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Restaurant review: The Anderida, Ashdown Park Hotel

Restaurant review: The Anderida, Ashdown Park Hotel
As our friendly cabbie sweeps us into the majestic driveway of the Ashdown Park Hotel, we're momentarily not sure if we've scored a walk-on part in a fairytale. And inside it's just as good.
We're shown to our suite (Rhododendron), set in the old monastery, and promptly set about choosing the fudge over the fruit bowl.
We find our way back to reception- this place is like a labyrinth- and given the tour. It's hard not to gush- the interior and grounds are like a stately home, but at the same time the vibe's exceptionally un-stuffy. I wish I had friends with places like this!
The health club's calling our name, so, after agreeing we both want to get married there (mostly for the stunning stained-glass-surrounded dancefloor), we take a swim, recline in the jacuzzi, and perform a perfunctory workout in the gym. Back in the room, we put the whirlpool bath to the test. Canapes are served from 7p.m., but we're running late after our pampering session and have to make do with a glass of Champers and a quick mingle on the terrace.
For our banquet dinner, we're seated with eight other diners- a real mixed bunch. Luckily, we get on like a house on fire- our table's one of the last to leave.
This dinner showcases the talents of the Anderida restaurant's chef, Roger Gadsden. He's big on local produce- some of which is grown in the hotel's own gardens. He tickles our tastebuds with a tiny gazpacho- it's
Restaurant review: The Anderida, Ashdown Park Hotel
intense. As Gadsden puts it, it captures the 'essence of Sussex'. I nibble on onion bread, which is a little pappy, and walnut bread, which is more like it.
The next dish- a martini glass filled with crab in jellied tomato consomme, topped with sweetcorn puree and seriously lush avocado pannacotta- has us in raptures. The 'Carpaccio of Local Wild Duck, Foie Gras, Deep-fried Quail's Egg, Roast Pistachio and Black Cherry Water Ice' which follows is good, but no contender for star dish- and sadly, the Wild Mushroom and Madeira Tea has more than a whiff of Bovril about it. Luckily, the Fillet of Atlantic Turbot, Port Salsify, Tahiti Vanilla Mash, Sea Asparagus, Red Caviar Jelly's up next. It seems fish is this guy's forte- our rambunctuous table eats in near silence bar the occasional murmur of pleasure. I'd have been content to stop there, drawing a veil over the disastrous Chilled Rhubarb and Custard Posset Popcorn Crumble- I don't want my custard to taste of tart lemon, and am I the only one with huge chunks of raw, sour rhubarb in my glass? Toffee Butterkist topping does nothing to help it down.
We finish with a deconstructed summer pudding. The tuile baskets and unctuous clotted cream ice cream are winners, but I notice many of us leave the Jenga brick of rock-hard brioche, and the inclusion of oregano seems ill-judged. Space dust-encrusted passion fruit jellies provide a welcome palate-cleanse, and their texture's more than a little bit sexy.
Much to the envy of our non-residential fellows, we retire to our suite. Twenty-four hour room service is put to the test with our midnight request for chocolate- coming up trumps with a plate of bitter truffles and walnut fudge.
Beds are comfy and spacious- unfortunately, the wedding party also in residence don't seem interested in putting them to the test. Nonetheless, we're up early for another swim in order to justify a huge buffet breakfast.
A decent breakfast lives or dies by its scrambled eggs, and these are great- creamy and rich despite being held in a chafing dish.
We walk off the excesses in the extensive grounds- discovering a secret garden, walled garden and pretty cemetery. All too soon, it's time to check out of the fantasy and return to the reality of our non-regal lives. We're already saving for a return visit.
The Anderida, Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club
Wych Cross,
East Sussex,
RH18 5JR

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25 November 2009
By: Zoe Perrett
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