ASHDOWN PARK HOTEL, EAST SUSSEX

July 2021 signalled the start of the hospitality industry's reopening and with it the long-awaited moment when travel writing could find new inspiration. This article was first published in Trip Reporter . With Winnie The Pooh's 100th birthday celebrations, I thought I would share it with you too.
Asdown Park Hotel dinner 106

Nestled in the heart of East Sussex, about 35 miles from central London, the Ashdown Park Hotel has been home to nuns, gentry, fallen Belgian soldiers, corporations, though not all at the same time, since 1693. It’s a grand building with buckets of archaic charms, secret gardens, an enchanted forest, and grazing land where deer roam free.

Ashdown Forest is best known as the inspiration and setting for A.A. Milne beloved character, Winnie-the-Pooh. The honey pot-loving teddy bear first took shape on the 21st of August 1921, in the village of Hartfield where the author lived. Since then, this attractive corner of the country has celebrated its most famous fictional character with dozen of walking routes and the famous Pooh Sticks Bridge in Hartfield.

Hartfield pooh corner





















Winnie will turn 100 in 2021 to mark the occasion, we skipped to and hopped in the car, with the little bear’s words ringing in our ears:  “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” It was time to come out of lockdown and carefully go and meet people.

Asdown Park Hotel collage




















On arrival, a parking space had been reserved as if the staff knew that nothing warms my heart more than to see my name in big letters on an A-board. The hotel reception is discreetly set in a corner of the grand hallway. A massive stone fireplace and age-old archways lead to oak-panelled rooms that are decorated with heavy brocade and furnished with antique pieces. The Ashdown Park Hotel is popular for afternoon and morning teas served in cosy lounges or on the terrace.  A majestic staircase leads visitors to their bedrooms. To give you an idea of its magnitude, the hotel has 106 rooms. Not all of which are in the main wing, some are situated outside near the brasserie, these open on small patios, perfect for dog-owners.

afternoon tea



















The Ashdown Park Hotel is part of a small group called Elite hotels who have three others including Tylney Hall in Hampshire, Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire, The Grand in Eastbourne. Luxury hotels can be slightly intimidating but The Ashdown Park Hotel is anything but. Here it’s the ‘human thing’ that matters. Joe Mc Ginn, the concierge expressed this perfectly, when asked what was the weirdest request he ever had, he beamed and told us the story of two octogenarians who were intent on playing Pooh sticks on Pooh bridge. As they mentioned their plan, they left the hotel with a bundle of kindlings in various shapes and sizes and….a tin of condensed milk. ‘You can’t play it any other way’ Joe tells us. And that is ‘the thing’ which makes the place what it is.

Asdown Park Hotel bedroom






















Our master bedroom was straight out of an episode of Downton Abbey. It was so spacious that it could have accommodated a small London flat. The impression of space is reinforced by the tall windows looking over the grounds, its lake and its fountain. Everything is opulent, one could easily disappear in the soft, comfortable bed, and sleep for 100 years, but perhaps not the best idea on a romantic weekend. TV, Espresso machine, QR code for the newspapers, digital billing are part of the mod-cons. Molton Brown toiletry, corner bath and jacuzzi bath to complete the well-being and well-looked-after feeling.

Asdown Park Hotel swimming pool 005















With my mind-eye on the evening menu, I headed for the sports and spa facilities in the nearby Country House building. Bring your golf clubs if you want to use the landscaped 18 hole that takes you through the forest. The gym is well equipped and the swimming pool is a good size. The addition of church carved stones on the pool sides helps when it comes to feeling virtuous enough….to enjoy a three-course meal and every amuse-bouche and palate cleanser in between.

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As expected, the ingredients are local, some are grown in the kitchen garden in one of the courtyards. The Anderida is a fine dining 2 AA-rosette restaurant, Chef Andrew Wilson the Head-Chef trained in a Michelin star kitchen so, expect a lot of skills and attention to detail. Curing, charring, jelly drops add a bit of excitement and provide a feast for the eyes.

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Chef Wilson’s style is best described as ‘traditional English with flair’. Take the surf and turf dish served with herb -from the garden- pancakes. On the day, the surf part was monkfish, but it could have been any other catch of the day. Chef Wilson never orders, he works with the fishermen who brings him what they have fished on the day. This keeps the menu fresh, lively and doesn’t harm the ecosystem. Palate cleansers are lovely additions to the menu, we enjoyed a feta mousse with tapenade and a passion fruit sorbet. The restaurant rooms are very large and despite Covid distancing rules, it felt almost intimate.

 

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Breakfast is also served in the Anderida restaurant: continental buffet, a selection of cooked-to-order dishes and traditional full- English. I’d recommend the smoked salmon. There is also a brasserie on the grounds. And last but not least, wine lovers be aware this corner of England has more vineyards than anywhere else in the UK.



Ashdown Park Hotel, Wych Cross, Nr Forest Row, East Sussex RH18 5JR

E : enquiries@ashdownpark.com  T: +44 (0)1342 824988

Double rooms start at £240

10% off stays of two nights or longer, from £358 per double room for two nights (two sharing) including breakfast.

 

Partridge Saag - Are you Game for Game?

 Sponsored post

Game is often perceived as 'restaurant food', let's be honest who cooks partridge, venison, grouse, pigeon on a regular basis?. As a result, since the first lockdown, game consumption has declined by 80%. It shouldn't be that way, as there is a very strong case for eating game. 

Why should we eat for game? Sustainability. Ethically minded chefs and environmentalists have long been making the case for us to eat wild birds. Take partridge, smaller than pheasant, bigger than quails, these plumpy birds spend their lives in the wild. it's a healthy meat, high in vitamins B and a good source of potassium, with no nasty additives. 

wild bird recipe

What does it taste like? One of the arguments against eating game is that.....it tastes...gamy. That's very true, however if the meat is preserved well, the gamy taste should not be strong. Partridges don't taste as strong as pheasants, therefore recommended if you are starting your journey into the world of game-recipes

How to cook partridges? Few of us grew up in a family of game-hunters so cooking an unknown meat can be a challenge. First thing to know: partridge meat dries up very quickly. In fact from experience, the last couple of times, I ordered partridge in a restaurant, it was either as dry as an old shoe, or there was so very little meat that I was unable to appreciate the taste.

What to buy & Where to source it? Wild & Game is a Bristolian company that I have been following since their beginnings in 2017. They are very committed to the quality of their products. Most good butchers supply fresh partridge in season, otherwise it will be in their freezers. Make sure the bird is native to the UK and not an imported, ask for Grey Partridge also known as English Partridge, only because of their carbon footprint.

Recipe? Since you asked and bearing in mind that partridge breast fillets are better with a sauce, so they don't dry too much. Here is an unusual, tasty recipe that demonstrates how versatile and easy to cook partridge is.

Patridge recipe

Partridge Saag
INGREDIENTS
8 partridge filets dices
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1.5 tbsp garam masala
1.2 tsp chilli powder
1 tin chopped tomatoes
200g frozen spinach
1 large potato, diced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tsp mince garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
Vegetable oil
200ml water

METHOD
  • 10 minutes before making this dish, sprinkle the partridge with the bicarbonate of soda and leave for 10 minutes to tenderise, then wash and pat dry.
  • Heat a couple of glugs of oil and fry the partridge for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  • Add a bit more oil and cook the onion until soft.
  • Add garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the gram masala and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add the potatoes, tomatoes and 250 ml water, place the lid on the pan and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add the spinach and cook for a further 10 minutes with the lid on.
  • Add the meat and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Once the potato is soft and the meat cooked through, serve with rice.
Disclaimer: Wild and Game launched a delivery box scheme either on a one off basis or a subscription, on this occasion I received their February box to review. Words are my own and I certainly was not told what to write. 

More Recipes:
Want to try Venison here is an excellent recipe that elevates the simple meatballs to the next level.
 


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