Abode with me
With a fabulous setting in the heart of the city, ABode Canterbury is not only a great place to stay
but offers a fantastic dining experience too
Canterbury is blessed with so much to offer lucky locals and visitors alike, from its worldfamous Cathedral and revitalised Marlowe Theatre to its vibrant shopping and dining scene.
It is also blessed in having a rather fabulous hotel right in the heart of the city that’s just been awarded three AA rosettes for its restaurant, joining a mere 10 per cent of all AA-rated hotels across the UK to hold the accolade.
ABode Canterbury was commended on having an ‘outstanding restaurant that achieves standards that demand national recognition well beyond its local area’ – which gave me a great excuse to stay the night and check out the claims for myself.
An easy walk from Canterbury West (always my preferred choice when travelling here from West Kent) and right opposite The Beaney, glass doors offer first sight of an enticingly glamorous interior complete with a Champagne Bar.
Reception staff are young, fun and welcoming (Ricky of the great hair and charisma proved a particular delight) and I was soon checked in and admiring my ‘Most Enviable’ room – categories range from ‘Comfortable’ to ‘Fabulous.’
It most certainly was enviable. Spacious, with a supremely comfortable king-size bed I found very hard to leave the following morning, there was a splendid bathroom with a freestanding rolltop bath and wet room, a smart leather sofa, even plenty of desk space – always a plus for me.
A feature wall papered with pencil-filled pots was a nice quirky touch and I loved the muted, modern tartan in warm autumnal shades used for soft furnishings.
But dinner beckoned and I took the stairs to appreciate better the historic charms of this hotel which, alongside its contemporary appeal, has 12th-century origins seen in old wooden beams, sloping ceilings and nooks and crannies.
Airy and spacious, The County restaurant takes its name from the hotel’s original name back in 1892. Characterised by modern European cuisine, it breathes a classic yet very modern elegance, with plush neutral furniture and low lighting, a gorgeous central bar and black and white abstract scenes of Canterbury on the walls.
Talented executive head chef Jauca Catalin had decided in advance that I was to try the five-course Tasting Menu, served alongside matched wines. I wasn’t going to argue with the Romanian ex-footballer, but was highly relieved I’d forgotten about lunch.
You can tell a great deal about a place from its bread and I knew at once this was not a chef who would pander to popular opinion.
I tried the warm, home-made granary, spread with butter that tasted like wood smoke and was definitely not for the fainthearted (I loved it). Very crunchy white bread came with a different butter bringing with it a hint of cumin.
The dishes that followed were quite rightly small, but exquisite, no better characterised than in the very first offering: white crab meat with lime confit, mooli and – yes really – peanut butter chilli caramel. The flavour explosion in the mouth was sensational, the lime uniting the sparklingly fresh ingredients into some of the best, most unexpected mouthfuls I’ve ever begun a meal with.
A light, citrussy Alsace
Riesling, served by lovely new-ish operations manager Miles Shuttleworth (who sure knows his wines), complemented beautifully.
He surprised me with the next choice, Notios Agiorgitiko, a smooth, mellow Greek red that that suited the gloriously rich Madeira jus and hit of blueberries that pooled around tender squab pigeon breast served with Kohlrabi and semolina gnocchi.
Chef’s love of Japanese cuisine was evident in his skilful pairing of wild turbot with miso-dashi and an apple and ginger purée, the whole wonderful dish enhanced by the honey and pineapple notes of a mellow Argentinian Chardonnay to accompany.
Vying with the crab for first place in my heart came fillet of Kentish beef with salsify, mushrooms girolle, lovage and a deep, peppery red wine reduction: loving chef’s huge, gutsy flavours.
My notes tell me the wine pairing – a glorious Saint-Chinian from the Languedoc-Roussillon region – was ‘divine.’ They also remind me that so often a tasting menu is deeply disappointing: ha! not this one.
A fabulously rich dessert with practically all my favourite things in it – chocolate, banana, peanuts but in very fancy form – came with an orange Muscat that turned the whole thing into the best Terry’s chocolate orange ever, elevated to a whole new fun and lovely height.
Naturally I slept like a log, a very happy log, and you will be amazed but probably not at all surprised that I polished off avocado and poached eggs on sourdough toast for breakfast.
Excellent service from a largely multi-cultural staff, genuinely interested in what I thought, reflects the cosmopolitan city they call home. This place is a gem.
The ABode enjoys a fantastic city-centre setting in historic Canterbury
Fine ingredients, skilfully presented
ABOVE:The elegant, modern County Restaurant