Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Gallivant Hotel & Beach Bistro

Gallivant (verb): 'to go from one place to another in pursuit of pleasure or entertainment'

With the warmer weather and longer evenings almost in full swing, it's definitely time to dig out your bucket and spade and gallivant to the seaside. And where better to stay than at the fantastic Gallivant Hotel in East Sussex, it's literally a seashell's throw from the glorious, unspoilt beach at Camber Sands. I took Elliott and his dad for a family outing down to The Gallivant the other week and it was one of those lovely, happy and memorable days. We caught the train to the beautiful, historic town of Rye which is one of the Cinq Ports, and had a fun time roaming the cobbled streets, perusing the antique shops and enjoying some good old fish and chips. Then it was a short taxi ride to The Gallivant Hotel.

Being a boutique hotel with only 20 rooms, The Gallivant is intimate, homely and pure beach chic. The entrance takes you straight into the reception with its bookshelves, dog basket, a blackboard with daily weather reports and a friendly receptionist who not only checks you in, but does a sterling job doubling up as concierge, room service and helping with anything else you may need. The rooms range from 'small' to 'biggest', some with their own private sun decks. All are decorated to a high standard - tasteful and upmarket, yet rustic and beach style. We're talking white-washed floorboards, driftwood furniture, retro telephones, crisp white linen and deck-chair style fabrics. You'll find a flatscreen TV, fluffy robes, tea & coffee facilities, homemade biscuits, a rubber duck and even a 'Do Not Disturb' sign which on the reverse says 'Gone To The Beach'. Little people are looked after too with travel cots and kids' DVDs on request. The Gallivant with its New England style, is also perfectly equipped to host beautiful coastal weddings and memorable private parties.

After we'd settled into our enormous room and had a quick cuppa, we crossed the road and walked over the dunes. Within minutes we found ourselves on one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the UK, and despite being a tad windy that day, it really was invigorating taking in all that sea air.  I used to go to Camber Sands as a youngster and have many fond memories of climbing through the grassy dunes, building sandcastles and getting sand in my sandwiches. So returning for the first time in several years, I'm glad to say it hasn't changed a bit.

As well as the relaxed ambience and its stunning seaside location, the main highlight of The Gallivant has to be the award-winning Beach Bistro. Again, the interior has been done beautifully and works perfectly whether you're enjoying a hearty breakfast, afternoon tea or a romantic dinner. It also incorporates an informal area where you can sit on comfy chairs by the log fire and enjoy a drink, play a board game, or read a book. After Elliott hit the land of nod and sand castles, my partner and I had an enjoyable dinner in the Bistro. Unfortunately, a table of noisy, unruly children did detract from the calm and relaxing vibe that the Bistro prides itself on, which was a shame for us and several other diners (given the various exchanged glances). But fortunately Team Noisy were gone shortly after 8pm, so the rest of the evening, and especially dinner, was top notch.

The Gallivant prides itself on sourcing food from local farmers, fishermen and other nearby suppliers. Sheep roam on the nearby Romney salt marshes, so I enjoyed the roast Winchelsea salt marsh lamb which was cooked to perfection and delicious with its accompanying truffled green beans and buttery mash.  My partner had one of the daily specials - crispy ox cheek with chargrilled courgettes. Everything on the menu was mouth-watering including devilled crab, cheese soufflé, pistachio-mousse filled brandy snaps and homemade mini doughnuts.  There is an extensive and varied wine list which includes a good selection of local Kent and Sussex wines. We enjoyed a chilled bottle of Sancerre rose with dinner, which was a perfect way to end a perfect day.

After a good night's kip, we awoke to serenading seagulls and another day of blue sky and sunshine. Breakfast in the Bistro was a great start to the day and so much choice from homemade mueslis, compotes and banana bread, to cooked breakfasts, porridge and even a 'recovery station' sporting DIY Bloody Marys and sachets of Alka-Seltzer - just in case you overdid it the night before. Nice touch. Elliott opted for the poached eggs, then it was time for another quick stroll along the beach, before packing our bags and heading back to city life. I thoroughly enjoyed our escape to The Gallivant and highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates an unstuffy place to stay with fine cuisine, friendly service and of course for those who do like to be beside the seaside! I look forward to returning when Elliott is old enough to master his bucket and spade technique and appreciate the joy of a 99 Flake whilst paddling in the sea.

Miss Immy was a guest of The Gallivant Hotel

The Gallivant Hotel & Beach Bistro
New Lydd Road
Camber, Rye
East Sussex
TN31 7RB
01797 225 057

Telephone or email hotel for room rates

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Pilot, Greenwich

As the Greenwich Peninsula continues to evolve into a metropolis of impressive residential high-rises, schools, offices, tree-lined parks and of course the O2 Arena, it's a lovely surprise to find a tiny, historical cobbled street called River Way which is made up of eight Grade II listed Georgian cottages and a fantastic 19th century pub. The Pilot was built to serve the local coal workers in days gone by, and despite being there for hundreds of years, the pub and cottages now look almost out of place amongst the sprawling urbanism. It's a bit like a film set and also happens to feature in Blur's 1994 'Park Life' video (can you believe that was 20 years ago already).

Following a recent refurbishment, I was invited to go and see what the proprietors of The Pilot had done with the place, so I took my brother and young Elliott there for lunch last week and was very pleasantly surprised. Located a short walk from North Greenwich station, it's easily accessible (also by river boat) and an absolutely perfect place for a pitstop if you're going to the nearby O2. It's also very convenient for City Airport. What surprised me most was just how large The Pilot is once you're inside. Not only does it have a bright and airy bar with various rooms on various levels to enjoy your pint of London Pride and Scotch egg or Sunday roast, but it also has some fantastic outdoor spaces including a lovely little beer garden and a roof terrace with those Moroccan-style lounge cushions. It's also a great venue to host a private party (or business meeting), whether you want to hire an intimate area or splash out and hire the whole pub.

The food and drink at The Pilot is Modern British with a varied and extensive menu including everything from traditional beer-battered cod and chips or Peninsula Ploughman's, to a confit duck leg or chargrilled smoked mackerel salad. We opted for the Scotch egg, Pilot Burger, fish & chips, apple crumble and warm brownie, all of which were delicious and spot on. The dinner menu is a slightly more adventurous version of the lunch menu, plus there's the daily pie menu, good puds, a comprehensive wine list and six cask ales. Oh and apparently The Pilot is renown for offering the largest cheese collection of any British pub!

The decor is quirky with terracotta pot lamps, framed vintage toys and robot posters, and a mixture of furniture styles, all fitting of each area, whether you want a cosy armchair, a comfy bar-stool or an al fresco booth. The staff were super-friendly, and as a parent, it was a joy to be in such a child-friendly establishment. But that's not all, as The Pilot holds a fantastic trump card - a selection of beautiful boutique bedrooms. I went for a peek to see a few of the rooms all with their own unique style, from the cosy 'Captain's Cabin' with its wooden interior complete with port hole, to the more luxurious and spacious superior doubles (including one which is full of framed classic album covers). All the rooms are stunning and have been tastefully decorated, each with an en-suite bathroom or shower, iPod dock, tea/coffee facilities, flatscreen TV, free wi-fi and parking. Another nice touch is each room has a clock on the door with the time relating to the room number. These enchanting bedrooms are a perfect place for a romantic escape, a solitary escape, an 'I'm catching a flight from City Airport at the crack of dawn' escape, or just a place to rest your head if you happen to be going to a gig at the O2 and don't fancy joining the masses on the last tube to hell. In fact, Rihanna, Beyonce and Dolly Parton, if you're reading this, you should definitely consider booking a room at The Pilot for your next tour!

The Pilot
68 River Way
SE10 0BE
020 8858 5910

Nearest tube: North Greenwich
Nearest train station: Charlton or Westcombe Park
Opening hours 11am - 11pm daily (10.30pm Sunday)
Rooms from £165 per night

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