We all need an escape sometimes. And what’s even better is when the journey to that escape isn’t too arduous, yet you immediately feel like you’ve been transported a million miles away. So we were pleased to discover that that’s pretty much what you get when you head out of London and down to the Sussex coast for some R&R at The Gallivant in Camber Sands.
This chic restaurant with rooms is literally about 50 paces from the sand dunes that lead over to the seemingly neverending Camber Sands. With accolades like Sussex Restaurant of the Year, and membership of Squaremeal’s UK’s 100 Best Restaurants as well as number four in The Times’ Coolest Beach Hotels list in 2016, you know you’re not heading off to any old seaside B&B (not that there is anything wrong with those in the slightest).
The Gallivant is all about relaxing, getting away from it all, and escaping – whether that’s from home, work, or just the chaos of your everyday life. Inspired by the coastal motels in California, its 20 rooms are deliberately decorated to inspire calm.
There are all the luxury items you’d expect, from a fluffy bathrobes and top-quality bed linen, to a beach bag to take to the beach. Yes despite having every detail covered, it also radiates a casual feel that encourages you to do that slow exhale of breathing out all the stress you left behind.
Our room was one of the gorgeous luxury garden rooms, so if all the little niceties weren’t quite enough, we were treated to a super-king bed, freestanding roll top bath complete with sliding door separating the bedroom from the bathroom, and our own little screened section of the beautifully-landscaped coastal garden.
Oh, and if you fancy taking your pooch with you on your little moment of calm (let’s face it, you might not, but it is doggie heaven down there), it’s dog-friendly too, with food and water bowls, dog biscuits and a helpful bit of info on the ‘dog etiquette’ at The Gallivant.
The is a reason why The Gallivant calls itself a ‘restaurant with rooms’. Food is a big deal here. Not just great-tasting, imaginative, beautifully-presented food, but food with a conscience. It takes great pride in the fact that virtually all of its ingredients are sourced from within 10 miles of the restaurant.
The restaurant itself has more of the beachside charm you’ll settle into oh-so-easily at The Gallivant, with impeccable service but a feeling of relaxation as you remember you’re not in a city establishment, but somewhere where you actually have the luxury of time to enjoy each mouthful.
From an amuse bouche of goat’s curd with beetroot served in a mini kilner jar to starters of roast pigeon breast and another of poached haddock, the flavour combinations were well thought-out and brilliantly executed. My husband’s Romney Marsh Lamb Rump served with root vegetables and pickled turnip stole the show – probably helped somewhat by the virtuous knowledge that it was reared just down the road.
The desserts took us by surprise with their excellence – pretty much worthy of Michelin recognition I’d say – and the cheese board was probably one of the best I’ve had in a long while – not only in terms of selection but also in presentation – complete with a full explanation of each cheese and a suggested order of eating. Of course, you don’t even want to get me started on the cocktails – the best Bloody Mary Mr Eat with Ellen has ever had, and some pretty marvellous espresso martinis too.
I’d love to say that the eating all took place at dinner time, but The Gallivant’s breakfast certainly gives its evening fare a run for its money.
A groaning table of pastries, cakes, berry pots, granola and panna cottas – all homemade. A ‘recovery station’ to dose yourself up on do-it-yourself Bloody Marys or a Berocca. And that’s before you even get to the hot menu that goes far beyond the average choice of a full English or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (though my husband had that one day and said they were the best scrambled eggs he’s ever had – in fact he’s been trying to recreate them ever since).
I managed to get my chops round the devilled kidneys – not to everyone’s taste, I know, but I just find it so refreshing to see things that you rarely see on menus elsewhere.
Of course, you’ve got a readymade excuse to do all this eating, because each morning, evening and, well, whatever time of day it is, you can’t resist a walk along the beach.
Whether it’s a long old yomp all the way down to the medieval town of Rye, a nose at some of the luxury beachfront houses, or just a wander to the dunes to enjoy the sunset with your Gallivant-supplied beach bag, rug, and bubbles out of plastic flutes, it doesn’t matter. The fresh air and glorious weather (something to do with a microclimate apparently) just adds to the bliss of feeling a million miles away from home.
And if you want to up the old relaxation ante even more, pay a visit to The Gallivant’s ‘Beach Hut’. Hidden in the coastal garden, it looks like a shed but inside is an Aladdin’s Cave of pampering, with treatments from facials to massages all on offer.
I wouldn’t be doing The Gallivant justice if I didn’t mention the staff and the service they provide. On its website, it says: “Our team are here to make you smile”, and while this could be seen as marketing speak and a nice bit of fake loveliness, for me it really was the case.
From the welcome we had as we arrived and, indeed, every time we walked through the front door into the informal reception area, to the waiting staff at dinner and breakfast, everyone was the epitome of helpful and polite, but also incredibly friendly.
Maybe it’s the staff training, maybe it’s The Gallivant’s policy not to ask for any service charge or tips, instead paying their staff a decent wage, or maybe it’s just that it’s such a lovely place to be. Who knows, I’m certainly not complaining!
- The Gallivant, New Lydd Road, Camber, Rye TN31 7RB.