It was 5.00pm and I was interviewing Mark O’Reilly, manager of The Gallivant Hotel when he stopped in mid sentence to point enthusiastically at a white van pulling up in the car-park. “This is the fish for tonight, it was caught this morning”, he said. As I raised an eyebrow, Mark continued, “Our philosophy is simple, 95% of all the fresh ingredients we use in the kitchen come from fishermen and farmers who live and work within 10 miles of us”.
No wonder, The Gallivant Hotel has been awarded the highest Sustainability Award and by doing so joining the exclusive club which counts among its members the likes of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage, Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store and Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
I for one like to make the connection between the sea and my fork. Not obsessed by the exact biography of every single animal or vegetable which ends up on my plate, as sometime it’s the case on menus, but being given a map with the provenance of ingredients is certainly of interest.
I could have stay there talking about Kent and Sussex wines, Rye vegetable farmers and salt marsh lambs but I was here to review an hotel or was I? Mark had the answer, “We are a restaurant with rooms” he said. Indeed but the rooms are certainly not an afterthought.
It’s easy to see why The Gallivant Hotel has been compared in the press to a Californian motel because apart from anything else it’s a 1960’s modern structure, a low, one storey building with an A road separating it from the sand dunes of Camber and its 5 miles long sandy beach, great for kite surf and wind surf, especially since the area benefits from a micro climate.
Our room was one of the two newly refurbished deck rooms. Bright, comfortable and simple, sometimes luxury comes as a concept and not as bling. The connection with the area and the local community runs throughout the hotel, not only in the restaurant. In the rooms, it’s obvious: the bed and the furniture are hand-crafted by the Hasting and Bexhillwood recycling project. Drift wood turned into clean-lined furniture and lime wash parquet, all in relaxing coastal colours.
The spacious bathroom has a window onto the room adding extra natural light.
The lack of wardrobe wasn’t disturbing at all, having, earlier on this year, experienced the same configuration at Z hotel in Glasgow. Our room was one of two with French windows to a private deck area and its open outlook on the sky.
When it comes to order in a restaurant, I am know for changing my mind at least twice and even more. I am that person whom you’ll see following the waiting staff requesting to swap my order. Strangely enough when it came to try out the 10 miles menu. I knew exactly what I wanted but I wish I could have brought a clone and an imaginary friend with me, to try out the other dishes.
It’s not often you get lamb and shrimp on the same menu line. This seemingly weird combo works well with an Asian dressing, though the clone would have loved to try out the Lobster Brioche and the imaginary friend was keen on Wild Pigeon Breast with Cured Pork.
No weird combo for the mains, the ingredients are left simply to talk for themselves. Being so fresh, it’s a sensible decision from Chef and it’s a success. With much apprehension we ordered a Lychgate red from the Bolney estate (Sussex). Our act of “bravery” was happily rewarded, this was a good wine, very reasonably priced.
By now, you will have guessed that I liked the philosophy and the ethics of The Gallivant Hotel, of course it wasn’t perfect, the walls are thin, our neighbours came back drunk and in a mood for a party. The night porter put a stop to their shenanigan and breakfast helped me forget the incident.
The Gallivant Hotel is planning a wave of refurbishment, our deck-room being the blue print for another 8 to be reconverted that way. For these which are not convertible, a personalisation scheme is in the pipeline. Work will be completed by April 2016, but no need to wait to go gallivanting, go for the sandy beach, the 10 miles menu, the relaxing coastal rooms and you will not be disappointed.
I want to stay at The Gallivant Hotel. Tell me more.
The Gallivant, New Lydd Road, Camber, East Sussex TN31 7RB
01797 225 057