Right, this is gonna be a long’un. I’ll try not to go on too much, but if you follow me on social media you may have noticed that our fabulous jaunt down to the Sussex coast recently absolutely blew me away. It was seriously the stuff of blogging dreams and one of those trips you know you’ll remember for a long old time to come.
I’ve never been to Sussex before – not for a seaside break anyway. When we talk about going to the coast, it inevitably ends up being Devon or Cornwall for some reason, and occasionally Wales. But Mr M and I are more than aware than there is plenty of other gorgeous coastline in the UK to explore, so we’ve made it our mission to try more in 2017 – especially now we’re a bit more of a staycation family than a ‘jetting off abroad for weekend breaks couple’ now we’ve got the pooch.
With this in mind, I guess it was all rather serendipitous that we would be invited to The Gallivant in Camber to check out their lovely rooms and top-notch restaurant. I know it may seem that when you go away a fair bit you get blase about walking into a hotel room, sitting down to dine in a restaurant, or exploring a new place, but trust me – for me it never gets old. I spent hours before we went poring over The Gallivant’s website, trying to guess which room we were in, musing over the menu, and crossing my fingers that the weather would let us enjoy it as much as possible.
As you know, Brandy is now a fully-fledged member of the Eat with Ellen team and is in charge of checking out the dog-friendly calibre of a hotel. She spent the journey preparing for a weekend of walks, fuss and general fun and we arrived after a fairly easy journey just before sunset, and just in time to race across the road from The Gallivant and skip over the dunes to see the sea.
After that we checked out our room – one of the gorgeous luxury garden rooms that form a kind of American motel look (though far more swanky), each with their own doors meaning you don’t have to walk through any corridors or past hotel reception to get in and out – perfect for any late-night trips outside with the dog.
I have to say, I think this may be one of the nicest rooms I’ve ever stayed in, with a tonne of little touches that mark out a great hotel from just a good one. Simple and homely yet massively indulgent with everything you could possibly need to chill the hell out and escape from your life.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but they really had thought of everything. A super-king bed, freestanding roll top bath complete with a sliding door that separates the bedroom from the bathroom so yes, you can watch the TV from the bath.
A monsoon shower for those who don’t like a long soak, a big fluffy dressing gown for snuggle time, a minibar to cater to your every whim, plus Nespresso machine, snacks and all sorts of stuff teak furniture and our private beautiful landscaped coastal garden.
On the end of the bed was a beach bag, complete with rug to take to sit on for your trip to the dunes, as well as a bottle of fizz and some plastic flutes. Yep, told you they had thought of pretty much everything.
And let’s not forget the dog-friendly bit. A little bed for Brandy (that she made herself instantly at home in, as well as food and water bowls, dog biscuits and a helpful bit of info on the ‘dog etiquette’ at The Gallivant. As posh as it is, they understand that this is an area that’s perfect for doggie visitors, so have catered to that.
After a nice long soak with a glass of bubbles for me, and a chill-out and a glass of vino for Mr M, we headed into the restaurant for dinner. Now, The Gallivant actually calls itself a ‘Restaurant With Rooms’ and this is because food is a big deal here. While some hotels just happen to serve food to cater to their hungry guests, these guys take it super seriously.
Voted Sussex Restaurant of the Year 2016, the restaurant serves modern British food that puts sustainability at the heart of what it does. Virtually all of its ingredients are sourced from within 10 miles of the restaurant, so you know what you’re getting is top notch and all from local fishermen and farmers. Are you starting to see why I was so excited?
As we studied the menu, which is concise but with plenty of selection, we nibbled on some local ewes cheese with fresh herbs – something I am already planning to replicate next time we have people over. We were also given a lovely little amuse bouche of goat’s curd with beetroot, served in a mini kilner jar, which provided a teasing little hint of the simple yet precisely thought-out food that was to come.
I could keep you here for ages raving about the food and given that we stayed at The Gallivant for TWO nights, eating both dinner and breakfast twice, it could go on a bit. So as I said earlier, I’ll let the pictures do the talking (although some of them still don’t do the gorgeous plates justice) and give you what they were and a brief rundown, much like I did for my review of the epic tasting menu at The Driftwood, but I’ll try not to go on.
Starter: Roast pigeon breast, poached pear, beetroot puree crisps
Slightly gamey, as you’d imagine, with plenty of sweetness from the poached pear and beetroot puree crisps. Nice, but I was beaten hands-down by Mr M’s choice.
Starter: Poached haddock, potato, cockles, and curry mayonnaise
Mr M’s choice was the winner. The curry mayonnaise was ever-so-slightly piquant as well as being rich, holding together cockles without being too cloying. It was the perfect base for the poached haddock which was simple and just allowed to speak for itself.
Main course: Romney Marsh Lamb Rump, root vegetables, pickled turnip
There’s something so nice about knowing your meat was reared down the road. The lamb was served just how (I think) it should be, pink and tender. It came with a beautiful disc of golden pastry stuffed with minced lamb – one of those touches that suggest the chef in the kitchen is showcasing his skills but in quite a classy understated way.
Main course: Catch of the day (cod), with butterbean and chorizo cassoulet
I can’t help but choose fish when we’re by the sea, so went for the catch of the day, mainly because the butterbean and chorizo cassoulet sounded like just what I needed on a cold winter’s day.
Because we’re greedy, we tried a side of the Morghew estate potatoes which came with crispy bacon and blue cheese. An unnecessary, but tasty, accompaniment.
Having already consumed four courses, albeit some of them quite small, we did um and ah about dessert but justified our over-indulgence with the seaside walking we had planned.
Dessert: Dark chocolate delice, roast hazelnuts, frangelico jelly
It has chocolate on the title, so clearly this was Jamie’s number one choice. He hadn’t been sure about the hazelnuts, but actually really enjoyed them. And of course the delice was everything he wants in a dessert – rich, indulgent, and with a beautiful mirror sheen on top.
Dessert: Blackberry mousse, sorbet, chocolate ganache
I went for the blackberry mousse, and found to have nearly as much chocolatey goodness as Mr M’s dessert – the ganache snaking through it complete with light, fruity mousse and a tangy, lip-smacking sorbet. Delish!
No, we didn’t have this all on one night, but rather than plough through TWO full-on dinners, including some of the same courses (I couldn’t help but choose the lamb on the second night) I’ll just show you some of the extras we ordered on the second night.
It’s safe to say we had fewer courses on night two, and eschewed starters and desserts in favour of the selection of British and Irish farmhouse cheeses. Not since our trip to L’Ortiche in Sauze d’Oulx have I been presented with a cheeseboard laid out in the suggested order to eat it, and I love it. It lends a bit of theatre and, more important, means you actually think about what you’re eating, especially when you have some helpful tasting notes to accompany it.
We’d been supping on some rather nice wine during our dinners, and Mr M also enjoyed a great glass of port with the cheeseboard. But for me, the cocktails were stand-out. The Gallivant does a mean Bloody Mary and my Espresso Martini was TO. DIE. FOR. Not too bitter and fake coffee tasting, but smooth and rich, with all the indulgent elegance that a martini should have.
The wonderful thing about The Gallivant is how blimin close it is to the beach. Perfect for hopping out of bed and taking the dog for a pre-breakfast quick mad run around the dunes and the beach as the sun rises.
I’m told that Camber has one of those hallowed ‘microclimates’ that apparently means the weather is always great. Who knows whether this is true, but Camber was gorgeously clear and bright every day we were there, with not a cloud in sight.
Back at The Gallivant, we hit breakfast, which is pretty much as impressive as dinner. A heaving table of homemade pastries and cakes, as well as berry pots, yoghurt panna cottas, and granola. Oh, and don’t forget the ‘recovery station’ where you can dose yourself up on Berocca or a Bloody Mary if you fancy it.
And yes, all of this along with toast and homemade jams is included in your stay (as if afternoon tea and cake if you fancy it!)
No, we’re not done. All of that breakfast loveliness is before you even get to the menu, which includes a range of all the indulgent treats you’d expect, from a full English breakfast to smoked ……
I opted for devilled kidneys – something you NEVER see on a menu. I am a big lover of liver and kidneys, but never get to have them, so was delighted when my pile of lightly fried kidneys appeared, covered in a glistening mustardy sauce. This is not a dish for the faint-hearted, but if you’re an offal-lover like me and have worked up a healthy appetite with your morning constitutional then go for it!
Mr M went for the full English on the first day, then the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on the second (No, I didn’t have devilled kidneys twice, I stuck to the pastry and pot table on day two). He declared the scrambled eggs the best he’s ever had, and has been trying to recreate their creamy perfection at home ever since.
On the first day, we took off after breakfast for a long old stroll down Camber Sands and across the marsh into Rye. Home to Rye Bay Scallop Week that takes place at the end of February (which, yes, I’m gutted we’re not there for), it’s a gorgeous quaint little medieval town, complete with cobbles lanes, ancient town walls and half-timbered houses.
It’s the perfect place for a little mooch, packed with independent shops, museum, pubs and restaurants – many dog-friendly. We had a lovely afternoon pottering around, as well as settling down for some lunch in The Ship Inn – another place coming up on this blog – while we caught up on the historic moment from across the pond (that’ll be the Trump inauguration then).
After a deliciously relaxing second evening at The Gallivant, we started our final morning in much the same way as the previous – a walk along the beach, a lazy breakfast. But after we waved goodbye to our new home from home, I decided I couldn’t quite drag myself away and treated myself to a bit of relaxation in The Gallivant’s ‘Beach Hut’ – it’s own bijou little ‘spa’ out behind the hotel.
Hidden in the coastal garden, it really does look like a hut, or shed. But inside was a lovely oasis of calm and peace where I enjoyed the first facial I’ve had in years, and a fabulous de-stress and half-hour all to myself. If you go to The Gallivant, I can thoroughly recommend booking yourself here.
And so, almost as soon as it seemed to have begun, our stay at The Gallivant was over. Fortunately, we had another night in Sussex planned, so it wasn’t a case of going back home, but we found ourselves reluctant to leave this little spot of heaven on the south coast.
I reckon The Gallivant’s got it all – for our little family anyway. Luxurious rooms; a fabulous location; fine, fine food, and a wonderful relaxing ambience that does exactly what any break should do – help you shrug off your worries and enjoy being where you are, doing what you’re doing at that exact moment in time, no matter what else is going on in your life or in the world.
A key part of this is the staff. From the minute we walked in with our chaotic four-legged friend in tow, they were the picture of patience and calm. I think I probably said something along these lines about Mill Street Pub & Kitchen, so maybe it’s the case that I’m endlessly amazed at how welcoming people are when you bring a dog into their gorgeous hotel, but it was eminently true of The Gallivant.
And no, it wasn’t just because we were doing a blog. As we lounged late after breakfast had finished serving, I watched staff on the informal ‘reception’ desk cater to everyone’s needs, offering directions, things to do, bookings, arrangements, room swaps and plenty more. As I always say – the sign of somewhere with real class = service. Without it, all the rest is somewhat duller and less joyous to experience.
As I go off to daydream about the taste of espresso martinis and devilled kidneys, early morning walks on the beach, and the feeling of a glowing face after a gorgeous facial, I’ll leave you with another little picture of contentment. I think she approves of The Gallivant, don’t you?
Our first dinner, bed and breakfast at The Gallivant was complimentary, as was my facial. We paid for our second night and our dinner and drinks that night.