Eating Abroad England

The Bull Hotel and Restaurant in Wrotham, Kent

April 28, 2016

Apparently when one is tired of London, they are tired of life. So I’m told by the people who believe that London is the centre of the universe and nowhere else matters. They do have a point; London is wonderful, millions of people love it, I love it, I really do, but one can definitely tire of it. With London’s best bits comes its worst… the pace can be frenetic, the people can be unfriendly, and the place can be overwhelming. For me, this is all rather tiresome.

If you’ve reached this point, the only thing for it is to escape the city to breathe in some fresh country air, hear nothing but the birds and the bees, and just marvel at the peace. At the end of a typically busy London week filled with birthday celebrations, babysitting duties, and a whole lot of booze, (not all together) we did just that… jumped on a train, whizzed past all sorts of obscure stations and finally reached our destination less than an hour later.

Not very long at all to be transported to a place which is everything London isn’t. The village of Wrotham in Kent’s North Downs is small and quaint, the houses all have names, and it is so pleasantly calm. It’s the England of my childhood dreams after reading one too many classic novels filled with cottages and estates, taverns and inns, and lots of walking through fields! As the sun was shining we wandered around the village before checking into The Bull Hotel for the night, a country inn which is about 600 years old!

As you can imagine, after all those years, The Bull has got a few stories to tell… from being the site of a shooting to a favoured watering hole of fighter pilots in WWII, the owners have tried to preserve as much of The Bull’s history as they can. The walls of the dining room are adorned with photos and trinkets of the past, but the most interesting bits were the remnants of stamps on the ceiling, placed there by the pilots each time a plane was shot down!

But don’t worry, all that drama is in the past. These days The Bull is all about their guests enjoying a stay in their comfortable rooms and dining on modern British cuisine in their two AA Rosette winning restaurant. We started our evening with a quick drink at the pub and a friendly chat with the barman before settling into the perfectly rustic dining room to face the mammoth wine list of close to 120 options… the owner is quite the connoisseur we are told! We chose a bold but very drinkable 2013 Domaine de Boissan Gigondas Vieilles Vines, which went perfectly with the meaty meal to come.

There are much fewer food options but I was still as indecisive as ever because there are actually two menus; the a la carte and their new Smokehouse menu focused on smoked and slow cooked meats, naturally. We decided to get the best of both worlds, starting with the warm beef pate and braised pigs cheek off the a la carte menu before switching to the Welsh waygu beef and smoked pork belly rib from the Smokehouse.

The pigs cheek with black pudding, sautéed spinach, and caramelised apple puree was an instant hit; the cheek itself was so succulent, while the sweetness from the apple balanced the dish with some freshness. The beef pate, however, we took a little longer to warm to; perhaps more like a terrine in texture, what threw us initially was the subtle, aromatic undertone. The beef is cooked in spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, giving it a flavour we weren’t quite expecting but did quite enjoy when paired with the white onion pure and sourdough. A very promising start.

I’ll admit to being a little skeptical about ordering off the Smokehouse menu, after all, this is an idyllic village in the English countryside, not the raucous but homely American BBQ joints we’ve been to before. But sometimes it’s well worth throwing caution to the wind because you may end up with a well marbled, well seasoned, perfectly pink piece of waygu beef or, utterly unctuous and tender slices of pork belly rib.

We were impressed. You can’t cover up poor quality meat or cooking techniques when it’s one of only three things on the plate. That’s not to say the other two items didn’t play their part – the leeks with comte cheese worked well with the beef and the tangy kimchi coleslaw was basically made for the pork, but I would’ve been happy with just the chips. You can tell a lot about a restaurant by its chips, and these were only telling us good things. We were almost defeated by the generous portions, but soldiered on…

And kept soldiering on with dessert because I am greedy and a certain someone knows better than to hold me back from the sweet treats. He was a little more sensible and went for an apple and juniper crumble while I showed absolutely no restraint by ordering the chocolate nemesis cake. C’mon, with a name like that, who could resist…

The cake was actually more of a baked mousse which raised no complaints from me, but I was a little confused by the choice of cinnamon ice cream. I slyly convinced a certain someone to swap for his clotted cream ice cream which made my dessert perfect but perhaps made his a little too heavy on the cinnamon. The crumble itself was quite lovely, so you win some, you lose some!

So after such a fantastic meal, having also downed a lovely bottle of wine, and learnt a few tales from the past… what could have made our night better? The very short walk to our home for the night which was so much better than manoeuvring the London tubes after a night out! Less than a minute later we arrived at our room, succumbed to our food coma and collapsed into the large four poster bed for a good night’s sleep. In the morning, after a hot shower and a hearty Full English, the tiredness was gone and we were ready to reacquaint ourselves with London!

Do you agree that one can definitely be tired of London? Have you suffered such a fate?

Thanks to The Bull Hotel for helping us escape the city for a some country air, a hearty meal and a lovely night’s sleep, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!

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