By Sharon Pritchard –
You could be forgiven for imagining that you’ve been transported back to Jacobean England in the 1600s as you approach the stunningly beautiful Boys Hall Hotel. Originally occupied by the French De Bois family (hence the Boys in English) whose ancestors date back to the time of the Norman Conquest, Boys Hall has been more recently transformed into one of Kent’s most romantic and charming hotels. The Kent region of England is pretty charming too and is often referred to as the Garden of England.
Boys Hall is actually a comfortable, luxurious country house, tucked away in its own secret place with an air of tranquility that is hard to match. There is no pretense here and the hospitality of its host and owner Marcus Collings is renowned. His exuberant personality and the professionalism of his staff is an eclectic blend of unobtrusive service and warmth which makes you feel as though you are a member of the family and yet a privileged guest.
Each historic bedroom, there are eight, has unique features. The Four-poster De Bois was my room for the night. It’s a French-designed suite and is richly decorated in hand-printed silk wall coverings. French furniture in distressed cream adds to the vintage elegance of the room. The beckoning of the free- standing, deep bath was too much to resist and as I luxuriated in lavender steam, the anticipation of a wonderful dinner enticed me to exit. Wrapped in the luxuriously soft-towelling robe I was encouraged to linger a moment longer to peel a grape (also provided!) before returning to the 21st century.
Superb food is part of the magic here and the extensive wine list offers several award winning labels as well as more reasonably priced bottler that will please your palette and your wallet.
The elegant dining room with soft intimate lighting created an ambience of a great country house and every dish exceeded my expectations. Beginning with a delicate selection of ‘amuses bouche’ – tantalizing little tidbits to prepare you for what’s to come, which included Terrine of Rabbit with Pistachios and Chanterelle mushrooms, followed by Poached Turbot accompanied with Leek and Pea Ravioli, Lobster Vinaigrette and crispy leeks. This was the moment that we are all familiar with – loosening a notch on the belt or wishing we had worn pants with an elastic waistband. Wines, which perfectly paired each course and were chosen by my attentive, knowledgeable waiter, were eagerly quaffed.
Little did I know that I would be lulled into oblivion by the dessert which was to be next on the menu. Apple & Raspberry Pavlova with a Lavender Caramel (the lavender from Boys Hall Hotel’s own herb garden of course). The lavender caramel perfectly complemented the tart apples, the delicate flavor of the raspberries and that oh-so-good gooey concoction that only a perfect Pavlova yields. A selection of fine English cheeses followed – yes, some of our cheeses are equally as good and sometimes superior to the French. Dare I say that and still return to my home in Normandy?
As I climbed between the crisp, white cotton sheets of my four poster bed I’m sure I heard a whisper from the ghost of Boys Hall….”It doesn’t get better than this!”
I could wax lyrical about the wonders of Boys Hall but just take a look at their website http://boyshall.co.uk to discover more.
Boys Hall is only two hours from Paris. The Eurostar train station is just a five minute cab ride from Boys Hall and from there, daily trains whisk you to the heart of Paris. So convenient. Expect me back sometime soon, Boys!
(The chef at Boys Hall serves this sorbet between courses as a palate refresher or as a light spring and summer dessert)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons lavender flowers (NOT sprayed with pesticide!)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Vodka
Stir the sugar and water together over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lavender flowers and bring to a boil. Lower the heat again and allow the mixture to simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes. Pour mixture through a strainer add the lemon juice and vodka. Stir well, allow to cool completely and place in the freezer. After one hour, stir frozen sides in with a fork and do this every hour for three hours by which time it should be smooth. Alternatively, allow to freeze then break up into a blender and blend till smooth. Re-freeze and remember to remove from the freezer about 30 minutes before serving.