As a child of the 60s I am still charmed by the stories from the Hundred Acre Wood and was even lucky enough to visit AA Milne’s house in the 70s. So any reference to the charm and adventure evoked by those Winnie the Pooh classics is going be an Enjoy favourite!
This is the second time I have reviewed the Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club and it is indeed as majestic, impressive and charming as one could ever expect. Set in the heart of the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, this is an oasis of relaxation, exceptional service, fine dining, outdoor pursuits, and everything that is great about Britain.
Off the beaten track – one has escaped the real world before the car boot is shut… checking into the 19th century mansion is simply seamless, staff can’t be more helpful.
I am after bike routes, hike routes and a menu for dinner, all of which I am furnished with before I get to my room.
The rooms and suites are beautiful – most with garden views over the koi-filled lake and fountains and the wonder that the 186-acre grounds offer the outdoor type in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty!
The hotel mainly occupies the original building with some business accommodation in the new extended wings. There is a spectacular, converted chapel function room adjacent to the hotel facing the walled kitchen gardens – which supply some of the kitchen’s seasonal ingredients.
Before we indulge in the dining proposition let’s talk outdoors for a minute. There is an 18-hole, Par 3 golf course, bikes, hikes, rivers, llamas (at a neighbouring attraction) – moving into the spa (in a separate building with the country club bar and reception), indoor pool and gym. There is plenty to justify the generous and irresistible High Tea and eight-course tasting menu.
High Tea is just a must – I jumped into the lounge as early as I could (2pm) to make sure I had room for my highly anticipated dinner…
I recommend the Champagne Afternoon Tea (I felt a little awkward asking for the Winnie the Pooh Afternoon Tea as I noted it was ‘£ per child’!) So, I enjoy layers of fresh sandwiches, cakes and a marshmallow adorned hot chocolate to fantasise about, fluffy scones, and delicate cakes, pastries and a glass of Champagne…
Then it’s time out in the spa to relax, and freshen up in the suite to join the other guests for drinks in the bar before dinner at 8pm.
Following a day of fresh air the appetite is back and I am torn between monkfish and chorizo chowder and Rosary goat’s cheese ice cream. The ice cream fascinates me and is a stroke of genius – the cheese lending itself to the ‘ice cream’ process – delicious and earthy. I then promptly spoil myself with a cheeky additional course of gin-battered prawns – topical, crispy and succulent and a confit duck bon-bon (don’t judge me – it’s all in the name of review!). A bottle of Domaine du Chardonnay Petit Chablis 2016 takes on these starters just perfectly.
A main of indulgent pan-fried Dover Sole is presented beautifully, on the bone, delicately seasoned and just one degree from the sea – I elect to go with a red Burgundy – a Parent premier cru de Pommard 2011 (that I know will also suit the cheese and dessert to follow) and it makes perfect sense… The cheese board is classic and I relax over a selection of British cheeses, rounded off with white chocolate panna cotta – an utter picture on the plate and palate.
A sound night’s sleep on one of the comfiest beds on the Enjoy tour just rounds off this countryside adventure and retreat.
Couldn’t be more highly recommended – unless it was by Piglet of course…