent fine-dining map.
The rooms themselves are quite varied, which means you can find just want you want in terms of size and price. We stayed in one of the Luxury Rooms, which have everything you could need but without the pretty views of some of the more expensive Superior Rooms and Suites. At the back of the property, ceiling to floor windows fill rooms with light and views of the green, rolling hills surrounding the village.
In the main house, the De Pamier Suite is the most luxurious, with separate areas for living and sleeping, both with views over the village green and a large bathroom with his and hers sinks, a vast bath and walk-in shower. It is worth specifying requirements when booking, since some of the rooms have sofa beds for extra guests and inter-connecting doors to create family suites. Although I didn’t get a chance to see them, the hotel also owns two cottages with self-catering facilities in the village.
Dinner is a must if you are staying at The Marquis – our three-course A La Carte meal with suggested wines was without doubt the highlight of our visit.
Head chef Charlie Lakin grew up on a farm in Yorkshire, explaining the hearty, locally sourced touch to all his dishes, which since moving to Kent has enabled him to turn around two restaurants including The Marquis.
Our dining experience started in the bar with sherry-based aperitifs and canapés before heading into the main restaurant, which had a refreshingly lively and relaxed atmosphere given the fine-dining nature of the food.
My meal kicked off with mouth-wateringly fresh elderflower soused mackerel, moved onto the denser flavours of Alkham Valley Rabbit with Oxsprings ham and summer truffles and finished with a creamy elderflower panna cotta and white chocolate sorbet. Throughout our meal the Sommelier did a fantastic job at matching wine to each course, including local specialties like the whisky-cask aged Biddenden Special Reserve Cider, making the whole experience that bit more special. It was just as well we only had a flight of stairs to negotiate once dinner had wound down.
The next day we woke up to the sun shining on the Kentish countryside and found ourselves in a great location for exploring the county. From Alkham you are just a short drive away from Dover Castle, the White Cliffs and Canterbury Cathedral. Alternatively the pretty seaside towns of Sandwich and Deal are only 20 minutes away or, further afield, you can wiggle through country lanes all the way up to Whistable and Margate.
For those heading off to or returning from France, The Marquis is a great stop off – only 10 minutes from Dover’s port and The Channel Tunnel terminal. So on your way back from holiday, why not treat yourself to a night at The Marquis – a little reminder that fine dining can be done just as well on home turf.
By Holly Tuppen
Rooms at The Marquis range from £65 to £180 and a three-course dinner costs £47.50 per head. The restaurant also has a tasting menu and runs several events throughout the year including wine tasting and champagne dinner evenings, so it is worth checking the website for details of these before you book.
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